Hair removal methods

Women and men around the world remove unwanted hair growth. This blog will enable everyone to understand the pros and cons of different types of hair removal methods from a professional’s point of view.

When contemplating removing unwanted face and body hair growth you need to consider the best method depending upon the following:

1. Location of hair growth - face or legs etc.

2. Type of hair - fine or coarse

3. Result required - temporary or permanent

4. Time and financial cost involved

Most people will have tried some form of depilation prior to possibly eventually seeking epilation.

Epilation is the term used describe all hair removed from the root - both temporary and permanent methods - which includes threading, plucking sugaring, waxing, epilators, laser, and electrolysis.

Depilation is the term used to describe removal of the visible portion of the hair from the surface of the skin. This can be carried out either through mechanical means or chemically.

Methods of Depilation

1. Shaving

This is a quick method of removing hair growth from the surface of the skin with a razor blade, either wet or dry. Can be used for large or small areas of hair growth. It has no effect on the hair root structure. You will find any regrowth hair visible within 2-3 days depending on the area treated and the individual. The hair will feel blunt and prickly. Some individuals may find the skin becomes irritated and red, especially if dry-shaving.

2. Cutting

This method is ideal for those people who want to just reduce length of hairs in small areas e.g. the corner of lip, sides of face, where hairs are finer or for just 2 or 3 odd hairs on the chin. It is commonly used in between electrolysis treatments as it has no effect on the hair root. Cutting blunts the hair growth making it feel bristly to the touch. Curved nail scissors allow the hairs to be cut remarkably close to skin level.

3. Abrasive Mitts

One of the oldest methods of temporary hair removal uses an abrasive mitt to create friction across the skin tissues, breaking the hair growth at skin level. The hairs regrow to above skin level within a few days and skin tissues may become sensitised/irritated with frequent use.

4. Depilatory Cream/Mousse/Paste

Available from any pharmacy, these require a patch test prior to use. Applied to the skin tissues and left on for between 5 and 15 minutes, the chemicals dissolve the hair. It is then removed with either water or a spatula depending on manufacturer’s instructions. Lasts longer than shaving - approximately 2-4 weeks, depending on genetics. Regrowth hair texture may feel a little blunt when it appears. Depilatory creams use a strong chemical called calcium thioglycolate which may lead to skin sensitivity/irritation. With prolonged use allergies and hyperpigmentation may occur. Can be used on face, legs, underarms etc.

5. Derma/micro-planing

This treatment has become popular in recent years. It is a facial treatment that uses a disposable blade to exfoliate the facial skin surface, removing dead skin cells and vellus hair growth, leaving the skin smooth and soft. Regrowth can take 4-6 weeks, or longer.

Methods of Epilation

1. Threading

In recent years threading has become a popular method of hair removal for facial hair e.g. eyebrows. It has a direct effect on the hair root, just like plucking, as a cotton thread is used to remove the hair.

This method leaves the skin looking pink and can lead to spots in the treatment area due to localised bacterial infection. It requires a skilled practitioner to carry out the procedure within a salon environment. Regrowth takes between 4 and 6 weeks.

2. Plucking

Many women use this method initially to remove eyebrow and facial hairs. Unlike depilation methods, plucking affects the hair root as the hair is pulled out of individual hair follicles. This process can stimulate hairs to grow deeper into the dermis and pick up a rich blood supply which leads to the hairs growing thicker and darker on facial areas which are hormone-sensitive. Regrowth varies depending on the area and genetics. This method of removal can last 4 weeks on average, however, in most cases people pluck more frequently than 4 weekly - often daily, not realising the extent of the hair problem. Following plucking the skin may also suffer adversely with spots, hyperpigmentation and scarring because of bacterial infections, which is why professional therapists do not advise this method.

3. Sugaring

Not many salons offer this method of hair removal. It requires additional training. It is similar in principle to waxing but very gentle on the skin. A sugar paste is applied either in a ball of paste or in a strip to the skin surface and is then removed from the skin. The hair is removed by the root along with the sugar paste. Regrowth may take between 4 and 6 weeks.

4. Hot wax

This is the oldest method of waxing. It uses a blend of bees’ wax and resins. It is applied against the hair growth and removed against the hair growth. Ideal for treating thick, coarse hair in bikini or underarm areas. It requires a skilled practitioner to carry out the procedure within a salon environment. Any regrowth takes between 4 and 6 weeks to appear. Generally, it is more expensive than warm wax as it requires more skill and time.

5. Waxing - warm

This method became popular in the 1980s. Unlike hot wax it uses a honey base, or fruit base, which is applied to the skin in the direction of growth via a roller or spatula. A paper or muslin strip is then smoothed down on to the wax and removed against the direction of hair growth, lifting the hairs out of the follicle by the root. This method can last 4-6 weeks - the same as hot wax. It can be used on all areas of the face and body. It requires a skilled practitioner to carry out the procedure within a salon.

6. Cold wax strips

Available over the counter of high street pharmacies, this method uses cellophane strips coated with cold wax which are applied to the skin tissues and ripped off. Unlike professional waxing methods, this cold wax is not particularly effective and re-growth of hairs is generally quicker than other forms of waxing - usually 1 to 3 weeks.

7. Epilators

These machines are widely available from high street shops and vary in price. They either use micro-grip tweezer technology or trap the hairs in curled wires to rip the hairs by the root from the follicle. Particularly suited to leg hair removal, regrowth period varies from days to weeks depending on area.

8. Laser

Laser is termed as permanent hair reduction unlike electrolysis which is permanent hair removal. In recent years it has become a popular treatment for hair removal as it can treat large areas of hair growth. It requires a course of treatment and regular maintenance every 12-18 months to treat any regrowth. Laser is a relatively expensive treatment costing from hundreds of pounds to thousands depending on the area to be treated and the density of hair growth. Laser is unable to treat all hair or skin types - it cannot treat white, red, blonde or grey hair and cannot treat dark skin. This is because laser is based on a technique known as selective photo-thermolysis which uses light energy to target the pigment found in the hair which absorbs light at a specific wavelength. This treatment can only be carried out by a trained practitioner within a salon/clinical environment.

Laser and electrolysis work well together, with laser clearing the area initially then electrolysis being used to effectively destroy the hair follicle and treat the finer hairs that laser fails to treat.

9. Electrolysis

This treatment has been around since 1875 and is the only medically approved method of permanent hair removal, recognised by both the British Medical Association in the UK and the FDA in America. Most people seek electrolysis only as a last resort having tried all other methods of hair removal and are desperate for a permanent solution. Electrolysis can treat all skin and hair colours and hair types effectively; it is a course of treatment which varies depending on density of hair growth, type of hair and size of area. Each hair follicle is treated individually via a fine stainless steel or gold-plated probe which discharges a small amount of energy into the follicle, destroying its ability to produce a hair. Frequency and duration of treatment can be tailored to each client’s specific needs. This treatment can only be carried out in a salon/clinical environment as it requires an experienced and skilled practitioner, such as a member of the British Institute and Association of Electrolysis [the professional body for electrolysis].

In Conclusion

You now have sufficient information at your fingertips to decide on which method of hair removal to choose from for the different areas of your body, your finances and your time. In my experience, people usually spend years trying to find the correct method for them, however you need to decide:

do you want to wax your legs/underarms etc. every 6 weeks on average for the rest of your life, or invest in removing hair growth permanently over a period of 1 or 2 years, depending on frequency of treatment and area to be treated etc., to gain permanent removal of hair growth?

Personally, I chose electrolysis 42 years ago for my eyebrows which have remained hair-free since and was a short course of treatment.


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