Hair Removal

In This Article:

Just about everyone has hair somewhere on their body that they don't want, or at least want to reduce. Whether it's on your legs, underarms, face, back, arms, or bikini line, finding an effective and efficient way to get rid of it isn't easy. There is a glut of sham treatments and products with unsubstantiated claims to avoid. Even among the options that work, each still has its pros and cons you need to understand—but we can help you avoid wasting money and time and get the results you want!
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Recommended Products to Use During or After Hair Removal

Shaving

Everyone knows the benefits and problems associated with shaving. On the plus side, it is fast and easy; in the negative column, it grows back way too fast and the stubble or redness it can cause on the thigh and bikini line is obnoxious. There are ways to deal with the redness, like using a hair conditioner or a non-irritating shave gel, which is designed to protect your skin while you shave. Afterwards, applying a fragrance-free moisturizer or a solution containing stabilized acetyl salicylic acid (aspirin), which really helps to reduce redness and calm your skin.

Tweezing

You can't get much more basic and simpler than tweezing for hair removal. You grab a hair with tweezers and yank it out, removing all the hair on the surface and some amount at the base of the hair follicle. On the plus side, tweezed hairs take longer to grow back than hair removed from shaving or depilatories. On the negative end, tweezing can be painful and only works well for small areas of the face, such as the brow or chin. If you want to remove a lot of hair the time and tedious nature of tweezing isn't worth the effort.

Threading

This unique method of hair removal comes from Middle Eastern countries such as Iran and Syria. The "threader" uses a long piece of thread held between her teeth and wrapped around the arms and hands in such a way that a loop is created. Then, with swift, rapid motions each hair is plucked away in a short period of time. The speed in which this technique is done is truly amazing.
Threading offers no benefit over and above what tweezing does other than a relatively large amount of hair can be removed all at once in just a few minutes (and someone else is doing the work). Otherwise, your hair grows back exactly how it would if you tweezed.

Epilady

Epilady looks like an electric shaver, but it is really just an automatic powered tweezer. As you run it over your skin it pulls out hair in one even motion. It is convenient and fast, but just like waxing and sugaring, Epilady requires some amount of hair growth in order for the device to have enough hair to grab onto and pull out.

Waxing

Basically, waxing is just a method of tweezing large areas of hair. Waxing is an inexpensive and effective way to remove hair from most parts of the body. Compared to shaving, it leaves the areas where hair was removed smoother because it pulls the hair out from below the top layer of skin.

Most salons and spas offer waxing, but you can also do it at home yourself. Many beauty supply stores and even drugstores sell all the equipment you will need.

In hot waxing, a thin layer of heated wax is applied to the skin in the direction of the hair growth. The hair becomes embedded in the wax as it cools. The wax is then pulled off quickly in the opposite direction of the hair growth, taking the hair with it. It's quick but not painless, as many who've been waxed will attest!

Cold waxes work similarly. Strips are pre-coated with wax or a sugar-based substance and pressed onto the skin in the direction of the hair growth and pulled off in the opposite direction.

One major shortcoming of waxing is that some amount of hair growth has to be present for the wax to grab onto it and pull it out. That means for a period of time you have to be "hairy" before you can be hairless.

Sugaring

Sugaring as a method to remove hair is identical to waxing only instead of "wax" the ingredients used are various forms of sugar. Just like waxing (and tweezing), sugaring pulls hair out in one swift motion. Despite the claims you've heard, there is absolutely no special benefit to this type of hair removal.

The only aspects of sugaring that are preferred over waxing is sugaring is less messy and it has no risk of causing a burn as hot wax does. Sugaring's mess or mistakes merely washes away, while any remaining wax has to be peeled or scratched off. And because sugar doesn't have to be heated to use while hot wax does, there is obviously no risk of burning your skin.

One major shortcoming of sugaring is that some amount of hair growth has to be present for the sugary cream to grab onto it and pull it out. That means for a period of time you have to be "hairy" before you can be hairless.

