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Table of contents
OverviewUnderstanding hair growthTemporary hair removal methodsLong-lasting hair removal methodsConsiderations and additional tipsConclusionSources
Navin Khosla NowPatientGreen tick
Medically reviewed by Navin Khosla, BPharm and written by Rajive Patel, BPharm - Updated on 26 Jan 2024
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Unwanted hair can be a nuisance, affecting both our appearance and confidence. Fortunately, there are various hair removal methods available to help us achieve smooth and hair-free skin. From traditional methods like shaving, plucking, threading and epilators to more advanced techniques like laser hair removal and electrolysis, each option offers its own benefits and considerations.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the most popular hair removal methods, discuss their effectiveness and potential side effects, and provide helpful tips for achieving the best results. Whether you’re looking to remove hair from your legs, face, or other parts of your body, this guide will equip you with the knowledge to make informed decisions about your hair removal routine.

Understanding hair growth

Before delving into the different hair removal methods, it’s essential to understand the basics of hair growth. Hair growth is a complex process that begins beneath the surface of the skin in a hair follicle. Hair is primarily composed of keratin, a protein also found in our nails. The rate and pattern of hair growth vary among individuals and can be influenced by factors such as genetics, hormones, and overall health.

There are two main types of hair on our bodies: vellus hair and terminal hair. Vellus hair is soft, fine, and short, while terminal hair is coarser, darker, and longer. Terminal hair is typically found on the scalp, underarms, pubic region, and other parts of the body in adults, while vellus hair covers larger areas like the chest, back, and face.

Temporary hair removal methods

Shaving

Shaving is one of the most common and accessible methods of hair removal. It involves using a razor (shaver) to cut the hair off at the skin’s surface. Shaving is effective for leg, arm, and facial hair and provides immediate results. However, it is a temporary solution, with hair regrowth typically occurring within a few days.

  • Pros: Shaving is affordable, convenient, and can be done at home. It is suitable for removing larger areas of hair quickly
  • Cons: Shaving can lead to razor burn, ingrown hairs, and stubble regrowth. It requires frequent maintenance as hair grows back relatively quickly
  • Tips: To achieve a closer shave, moisturize the skin before shaving and use a sharp razor. Shave in the direction of hair growth to minimize irritation

Plucking

Plucking, or tweezing, involves manually pulling out individual hairs using tweezers. This method is suitable for targeted hair removal, such as shaping eyebrows or removing stray hairs on the face. Plucking provides longer-lasting results compared to shaving as it removes the entire hair shaft.

  • Pros: Plucking is inexpensive and precise. It can be used for small areas and is particularly effective for shaping eyebrows
  • Cons: Plucking can be time-consuming and potentially painful. It may cause ingrown hairs or scarring if not done correctly. It is not recommended for larger areas of hair removal
  • Tips: Sterilize tweezers before and after use to prevent infections. Stretch the skin taut to minimize discomfort and grasp the hair close to the root before pulling it out

Hair removal creams

Hair removal creams, also known as depilatory creams, are topical products that dissolve the hair shaft, allowing it to be wiped away. These creams contain chemicals that break down the protein structure of the hair. They are widely available without a prescription and offer a convenient alternative to shaving or plucking.

  • Pros: Hair removal creams are easy to use, affordable, and provide longer-lasting results compared to shaving. They can be used on various parts of the body
  • Cons: Some individuals may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions to the chemicals in depilatory creams. It is important to follow the instructions carefully and perform a patch test before applying the cream to larger areas
  • Tips: Read the product labels to ensure you are using the right cream for the intended area. Test a small area of skin first to check for any adverse reactions. Be cautious not to exceed the recommended application time to avoid skin burns

Waxing

Waxing involves applying a sticky wax to the skin, allowing it to harden, and then quickly pulling off the wax strip, removing the hair from its root. This method provides longer-lasting results compared to shaving or depilatory creams, as it removes the hair from the follicle.

  • Pros: Waxing leaves the skin smooth and hair-free for several weeks. It can be done at home or by a professional. Waxing can be used on various body parts, including the legs, bikini area, and upper lip
  • Cons: Waxing can be uncomfortable and potentially painful, particularly for individuals with sensitive skin. Improper waxing technique can lead to skin burns, redness, and ingrown hairs. It is not recommended for individuals using certain acne medications or with certain skin conditions
  • Tips: Ensure the hair is long enough for effective waxing (around ¼ inch). Apply the wax in the direction of hair growth and remove the strip quickly against the direction of hair growth. Consider seeking professional waxing services for sensitive areas or if you are new to waxing

Long-lasting hair removal methods

Laser hair removal

Laser hair removal is a popular long-term hair removal method that uses a powerful laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) to target and destroy hair follicles in the skin, disrupting hair growth. The laser selectively heats the pigment in the hair follicle, damaging its ability to regrow hair. Laser hair removal can be performed by a dermatologist or trained technician. Common areas treated with laser therapy include the chest, face, arms, legs, underarms and bikini line. It can be particularly useful for women with excessive hair growth.

