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Hair Removal Methods – What Are They And Which One Is Right For Me?

By Rachel Nazarian
May 21, 2024
5 minutes
Hair Removal Methods

Did you know that your body is covered in hair? Some so thin and fine you barely notice it, and other hairs much darker and thicker. Although it’s actually quite normal to have hair all over your face and body, many people have darker, thicker hairs and find their hair growth excessive. Hair growth may be quite normal and healthy, but for some people there may be an underlying reason for their hair growth and pattern of growth: including hormonal levels, genetics, medications, and one of the most common in women being a condition called PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Some medical conditions can directly increase hair on the body, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, or some conditions may indirectly cause hair growth by the medications required to treat them.

Types of Hair Removal Treatments

There are many different types of hair-removal treatments. I am a huge supporter of semi-permanent and long-term hair removal, an attempt to avoid wasting a massive cumulative amount of time temporarily removing hair, and instead focusing on a longer-term solution. I will discuss all options of hair loss, both semi-permanent and temporary, to guide in finding the appropriate decision for each person.

Electrolysis – Permanent Hair Removal

Electrolysis destroys the hair at the root, and can be successful at treating very fine, thin hairs that are often too challenging for laser to treat, and is a great option for people with very light-colored hair, or darker skin. Regardless of hair color or skin color, electrolysis can be an appropriate and safe option to permanently remove hair. It is often performed by a skilled aesthetician inside a clinic or spa, and requires multiple treatments. Although it’s a great method of permanent hair loss, it’s not a great option for areas outside of the upper lip due to its slow speed, and minimal surface area coverage. It tends to be a more reasonable option for small areas of hair growth.

Treading – Hair Removal Method for All Skin Tone

Threading is a method of ripping the hair out with a twisted thread, pulling the hair at its base, and if done with an experienced person can be a very easy way to remove upper lip hair, or eyebrows, but becomes impractical for larger areas, much like electrolysis, such as the legs. The hair does not grow back thicker, and rather comes back thinner and thinner with time, as you slowly destroy the root of the hair. You can reduce redness after threading by applying an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, and cool compresses. Like electrolysis, the color of the hair or skin does not effect your ability to have this treatment done.

Waxing – Popular Option for Hair Removal

Waxing is a popular option for hair removal, but is generally not permanent and requires repeated long-term treatment to maintain results. Additionally, waxing can be irritating for people with sensitive skin- it involves applying a wax to the body, covering the hairs that are being targeted. Once the wax has grabbed the hairs, with some techniques the wax is removed quickly as it dries, oftentimes with a cloth, and hairs are pulled out from their root. For people with sensitive skin, the process may be too aggressive and cause skin breakage and irritation. Taking an oral anti-inflammatory medication, such as acetaminophen, before your waxing session can be quite helpful in reducing pain. I recommend it for most skin types but advise those with sensitive skin or with a tendency for ingrown hairs to proceed with caution. Try not to go the week before your period, as many people feel that pain is heightened during this week.

Depilatory Creams – Option for Temporary Hair Removal

Depilatory creams are another good option for temporary hair removal, with a primary ingredient being Thioglycolic acid, or others with mechanisms of action in breaking down and degrading keratin, a protein that is naturally found in hair. If left on the skin for too long these creams can be incredibly irritating, and can even cause a chemical-burn-like reaction. If you plan to use one for facial hair, just make sure to remove the cream entirely within the recommended time limit.

I don’t recommend dermaplaning for hair removal because it is the equivalent of shaving your facial hair. Although your hair does not become thicker after dermaplaning, it certainly appears thicker because hair tends to thin with time and environmental wear, and shaving resets it to its original thickness. Techniques such as waxing or threading can decrease the thickness of hair over time and are preferred. That being said, dermaplaning is certainly an easy at-home option for many people, but requires maintenance, oftentimes almost weekly. Make sure you’re using a clean and sterile dermaplaning tool, not a simple blade, and have practiced the angle and pressure-level to apply on your skin to avoid breaking or irritating delicate tissue.

Intense Pulsed Light – Alternative Method to Laser Hair Removal

There are several lasers that are effective at removing body or facial hair; I often recommend IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light. IPL works by using a wavelength that is absorbed by melanin. Melanin is a substance that gives our hair and skin color. The ideal candidate for this type of laser hair removal would have very light skin, and very dark hair, ensuring that their hair absorbs the majority of the laser energy. People that have melanin-rich skin, or darker skin types, are higher risk for having their skin absorb the laser energy, and therefore higher risk for burning.- darker skin types with black or brown skin tone should proceed cautiously if considering IPL, and I would encourage them to consider other options which are safer, such as waxing, or electrolysis, and considering laser hair removal under the supervision of a board-certified dermatologist to ensure appropriate laser technique. Although IPL was originally only available at a physician’s office, or at clinics, effective IPL devices are now available for at-home use, improving compliance, comfort and affordability. Most people require several sessions for complete treatment in the office setting, and home devices of IPL can show improvement within 3-4 weeks.

Top Pick – Ulike Air 10

Ulike-Air-10-SHR

Ulike offers a hair removal laser that is wonderful for at-home use. It’s incredibly effective for long-term hair reduction, and improvement is seen after the first 3 weeks. One of my favorite features with the Ulike Air 10 system is the SkinSensor which detects your skin tone and determines if you’re a good candidate for IPL. I find this to a be unique and smart feature to decrease risk of burning and side effects. The key for these at-home devices is to ensure that you stay consistent, because regular use is needed to experience best results.

Conclusion 

Ultimately, there are many different techniques and devices that help you minimize hair growth and achieve long-term hair removal, but the best choice depends on many factors, the most important consideration being your skin type and tone, and where safety is highest. I find IPL to be the most gentle and cost-effective method for most people, but not appropriate for all skin tones.

To find the option best for you, speak to your board-certified dermatologist.

Rachel Nazarian
Dr. Rachel Nazarian is a board-certified dermatologist seeing patients with Schweiger Dermatology Group in the Upper West Side and Murray Hill locations of New York, NY. She practices various aspects of dermatology, including cosmetic treatments, laser, injectables, skin cancer screening, general dermatology, dermatologic surgery and body contouring.
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