Depilatories

Depilatories (Nair is a well-known brand) literally melt and dissolve hair on the surface with really strong ingredients like calcium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, or calcium thioglycolate. They do leave skin feeling far less stubbly than shaving, but the way depilatories are formulated presents a high risk of causing serious irritation or even burns to the skin. It is best to test the depilatory on your arm first to check for reactions, and follow the directions on the package exactly. Depilatories should always be rinsed after several minutes; do not leave them on the skin for prolonged periods!

Bleaching

Bleaching is a great, inexpensive option if the hair you want to hide is dark but not thick or dense. It is especially effective for the upper lip or other parts of the face, neck, and arms. There are many options for facial bleach products at the drugstore or on the Internet. One of the best Internet sources for a range of inexpensive options is folica.com. (Please note that this site also sells an array of products that have misleading and exaggerated claims.)

Electrolysis

Electrolysis (also referred to as epilation) is considered by the FDA to be the only permanent form of hair removal. There are two types of electrolysis devices: One is a needle epilator and the other a tweezer-styled epilator. Both of these send electrical currents directly into one hair follicle at a time to destroy the hair bulb. Without the bulb, hair cannot grow.
Even in the best of situations electrolysis can fail to deliver. The procedure requires an extremely skilled technician because the needle placement into the follicle is tricky and can easily miss its mark, plus it is possible to use insufficient electrical current which won't destroy the bulb and stop hair growth.

Although individual electrolysis appointments can be relatively inexpensive, it requires repeated weekly treatments that can take a year or longer to get you the results you want.

Technically, the at-home electrolysis devices work the same way as professional versions, but they can't produce the same results. Why? For safety's sake, at-home electrolysis machines produce very little electrical current which means they can't destroy the hair bulb to stop hair growth.

Further, because the technique for electrolysis is so tricky even for a skilled technician, the chances of successfully operating these devices yourself are slim, at best. You would probably end up just tweezing instead of zapping the hair because getting the device to work as intended takes a lot of skill. Given the time it takes for a hair to grow back, it could take months before you knew if it was really working.

Laser Hair Removal

Of all the methods for hair removal there is no question laser hair removal works, and works really well! But it gets better: You can be hairless with very few treatments and minimal maintenance, though this varies depending on how much hair you are trying to get rid of. If you can afford laser hair removal and have light, fair, beige, or medium beige skin, you can achieve long-lasting results over just about any part of your body you want to have hairless. If you have a darker skin tone you must check with your doctor. Lasers for hair removal follow the dark color of hair (they don't work on blonde hair) and as a result they can damage dark skin color.

The risks in laser hair removal can include skin discoloration (either darkening or lightening of skin), swelling, inflammation, and infected hair follicles. It is important to keep in mind that laser hair removal, while superior to other forms of hair removal, is still not permanent. But it is pretty darn close!

There are numerous laser hair removal systems, but research has shown that the 800 or 810 nanometer diode laser is by far the most successful and can be used on a wider range of skin colors, particularly Asian skin tones.

It may shock you (both literally and figuratively) to learn that the exact same lasers a salon or doctor's office may use for hair removal are available for you to buy and do it yourself at home. For example, the TRIA is an 810 nanometer diode laser system with research showing it can reduce hair growth. It is tricky to use and the instructions must be followed exactly or the machine won't produce even minor results, but it is absolutely an option to consider.

No! No! Thermodynamic Hair Removal

Costing $250 for the device and $21 for replaceable blades the No! No! is a combination of shaving and heat to remove unwanted hair. The term "thermodynamic" in the name is just a fancy way of saying it produces heat to burn away hair which is literally what it does, along with shaving at the same time. There is no research showing this works, and physiologically it really can't work. Stinging hair on the surface of skin (and you will smell burnt hair after using it) does not carry through to the root at the base of the hair follicle frying it into nonexistence. If that did happen you would surely get a fairly serious burn, but thankfully only the surface is affected. It will feel like something is happening when you use it, but other than shaving there is no other real benefit to be had. Our verdict? Just say "no" to the No! No!

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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