In preperation for your treatment you will need to shave the area of skin being treated the day before your appointment. You will be given a specially designed pair of goggles to wear to protect your eyes. A cool gel or spray will be applied to the area of the skin and a handheld device will be used to trigger the laser. This can be quite painful and may feel like an elastic band being snapped against your skin. Sessions can take over an hour, depending on where you are being treated. How many sessions you will need will depend on you as an individual and the area treated.

The treated area may develop a raised red rash for a few hours or a few days. Using an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas on the skin may help reduce the swelling and redness, as well as giving some relief, if there is any pain. You will need to avoid direct exposure of the treated area to sunlight after your treatment as your skin will be more sensitive to the sun. Also, you are advised to use sunscreen (min SPF30) regardless of the weather for at least 4 weeks on treated areas that are exposed to sunlight.

Laser hair removal can have side effects, including:

  • Tenderness, pain, or discomfort
  • Reddening or swelling of the skin
  • Blistering, crusting, or bruising
  • Change in colour of the skin, either lightening or darkening
  • Scarring
  • Burns from the laser
  • Bacterial infections

How much laser hair removal will cost will depend on the area of the body you are having treated and the number of treatments you will need. Typically, single treatments may cost from around £85 for the upper lip, to £270 for the arms.

  • Pros: Laser hair removal offers long-lasting results, with many individuals experiencing permanent hair reduction over multiple sessions. It can be used on larger areas of the body and is suitable for most skin types. There’s no evidence, suggesting laser hair removal causes skin cancer
  • Cons: Laser hair removal can be expensive and may require several sessions to achieve the desired results. Laser hair removal is safe, but some individuals may experience side effects such as temporary skin redness, swelling, or pain and discomfort after treatment that may last for some time. Laser therapy may not be suitable for pregnant women or those with certain skin types. Laser hair removal does not work as well on darker skin tones. It works better on those with pale skin and dark hair. It is not as effective on tanned skin or hair that has been bleached by the sun. You will need to let your tan fade before having laser treatment. Also, it is not guaranteed that laser hair removal will remove of all the hair
  • Tips: Choose a reputable clinic or provider with experienced professionals. Follow the recommended treatment schedule and avoid sun exposure before and after laser sessions to minimize the risk of complications

It is important that the person carrying out your laser hair removal is suitably qualified. It is always best to check they meet the standards required in training, safety, skill and insurance.

Laser hair removal is not permanent, so you will need regular treatments to stop hair from regrowing. How often you will need treatments will depend on you as the individual and which part of your body you are having your treatment. Facial hair removal may need a treatment every 4 weeks, where as body hair removal may require treatment every 6 to 8 weeks.

If you have any problems or complications after your laser hair removal speak to your practitioner where you were treated or see your GP for medical advice.

Electrolysis

Electrolysis is a permanent hair removal method that involves inserting a tiny needle into each hair follicle and delivering an electric current to destroy the hair root. There are two primary methods of electrolysis: galvanic and thermolytic. Galvanic electrolysis chemically destroys the hair follicle, while thermolytic electrolysis uses heat to destroy the follicle.

  • Pros: Electrolysis is considered a permanent hair removal solution and can be performed on various body parts. It is suitable for all skin types and hair colors
  • Cons: Electrolysis can be time-consuming and may require multiple sessions to treat all the hair follicles in the targeted area. It can cause discomfort, redness, and temporary skin changes, such as scabbing or swelling
  • Tips: Select a licensed and experienced electrologist or dermatologist for the procedure. Follow the aftercare instructions provided to minimize the risk of infection or skin damage

Considerations and additional tips

  • It’s important to consider your skin type, hair color, and personal preferences when choosing a hair removal method. Some methods may be more effective or suitable for certain individuals
  • Before trying any hair removal method, perform a patch test on a small area of skin to check for any adverse reactions or sensitivity
  • Proper skin preparation and aftercare can help minimize potential side effects and optimize the results of hair removal methods. Follow the instructions provided with each method and consult a dermatologist if you have any concerns
  • If you have underlying medical conditions or are taking medications that may affect hair growth, consult with your healthcare provider before starting any hair removal treatments
  • It’s important to note that hair removal methods may not provide permanent results for everyone. Hair growth patterns and regrowth rates can vary among individuals
  • Regular exfoliation and moisturizing can help maintain smooth and healthy skin between hair removal sessions
  • If you experience persistent or excessive hair growth, consult with a dermatologist to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing it
  • Remember that hair removal is a personal choice, and there is no right or wrong approach. Choose the method that best suits your needs, preferences, and budget

Conclusion

Hair removal is a common practice for many individuals seeking smooth and hair-free skin. From temporary methods like shaving and plucking to long-lasting options like laser hair removal and electrolysis, there are various techniques available to suit different needs and preferences.

It’s important to consider factors such as effectiveness, potential side effects, and cost when choosing a hair removal method. By understanding the basics of hair growth and following proper techniques and aftercare, you can achieve the desired results and maintain healthy skin.

Consult with a dermatologist or hair removal specialist for personalized recommendations and guidance based on your specific needs. With the right approach, you can confidently navigate the world of hair removal and enjoy the benefits of smooth, hair-free skin.

Sources

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