Many people have unwanted hair in some place on their bodies. Whether it’s that stubborn leg hair many women struggle with or the receding hairline many men suffer from, the search for proper hair removal is one we all struggle with. Luckily for us there are many methods to get what we desire. One of the easiest ways to remove hair is by shaving the area. This requires a hand held razor and usually some sort of moisturizer to help prevent the razor from breaking or irritating the skin. Some common moisturizers are water, shaving cream, hair conditioner, and body wash. Common misconceptions associated with shaving are that if you shave, the hair will grow back faster (or slower) or that the hair changes texture, color, or density. None of these are true, but the hair may become more noticeable as it grows because the tip of the hair has a blunt tip instead of normally being tapered.
If you prefer to keep the hair gone longer, plucking can be a nice method. Plucking also doesn’t change the color, density or texture of the hair, but may be considerably more painful than shaving since the hair is being pulled from the follicle. Plucking is more time consuming than shaving as you can only pull a few hairs out at a time and the hair shaft must be long enough for the tweezers to grasp it. However, enough damage over time to the follicle may keep it from reproducing hair ever again, thus making plucking more effective.
Waxing is an effective way to remove a lot of hair at once. Wax is warmed in a vessel of some kind and then spread over the skin in the direction of the hair you wish to remove. The hair becomes stuck in the wax as the wax cools, making it easier to remove. The wax is pulled off quickly in the opposite direction of the hair growth, removing the hair from its follicle. Like plucking, waxing can be rather painful at times and caution must be taken with the wax so you don’t burn your skin. If any dried wax is left on the skin it must be scraped or peeled off.
Sugar waxing is also another alternative. It works in the traditional method of waxing, but instead of wax, a thick caramel like substance is used. The caramel is spread on the skin in the same direction as the hair growth, allowing the hair to embed in the sugary substance. A piece of cloth or a paper strip is patted down on top of the caramel and, when cool, the wax is pulled off in the opposite direction of the hair growth. Since the sugary substance is water soluble, it’s much easier to remove than traditional wax.
Depilatory creams* are as easily accessible and generally work quickly to remove hair. The creams are designed to break down the protein in the hair to dissolve the hair completely. People with coarse hair may find depilatories less effective, so test patch of skin before trying a large area. They’re best used on legs, underarms, and bikini areas but may cause allergic reactions (i.e. rash or inflammation) for people with sensitive skin. Make sure to read all directions before use.
A more permanent method of hair removal is electrolysis. A specialist uses a machine that inserts a hair-thin metal probe into the hair follicle. If done correctly, this probe should not puncture the skin. Electricity is sent through the probe and into the follicle, causing localized damage to the area and stopping hair growth. Electrolysis has the best track record among hair removal methods, but it has its downsides. This particular method can be very expensive over time, it can be rather painful (you’re sending electricity into your skin), it’s tedious, and can be overly difficult with a large amount of hair. If the procedure is done improperly, partial to full hair re-growth may occur, there can be lasting skin damage, and infection can be spread. Another problem is that regulation for this method varies by state, so there’s not much regulation to ensure the programs are being completed safely and competently. Personal electrolysis machines exist and claim to be easy to use, but one should not perform this procedure without proper training.
Laser hair removal does slow down the re-growth of hair, but it’s not for everyone. Lasers work by emitting light at various wavelengths, energy output, and pulse widths. Most lasers used for hair removal target the melanin in the skin- the more melanin, the more damage is done. Thus this procedure is best for people with lighter skin and dark hair and since the hair does grow back, the treatment must be repeated.
There are prescription creams like Vaniqa that are FDA approved to remove hair, but it’s designed specifically for facial hair. The active ingredient in Vaniqa is eflornithine hydrochloride, a medicine designed to treat African sleeping sickness and certain cancers. The medicine seeps into the pore and inhibits the enzyme that is needed for cell reproduction and other cell functions for hair growth. The main problem with using the cream is that if you stop, the unwanted hair comes back.
Whether you want a more permanent method or something easier, hair removal is right at your fingertips.