Q: I gotta admit, I’m one of those girls who would tweeze every last hair on my body if I could. To me, anywhere but on my head, hair needn’t be growing, and if it is, it deserves a swift and steady death. My question is: I know there are lots of hair removal techniques out there — is one way safer than another? And most importantly, which way is most likely to be permanent?
A: I know your type. I had a roommate in college who used a home wax kit once a week for every square inch of her body. She was of Middle Eastern descent, and I guess very sensitive to the fact that she had dark hair — and lots of it — growing everywhere. But to her credit, you would never know because of her diligent waxing.
I, on the other hand, didn’t even tweeze my eyebrows for my wedding — part of the reason being that I barely have any eyebrows to tweeze, and part of the reason being that I’m lazy. Either way, I do know a thing or two about hair removal (lucky for you!) and I hope I can enlighten you somewhat.
First, let’s talk about the ever-popular waxing. Even though it can be painful, waxing can leave your legs feeling silky and soft. The upside is that it’s not that expensive, somewhere between $10 and $40 a session. The downside is that waxing is by no means permanent, and you’ll need to wax again in a few weeks. The good news about waxing is that it’s less harmful for your body than it used to be, and that’s because more and more salons are using soy-based wax as opposed to petroleum-based wax. Still though, it’s important to wax in a reputable spa or salon, or in very hygienic conditions at home, because waxing can cause an infection if not done correctly.
Another technique growing in popularity is laser hair removal. Pulsating light is absorbed by melanin in the hair follicle, destroying the hair. Laser hair removal is most effective is you have light skin and dark hair. Because it affects the melanin, it doesn’t really work on light hair, which doesn’t have much pigment to begin with. And if you have dark skin and dark hair, it can cause a burn. Also, laser takes a heftier chunk out of your wallet, costing you $150 to $500 a treatment. And though laser hair removal itself is generally safe, the numbing creams many doctors give you beforehand to apply yourself before the procedure may not be. There’s also a risk of skin burn with laser hair removal, so be sure that you are getting it done by an experienced professional.
Another option is electrolysis, which involves a trained electrologist inserting a tiny needle all the way down to the hair follicle. Then, an electric current is sent down to the follicle to destroy it. Not so pleasant for you, but definitely effective, and the only hair removal method touted as permanent by the FDA. The treatment is done to every single hair, and though it may sound tedious, many women see a marked difference within just a few sessions of being treated. Each session can run you between $40 and $90, and you’ll typically need 10 to 25 sessions to see real results.
There are also depilatories, which are creams that are designed to dissolve the hair at the skin, not affecting the follicle at all. Sounds great, right? The only problem is that the FDA has received reports of burns, rashes and other irritations caused by these products, so make sure to do a skin test first on a small non-sensitive area of your body first (such as your arm) to make sure it’s right for you. These products also contain numerous chemicals, which raises some safety concerns.
Finally, there’s good old-fashioned shaving. Tried and true, this method works on all hair types, but of course, you might have to shave every other day or even every day to keep up with the hair growth. It also doesn’t affect the hair follicle, merely cutting off the hair at the skin, but it’s definitely safe (as long as you don’t use that razor as a weapon) and doesn’t really involve any potentially harmful chemicals. Also, contrary to popular belief, shaving does not make your hair grow back thicker than before.
So there you have it, folks, a quick briefing on hair removal techniques and the effects they may or may not have on your body. Hope it helps and best of luck to you in all your hair removal endeavors.
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