Hair Removal – Choosing the Right Method for You

Posted by on Feb 5, 2011 in Beauty | 4 comments

Hair removal

In our never-ending quest for beauty, many women are faced with the challenge of regularly removing unwanted body hair. This often involves shaving various body parts every few days, knowing that any lapse will result in unpleasant, prickly stubble.

Various alternatives to shaving exist – they fall into three primary categories:

1. methods that remove the hair at the surface,

2. methods that remove the hair down to the root, and

3. methods that actively prevent the hair follicle from growing new hairs.

The more common ones are discussed below. For each, I will provide the optimum target areas, advantages, disadvantages, and potential warnings.

Methods that remove the hair at the surface

Advantages: relatively quick, easy, inexpensive, and painless

Disadvantages: hair grows back quickly, and often seems coarser, thicker, and darker

Shaving:

Shaving is the removal of hair by using a razor or some other blade. It has been practiced for thousands of years. It is typically done using soap and water, or some sort of lather, to soften the hairs and to help the razor glide more easily across the skin. Shaving can be used on any part of the body.

Disadvantages – can irritate the skin

Warning: it is not uncommon to cut yourself, or slice off a layer of skin

Chemical Depilatories:

Chemical depilatories are hair removal creams or lotions which are applied directly to the skin, break down or dissolve exposed hair, and are then washed off. They were widely advertised in the ’70s, but seem to be less commonly used at present. They are recommended for use on legs, bikini area, arms, and underarms, but NOT on the face.

Advantages – their primary advantage over shaving is that the results can last somewhat longer than shaving, and the hair seems to grow back somewhat finer.

Disadvantages – generally smelly, and rather messy to use

Warning – it is possible that your skin will be sensitive to the chemicals – it is a good idea to try it on a small area of skin the first time, to minimize any potential issues

Methods that remove the hair down to the root

Advantages: because the hair is completely removed, regrowth takes much longer, so these methods do not need to be repeated as often; the new hair tends to be much finer than with shaving

Disadvantages: more time-consuming, somewhat painful

Tweezing:

Tweezing is the removal of a single hair at a time with a pair of tweezers. It is highly effective, but best-suited to very small areas, such as eyebrows and upper lip.

Advantages – highly effective on small numbers of hairs

Disadvantages – can be somewhat painful, especially the first time

Threading:

Threading is an ancient method popular in Eastern countries which has grown in popularity in the West over the past few decades. It uses a twisted cotton thread to remove rows of hair with near-surgical precision. It is most commonly used for eyebrows and upper lip, but can be used anywhere on the face.

Advantages – faster than tweezing, and especially good for shaping eyebrows

Disadvantages – difficult to do on your own – best to have it done; can be more painful than tweezing, due to the larger number of hairs being pulled

Waxing:

Waxing is done by spreading a thin layer of melted wax on the skin, pressing some sort of cloth or paper against the wax, and when the wax has hardened rapidly pulling it off against the direction of hair growth. It can be used on any part of the body.

Advantages – can be used on larger areas of skin than threading or tweezing

Disadvantages – messy, may be uncomfortably hot, typically rather painful; may result in ingrown hairs. If done by a professional, can be quite expensive

Epilator:

An epilator is an electrical device which pulls out multiple hairs in the same time. The first epilators hit the market over thirty years ago. They can be used any part of the body, but should not be used on the face.

Advantages – can be used on large areas of skin, not at all messy (besides sweeping up the pulled hairs), can easily be done by yourself

Disadvantages – initial purchase of the device is required; time-consuming for larger areas; fairly painful the first few times; ingrown hairs are quite common for the first while

NOTE: I have been using one on legs and underarms for over twenty years, and swear by the great results – hair regrowth has gradually slowed and lessened – I can go weeks without epilating, and my legs are still smooth.

Methods that prevent the hair follicle from growing new hairs

Advantages: once you’re done, you never have to worry about hair-removal again!

Disadvantages: MUST be performed by a licensed professional; may take numerous treatments; prohibitively expensive!

Electrolysis

Electrolysis is a process that delivers an electrical charge directly to the hair follicle through a fine metal probe inserted at the skin’s surface, and then removes the hair with tweezers. The electricity damages the follicle, so that new hairs should not grow back. It is appropriate for small areas, like face, bikini, and underarms.

Disadvantages: since it is done one hair at a time, it’s very slow; it can also be rather painful

Warning: again, it MUST be performed by a qualified licensed professional – this is not a time for bargain shopping! An unqualified practitioner may cause permanent scarring. This can be avoided by making sure you go to a reputable establishment.

Laser

Laser hair removal basically uses intense light beams to ‘zap’ the hair follicle so that it no longer grows new hairs. Each ‘zap’ covers a small area, roughly the size of your little finger-tip. While laser hair removal CAN be done on any area of the body, larger areas would be very expensive and time consuming.

Advantages: no skin penetration is involved

Note: because hair removal lasers target dark matter, they work best on people with light skin and dark hair.

4 Comments

  1. Always a godmother, never a mother. That sucks. I’ve got to get me one of those little accessories.

  2. Indeed!

  3. Really interesting article and website, has provided some great insights, thank you. Learning something new everyday!

  4. First the science bit!. . Hair removal creams (or depilatories) contain chemicals that break down keratin, the
    principal protein that forms hair strands. Any hair exposed to it
    will effectively disintergrate so it can be
    wiped away. It doesn’t get rid of hair below the skin, so is not as long-lasting as waxing, but the new growth is softer than if you shave.. . It is unlikely to cause ingrowing hairs, because the hair is only removed to skin level.. . Always do a patch test first if you are worried about sensitivity and do not leave on for longer than recommended.. . As long as you don’t have an allergy to it it
    will actually leave your skin very soft because they contain
    moisturisers.. . I get ezcema so not all creams suit
    me but I find Veet In Shower works great and is faster than waxing or shaving.
    Give it a go!
    upper lip hair removal

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