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It’s easy to let yourself go a little in the off-season when you’re not spending every weekend at the beach looking fresh in your skimpy bathing suits and golden tan (which very well may be faux and we’re totes supportive of that). But, whether you’re gearing up to jet somewhere warm for a winter vacation (lucky!) or just trying to keep up with all the beauty maintenance that can seem like a full-time job, a smooth and groomed bikini line is big must in our book.

Since everyone has her own preference for hair removal techniques – whether it’s shaving, waxing, laser, or hair removal creams – we tapped dermatologist Dr. Cindy Yoon-Soo Bae of the Laser Skin Surgery Center in New York for some tips on staying bikini-ready all year round.

Shaving

Not ready to invest a ton of time (or money) on your hooha? We got you. If you’re all about that shave, Dr. Bae recommends using a single-blade razor – and replacing it frequently – then when you’re about 5-10 minutes into your shower, using good skincare products to help the blade glide (we’re still a big fan of this Lush Shaving Soap, FYI). “This will ensure your hair and skin is sufficiently softened for an easier shave. And remember that when you’re shaving, you’re also exfoliating the skin in the area, so if you have a spray tan it will cause streaking,” says Dr. Bae.

Waxing

While it can be painful (no pain, no gain!), waxing is a good option that keeps you feeling smooth for a bit longer than a shave, and it’s not a huge splurge – typically a bikini wax starts at around $30, depending on where you go. Of course, if you’re brave enough you can DIY it – we like the Veet wax strips for their effectiveness and drugstore price. The reason it lasts longer is because rather than shaving, where you’re merely cutting off the hair at the skin’s surface, waxing is pulling the hair from the root where growth starts. In order to grab the hair, it’s best to wait until your grow-out is about ¼ an inch so the wax can really adhere to the hairs. And be careful about making an appointment around your time of the month, since your skin (along with your mood) is generally more sensitive then.

Laser

Laser hair removal is definitely an investment (it can set you back upwards of $200 per appointment and at least six sessions are recommended to see results), but if you’re really looking to get to the root of the problem – literally – it can be a cost-effective way to permanently preen your bikini area once and for all. The laser, in essence, penetrates skin to kill the hair follicle, leaving hair to gradually fall out from the treated area within weeks.

If you’re thinking about trying laser hair removal around your bikini area, it’s important to prep for your appointment by shaving beforehand and not waxing. “The way that the laser works is that it needs to find a focus point – the hair follicles need to be in place for the laser to target and therefore be effective,” says Dr. Bae. And because the laser also targets pigment in skin, spray and sun tans should be avoided prior to your appointment. Laser works best on dark hairs, which can absorb the heat from the laser more effectively, and even better on dark hairs and fairer skin.

Hair Removal Creams

Though not as popular (partially due to the strong odor a lot of them have), hair removal creams are a quick, painless, and affordable way to de-fuzz fast. Similar to shaving, this method merely removes hair from the skin’s surface, but rather than using a blade, hair removal creams use chemicals to break down the hair follicle so that hair can be wiped away. Be sure to use a formula that is specific for the body part you are targeting, and do a patch test if you have sensitive skin to prevent a reaction. We recommend hair removal creams more for your legs and armpits than your sensitive bikini line.

How to deal with ingrown hairs:

No matter what method of hair removal you choose, ingrown hairs are bound to pop up along the way. Dr. Bae advises that you “don’t pick at an ingrown hair as there is a risk that it can lead to scarring. You can try warm compresses, gentle exfoliation, or even topical acne medicine like your salicylic acid spot treatment to try to clear it up fast.” If the irritation is less concentrated to a single spot and you’re concerned it could be a rash or reaction Dr. Bae suggests “you should see a physician or dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment since it could be anything from folliculitis (infected hair follicles) to something more serious if you’ve been using razors that have been sitting around.” Otherwise, an over-the-counter topical steroid can be used for a limited time and applying witch hazel (like Dickinson’s Witch Hazel), can help with the redness due to its astringent properties.

What are your favorite hair removal hacks? Let us know in the comments below!