Ask G

Ask G: What's the greenest way for hair removal?

Is shaving, waxing, creams or machines best for the environment?

Which form of hair removal (waxing, shaving and so on) has the least effect on the environment?

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There's a time and a place for clear-felling old-growth forests - the time is spring and the place is below my knees. Allowing yourself to be naturally hairy is the greenest option, but I recognise that free-range armpits are not everyone's idea of attractive.

The impacts of hair removal options are many, diverse and relatively minor - keep in mind that weighing them up can be (dare I say it) splitting hairs!

Just looking at the home DIY options, you can either remove hair above the surface of the skin by shaving or using a chemical depilatory, or the entire hair (root and all) by waxing, sugaring, tweezing or using an electric epilation device.

The first method lasts a few days, the second a few weeks.


If shaving is your preference, remember aerosol shaving creams are a relatively energy-intensive form of packaging and should be limited. Favour longer lasting shavers, perhaps with replaceable heads, and clean and dry them properly to help the blade last longer. Use a basin of warm water instead of extra time in the shower.


Chemical depilatory products commonly use a chemical called calcium thioglycolate, which breaks down protein in the hair it comes into contact with, allowing hair above the skin to be scraped or wiped away.

While not a major environmental concern, calcium thioglycolate can irritate the skin and tends to smell awful. Like shaving, chemical depilation needs to be done frequently, increasing your total consumption of this product.


The various methods of yanking hairs out hurt a bit, but they result in more hair-free days before regrowth appears.

Electric epilation gadgets, such as the Emjoi Gently (I call it the 'tweezerama'), have multiple 'tweezer discs' attached to a rotating drum. They are less messy than waxing or sugaring but use a small amount of electricity, which along with all your electricity needs, can be supplied by accredited GreenPower.


Wax, used in conjunction with disposable strips, is made from beeswax, plant waxes and/or petrochemically derived waxes (such as paraffin).

The extraction and production of petrochemicals is generally polluting, though plant or bee-derived alternatives are not without their own environmental impacts. Wax is hard to wash away, so applicators and strips tend to be thrown out, adding to the waste you send to landfill.

Sugaring is an alternative to waxing, using a syrupy sugar-based mixture instead of hot wax.

You can buy a few sugar-based 'natural' hair removal products or sugar waxing kits, or you can make your own.

I did myself by simmering 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of honey, the juice of half a lemon and several drops of tea tree oil (note for vegans: there are other recipes that don't use honey - Google 'sugaring').

I cut up an old flannelette nappy to use as strips. Traditional wax grips the skin more and so hurts more.

Sugaring is less painful, cheaper if homemade and, being water soluble, is far easier to clean up after than wax. The cloth strips can be washed and reused.