Hair Removal - Knowing Your Options and Picking What is Best For You
Dr. Gunjan Gurav (she/her)

Dr. Gunjan Gurav (she/her)

Sep 15Hair and Skin Care

Hair Removal - Knowing Your Options and Picking What is Best For You



This blog has been compiled by Komal Adhlaka, a content writer for Proactive For Her.

A lot of us do not like unwanted hair growth on our bodies. Be it the unwanted hair on the face, armpits, legs, bikini line, or other parts of the body, we try to discover the best possible ways to reduce this unwanted hair. Many a time, you may come across several marketing campaigns, claiming “permanent” hair reduction. However, for a fact, no method of hair reduction is permanent. While some hair reduction methods may help you get rid of unwanted hair for small periods while some other methods may relieve you of unwanted hair growth for longer periods.

Hair growth is a complex process that starts deep in the hair follicle. The blood present in your body carries vital nutrients to the hair follicles. The sebaceous (oil) glands also help keep the hair healthy-looking.

The American Academy of Dermatology says that body hair takes about a month, on average, to grow to its full length. A host of different factors can affect the rate of hair growth, including nutrition, medications, and genetics. With age, the rate of hair growth may also vary.

There are hair removal methods that range from easy and inexpensive (shaving) to high-tech and pricey (laser hair removal). These hair removal methods work for every part of the body, every skin type, every amount of time, and, most importantly, every budget.

Overview

You must understand the concept of hair growth and especially your skin type to effectively choose hair reduction methods. Every strand of hair is part of the pilosebaceous unit, consisting of the hair shaft, hair follicle, sebaceous gland, and erector pili muscle. The continuous cycle of hair growth has three stages:

  • The anagen phase (growth phase)
  • The catagen phase (transitional phase)
  • The telogen phase (resting phase)

Your genetics, hormones, and the part of the body where the hair is growing, collectively determine the time a hair strand spends in a certain phase. Once you understand these stages and the understanding of the factors that allow hair growth through each stage, you’re better able to identify what hair reduction method would suit you best.

Some of the natural, chemical and technological methods of hair reduction are as follows:

Shaving 

Shaving could be your first introduction to hair reduction. It helps you cut the hair off at the skin’s surface. It is one of the cheapest and most easily accessible methods of hair reduction. You can do it at home, while in the shower, in about a few minutes. It works well for legs, underarms, and even the bikini line if your skin is not prone to irritation, razor bumps, and ingrown hair. Contrary to popular belief, shaving does not make the hair shaft thicker or darker. Nor does it encourage faster or slower hair growth. However, it may cause the hair to grow faster or slower. Using the technique, which is to shave against the direction of hair growth, you can get smooth skin. But since shaving only cuts the hair above the skin, hair growth may come back sooner than other hair reduction techniques. Chances are you’ll need to shave every couple of days. To shave effectively and safely, moisturize your skin before using a razor. Mild shaving cream will help a razor glide smoothly over the skin and help prevent nicks, cuts, and scrapes.

Waxing

Waxing reduces hair comparatively for a longer time than shaving. Wax is warmed up at an optimal temperature and spread over the skin in the direction of hair growth. The hair sticks to the hot wax. A rectangular, fabric strip is used to quickly pull the hair-laden wax off the skin before it gets cold. The heat causes the hair follicles to dilate mildly and makes it easier to pull the hair along the root. It must be kept in mind that the strip has to be pulled off in the opposite direction of the hair growth, in case you wax at home.

Waxing can cause ingrown hair, especially around the bikini line. You must, therefore, exfoliate skin before waxing as dead skin cells can clog the hair follicles and can also encourage the growth of ingrown hair.

Also, you must be careful of the temperature at which you heat the wax as using too hot wax may cause skin burns.

Sugar Waxing

Sugar waxing, or sugaring, is a natural method of hair reduction wherein substances like honey, lemon, and sugar are blended to form a thick paste. The paste is spread onto the skin in the direction of hair growth. Once hair sticks to it, a cloth or paper strip is applied atop the wax and pulled off in the opposite direction of hair growth.

Sugaring paste typically doesn’t have added preservatives or fragrance, so your skin is least prone to allergies or irritation. It is gentler on the skin than waxing, so you may also apply it more than once, on the same area if the hair doesn’t come out in the first attempt.

Provided it is done with the right technique, sugaring may last about four weeks. You must allow your hair to regrow to about a quarter-inch before sugaring it again.

Depilatories

Depilatories use thioglycolate, a chemical mixed with sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide that helps the shedding of hair. These creams break down the disulfide bonds in the keratin of the hair, making it weak. Once hair is weak enough that you can wipe or rinse it off your skin.

A depilatory is applied to the hair region and left on for three to 15 minutes. During this time the chemical dissolves the hair and is then wiped or washed off after the appropriate amount of time.

People with sensitive skin may experience irritation due to the presence of chemicals in depilatories. To minimize redness and irritation, don’t leave the product on longer than necessary. Also, you must carry out a small patch of skin at least 48 hours before a larger application. You may also apply hydrocortisone cream after hair removal to relieve irritation.

Threading

Threading is most often used to shape eyebrows, upper lips, and forehead. It is done by doubling, and then twisting, a thin cotton (preferably) thread. It is then rolled over areas of unwanted hair, plucking the hair from its follicle. It may last for about four to six weeks. Threading is safe even for sensitive skin, although it can cause some irritation, as several hairs are plucked out at the same time. You must carry your thread to the parlor as the same thread, when used by beauticians, on several customers, may prove to be unhygienic, causing skin issues like acne.

Electrolysis

Electrolysis is carried out using shortwave radio frequencies distributed through fine needles which are inserted directly into your hair follicles to destroy them. Once hair follicles are destroyed, new hair growth slows down hugely. Electrolysis is carried out by a dermatologist or a certified electrologist. It is not a one-time process. You may need a few sittings with your dermatologist, to get effective results.

Electrolysis can be done anywhere on the body and suits most skin types. However, commonly, there could be concerns like pain and redness from skin irritation. Rare but serious side effects include scarring and infection from the needles, as well as keloids, which is an overgrowth of scar tissue.

Laser hair removal

Laser hair removal is another longer-term and relatively expensive hair reduction method. It works by damaging the follicle with high-heat lasers to prevent new hair growth. It can be done anywhere in the body except around the eye area. It works best for people with denser hair growth. It requires multiple treatments over several months to see a dramatic reduction in hair growth. It may require a periodic maintenance treatment every few months to prevent regrowth. When hair grows back, it’s often finer and lighter in color.

Contrary to the popular belief, laser hair reduction does not promise permanent hair removal but it does give relief from denser hair growth for fairly long periods of time. Its common after-effects may include skin irritation and redness, but this usually goes away after a few hours. This treatment can also cause temporary pigment changes, especially with darker skin tones. Newer lasers are now available for darker skin tones. Some rare and serious side effects could be blistering and scarring. These would not usually occur if done by experienced dermatologists.

Final Words

It’s completely normal to have body hair and reducing its growth is a matter of choice. So, you must take the time to understand your skin type and hair type before you choose what works for you. Despite claims, no method in the face of Earth (at least, until yet) is a 100 percent permanent hair reduction solution. Still, there are long-term hair reduction techniques and ways to limit hair regrowth. Some prefer to trim or remove their pubic hair at home, while some others use professional services. A dermatologist’s help is recommended if you want to go for technological or chemical hair reduction.

Disclaimer - This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements.

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