Pros: Good for removing fine facial hair with some microdermabrasion.
Cons: Need to buy refills. Doesn't work as well on all hairs or contours.
Smooth Away is a hair removal system using ultra-fine sandpaper and an applicator. The hair removal is painless (somehow the hairs are caught in the sandpaper and maybe either gently yanked or sanded off at skin level), but the process involves a bit of dermabrasion that will leave your skin feeling sensitive for a few hours to a few days (depending on how much you sand it and how delicate the skin is).
The package contains two applicators in the shape of a flat, supple piece of vinyl with a band on the back for you to insert your fingers. The large one is an oblong about the size of a palm. The smaller, finger-sized version has a narrow end and a wider end. The box also includes several sheets of adhesive-backed sandpaper cut to the size of the applicators and a small vinyl folder with clear pockets for holding the applicators, instructions and refills.
Using It Is Simple
Peel off the protective backing and stick the sandpaper on to the applicator. Pick an area of skin that you want to treat. Pull the skin taut then gently rub the area with the sandpaper in a circular motion. Make 3 circles in a clockwise direction, then 3 circles in a counter-clockwise direction and repeat till the hairs are gone--but be careful not to overdo it. If your skin starts to feel tender, stop.
After you are done, apply moisturizer to the treated area.
How Effective Is It?
The product does work, but how well it works depends on several things:
THE CONDITION OF THE SANDPAPER. The sandpaper works best if it is dry and clean. If your skin is damp or oily, the sandpaper can become damp and not catch the little hairs well. If you have oily skin, wash and dry the area beforehand and don't apply any moisturizer till after you are done. (However, if you do have oily skin, you may get tired of needing to do this extra prep and might just prefer to shave or use Nair.)
As you use it, the sandpaper becomes clogged with dead skin cells and oils from your skin and becomes less effective. I find myself turning the applicator around so I can use a fresher, dryer portions of the sandpaper. The sandpaper can be reused (sometimes it's just damp and will work okay once it dries out). You can also try washing it or rinsing it (letting it dry completely before using it), but if it no longer works then you need to replace it. The old piece peels up easily from the applicator, leaving a clean surface ready for a new sheet.
THE CONTOURS OF YOUR SKIN. The applicator needs to be held flush against your skin in order to work. If it's not in direct contact the sandpaper can't catch the little hairs. Pulling the skin taut, in addition to exposing the hairs, also makes it easier for the applicator to make a good, snug contact with the skin. Some parts are easier than others. If you had a unibrow and wanted to do the middle of your forehead, it should be easy to use it there. It works well on my upper lip. I'd really like to be able to use it underneath my eyebrows, but I've found that the shape of my skin above my eyes (kind of soft and puffy) doesn't allow me the type of contact to do a good job there (even the small applicator is a little too big and stiff), so I try a little, but generally end up tweezing.
THE TYPE OF HAIRS. I've found that it works better on my fine hairs than it does on thicker hairs. (Meaning that I can end up going over and over an area with thick hairs to try to get them to disappear. And as I mentioned before, when you do a lot of sanding, the sandpaper can become clogged with skin cells and body oils--and then it stops working.) I find that in some areas with a mix of fine and thick hairs, I can use Smooth Away for most of the hair, then use a tweezer for the last few stubborn ones.
FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS. It's tempting to go back and forth or side to side, but the circular motion really works best, as does changing the direction after every 3 circles. If you don't change direction, you'll do a good job of exfoliating, but won't remove as much hair.
What I Think of It
I think that if you shave or use Nair or wax and are happy with the results, then I wouldn't bother with Smooth Away. I haven't kept track, but I would guess that the hair grows back about as fast as if it had been shaved. I tried it on my legs once, but the hairs there are thicker, so I ended up spending a lot of time, going over the areas again and again to try to get rid of the hairs. I decided that shaving my legs is much faster, plus cheaper than having to buy sandpaper refills.
However, I like to use Smooth Away on areas that I normally tweeze, like my face. Tweezing is good for thicker hairs, but kind of a pain for removing lots of baby-fine hairs--and that's where Smooth Away excels. My fine hairs disappear quickly and painlessly.
Also, my skin bruises easily and tweezing will often leave little bruises on my skin that turn into tiny scars. Smooth Away doesn't damage my skin the way that tweezing does. Although I still have to do some tweezing for a few difficult hairs, the end result is that my skin is less damaged from the hair removal. Plus, the sanding acts as a microdermabrasion and helps to remove the scars from the earlier tweezing. And Smooth Away doesn't seem to cause ingrown hairs.
I ordered mine online and have since seen it at a few stores (like Fry's) for about $10. I wouldn't pay $20 for it, but $10 feels about right.