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Free of hairs and graces

Well, unless you happen to think that Mo'Nique's Golden Globes ensemble (hairy legs) or Julia Roberts's unforgettable red frock get-up at the Notting Hill premiere (more than a five o'clock shadow of underarm hair) were good looks.

Although it can be a chore to deal with, at least there's an option to suit every pocket when it comes to taking care of unwanted hair.

>Lighten up There seems to be a weird stigma attached to bleaching I really don't understand, especially since it can be a great way to deal with a small area of fine dark hair. Particularly effective for upper lip hair, it can also take care of the "snail trail" some women have running vertically along their chest, stomach, and/or below the bellybutton.

Bear in mind, though, that bleaching is not suitable for large expanses of very black hair, which can take on a distinctly yellow or even orange hue when bleached. Not exactly an improvement on the original state of things!

Jolen Mild Formula Creme Bleach with Aloe Vera, €8.40, is available from pharmacies nationwide.

>close shave Shaving, whether with an electric or manual razor, is probably the most convenient way to deal with underarm and leg hair. Wet shaving fits neatly into the shower routine, and provided you're not using an ancient, blunted blade, will give silky smooth results.

Don't be tempted by disposable razors, which are inclined to lead to cuts and nicks and aren't exactly eco-friendly -- instead, spring for a men's refillable version, like Gillette Fusion Power, for about €7.50. All out of shaving cream? Hair conditioner works really well as a substitute, and it's a great way to use up any leftover, half-full bottles of conditioner that you have languishing around the place. Exfoliating before you begin and shaving against the direction of hair growth -- so from ankle to knee on the lower leg, for example -- will give you the closest shave.

Oh, and no matter how much of a hurry you're in, never ever use a razor designed for use on wet skin on dry skin. Sure, quickly raking a blade over your stubble as you run out the door might seem like a good idea at the time, but the red rash and agonising burning sensation -- not to mention the lumps of missing flesh -- do kind of outweigh any smooth skin benefits.

>epilation: not a revelation Some women swear by epilators for all their hair removal needs: bikini line, legs, underarms, 'taches, even that annoying little bit of hair between the eyebrows. At-home devices, mains or battery-operated, look very similar to electric razors but have rotating heads which pluck out the hair, roots 'n' all, as they turn. As a result, regrowth is slower than with shaving, which just cuts the hair off at the skin's surface, and you don't have the stubbly downtime of waxing, when you need to wait for sufficient regrowth to appear before heading in to your next appointment.

Epilation is great, alright -- provided you can grit your teeth and take the pain. Even if you've a fairly high pain threshold, you may not be able to stand the sensation of individual hairs being torn out of your skin. Home devices available from all good pharacies nationwide.

>wax on, wax off Check if your chosen salon uses hot wax for the bikini area: wax is applied, allowed to set, and then removed by hand. It's far less painful on delicate nether regions than strip waxing.

It's a good idea to enquire about their policy on double-dipping, too. Some salons re-dip the spatula they're using on you back into the wax pot. This means that even if they use a different spatula for every client, skin cells, hair, and other unsavoury (and unsanitary) things can still end up in the communal pot of wax ... which isn't at a hot enough temperature to kill bacteria. Not nice.

To minimise pain, avoid getting waxed just before or just after your period, and take two painkillers about half an hour before your appointment if you find the pain unbearable.

>laser beams If you can afford it, now is the ideal time to start thinking about laser hair removal. It'll take around 36 weeks to complete the treatment, as six sessions six weeks apart are usually required -- so getting it done over the winter months means you'll be virtually hair-free come next summer. (Despite the name, this is "permanent" hair reduction rather than "truly permanent" hair removal, and a small amount of regrowth may be experienced after a couple of years.)

When deciding where to go for your treatment, remember the cheapest option may not be the best. Jeanette Dunne, of Renew Clinic, advises that you get online, if possible, to do your research and find recommendations, and says you shouldn't be afraid to ask your chosen practitioner lots of questions to check their experience and qualifications.

Look for somewhere that uses medical-grade equipment. These machines operate at a stronger level and give faster results, and since they can only be operated by medical personnel you get peace of mind.

Me, I'm saving my shekels for a trip (or six) to Jeanette -- both she and her business partner Sinead are nurses, have four years' experience with the medical-grade machine that I'd want, and get a massive thumbs-up from one of my best friends, who swears that it's the best money she ever spent.

Renew Aesthetic Clinic are currently offering 50pc off laser hair removal at 4 Convent Close (off Baggot Street), Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 661 9261. Prices start at €80 per area.