ExplainerHair removal: all you need to know about sugar, wax, cream, machines and laser beams
- There are many ways to remove hair, and picking the best method depends on your skin health and the required results
- We look into each of the methods, and consider the pros and cons of each, and how long the results will last
There’s a wide variety of methods to remove hair, from temporary to long-term, and from non-invasive to gadget-based. While they all have pros and cons, some may be a better fit depending on the health of your skin and the results you’re looking for.
“Just like fashion, hair-removal trends come and go, so what is in style now may not be 10 years from now, like the over-tweezed eyebrows of the ’90s,” says Rachel Couvrey from GiGi Wax Spa in the United States. “Similarly, a full Brazilian may not be your ideal aesthetic in your 60s, so permanent hair-removal methods, such as laser or electrolysis, might not be the best choice.”
This is why it’s important to consult a professional before undergoing hair removal.
Here are the various methods, and their pros and cons:
Sugaring has been around since ancient Egypt, but it has become popular in the past few years because of its convenience, long-term results, and sustainability. A mix of sugar, lemon juice and water is applied to the skin, drawn in the direction of the hair and then removed with a flicking motion, pulling the hair out from the follicle.
This all-natural technique not only gets rid of unwanted hair, but also manages to gently exfoliate your skin and prevent ingrown hairs. Tanja Westendorff from Sugaring London suggests getting a sugaring session every four to five weeks.
“Regular sugaring doesn’t just get rid of all unwanted hair, it gives you amazing positively glowing skin – free of ingrown hair – and also leads to hair reduction.”
Sugaring can be time consuming and, if not performed correctly, it can irritate your skin.
Depilatory creams are ideal for those just beginning to remove body hair. These creams use TGA (thioglycolic acid) to break down the structure of keratin in our hair.
Mastering the technique is quite easy: all you need to do is apply the formula over the area you wish to remove the hair from, wait a few minutes, then scrape the hair off with the plastic tool attached to the box or rinse it away.
This fairly affordable, painless method is ideal to remove hair in hard-to-reach areas, but it’s not recommended for brows, anywhere near your eyes, your nose, or ear hair. If you have sensitive skin, some formulas may irritate your skin, so patch test first in case of allergic reactions.
Epilation has a bad reputation because it can be painful, but still remains one of the most used hair removal methods.
An epilator is a device designed to remove hairs from the root with a spinning wheel formed by little metallic tweezers. Its results are very similar to those of waxing: hairs are removed from their follicles, and therefore grow back at a slower pace – results can last up to four weeks.
There are some cons, especially ingrown hairs. These gadgets remove hairs by the roots without exfoliating the outer layer of your skin, so when the hairs start to grow back there is a higher likelihood of them getting trapped under the surface of the skin, curling under, and becoming ingrown.
Exfoliating before epilating will help prevent this.
Shaving remains the go-to fast, cheap, and painless hair removal method. Easy to do, this convenient method has a variety of pros and cons.
On the bright side, shaving is a great time saver: it only takes a few minutes. One of the main side effects is ingrown hairs. When you use a razor, you force the hair follicles to modify their growth direction, so they get trapped under your skin, leading to ingrown hairs.
Additionally, razor blades can be harsh on sensitive skin, as shaving removes a thin layer of your skin in the process, which can cause irritation.
Rachel Nazarian, MD dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, explains that, while shaving on a daily basis is not vetoed, it’s best to use razors with fewer blades, as “multiple blades can be too harsh on sensitive skin, especially if used daily”.
“ Two blades are just enough,” she says.
A layer of depilatory, resin-based wax is spread over the area you want hair removed from and then pulled away against the direction of natural hair growth. It removes the entire hair, from follicle to tip.
One of its main benefits is the long-lasting effects, as hair is being removed from the follicle instead of just being cropped at a surface level.
“Waxing will leave you smoother longer as unwanted hairs become thinner and in some cases don’t grow back at all,” Jodi Shays, founder of Queen Bee Salon & Spa, explains.
Wax can be used pretty much all over your body, but should be avoided on sensitive areas of your face.
One of the reasons people don’t go for this method – besides the possibility of pain – is that waxing requires some regrowth for you to be able to do it again. Wax needs at least a quarter of an inch (6mm) of hair to cling to.
Laser hair removal
This method involves radiating light from a laser that will be absorbed by the pigment in your hair. The light energy transforms into heat, ultimately damaging the hair follicles in charge of growing hair, which impedes future hair growth.
Legs, armpits, upper lip, bikini line and chin are the most common areas on which laser hair removal is performed, but, with the exception of the eyelids, this method can be used pretty much anywhere on your body.
You should be aware it can take up to six sessions to be done with a zone before you’re good to go. Most people get results that last several months or even a few years, but this technique doesn’t guarantee permanent hair removal.
Side effects include irritation, redness and swelling right after a laser session, and for some, it can lighten or darken the skin where the treatment is being applied.