Shaving, waxing, laser, tweezing. Unwanted body hair can be stressful, embarrassing, and incredibly hard to get rid of. Nevermind the unfair double standard – who decided that women had to smooth and hairless all the time!? None of us are hairless; we call agree on that!
I’ve struggled with excessive body hair most of my life, not just the standard leg hair, but chin, cheek, and upper-lip hair. Eastern German background…
High school was not easy, and before I knew how to properly get rid of it, I was resorting to shaving, actually shaving! It was an awful solution to an embarrassing problem that I didn’t know how to solve.
I never really understood how hair growth works, what shaving or waxing does to the follicles, etc. I was just going in blind, following all those Venus commercials and thinking that was my only option.
There’s are better ways! Unwanted, dark, or excessive body hair doesn’t have to cause you anxiety and it doesn’t have to rule your life. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular hair-removal systems and what works best.
It’s the go-to for hair removal. We all learned it around 12 years old when we got our first razor and we are allowed to take part in some sort of women’s-right-of-passage and start shaving our legs. We all have scars – probably on our shin bones – from slips and cuts.
It’s probably the fastest way to get rid of unwanted hair, but it’s also the least effective. It last a day or two before you start getting prickly again, and it can actually make you hair appear thicker when it grows back – contrary to popular belief, shaving doesn’t actually grow back thicker and darker; it only appears that way because you’re cutting the hair at the thickest part of the shaft.
Shaving is great for armpits and usually legs, but if you have even slightly sensitive skin, avoid it for your bikini area. Blades scraping constantly back and forth across your skin aren’t going to do you any favours in the rash department. Trust me!
PROS: Fast, cost effective, relatively easy
CONS: Doesn’t last long, causes irritation, inconvenient
Probably the most popular method for your bikini line, and a popular method for guys as well! Waxing is popular because it lies in the middle of hair removal options, it’s relatively inexpensive, and, well it’s not permanent, it does slow the method of new hair growth and keeps you smooth for up to six weeks.*
There’s two options with wax: hot wax, and hard wax. Hot wax is the traditional waxing method where liquid wax is applied to the skin and the hair is pulled out with stips that adhere to the wax. Hard wax uses the same method of heating but the wax actually dries around the hair and is pulled off by lifting a corner of an applied patch and removing quickly.
They’re both no walks in the park. It will hurt! I prefer hard wax. Studies show that, because it adheres to the hair and not your skin, the risk of abrasions or injury is greatly decreased with hard wax. However, you have to time it perfectly. If the wax gets too hard it won’t pull off properly and you’ll end up having to cut it out of your hair. Try doing that on your bikini line!
Hot wax is easier to work with but there is a risk of injuring or burning your skin, especially if you get waxed when your skin is already irritated.
*Based on repeated treatments no more than six weeks apart
PROS: Affordable, quick, accessible, lasts six weeks
CONS: Painful, can damage skin
Contrary to popular belief, laser hair removal is not permanent. Many ads and websites promote permanent hair removal using laser or IPL treatment, which just is not true. It can remove unwanted hair for up to 10 years. Most patients usually require about seven treatments depending on the area size and you’ll want to wait three to eight weeks between treatments so be prepared to spend up to a year to remove all the hair from the desired area.
Laser hair removal works by exposing the hair follicle to pulses of laser light. Lasers can cause localized damage by heating dark matter, or melanin, in the area of hair growth, while not damaging the rest of the skin. Most patients experience a slight stinging, almost like a rubber band lightly snapping against the skin. As with electrolysis, topical analgesics can help.
IPL is different than laser, although it is often lumped in with laser hair removal. IPL uses intense pulsed light and uses larger pulse widths to target larger areas. IPL has been shown to be more effective than laser at removing blood vessels and hair in some instances.
PROS: Relatively pain-free, lasts up to 10 years, at-home options available
CONS: Does not work on light or fine hair, not permanent, can be expensive
Super effective…but can be super expensive. A very-fine probe is inserted into the hair follicle without puncturing the skin – if it’s done properly. Once the base of the follicle is reached, the electrologist delivers a small amount of electricity that causes damage to the area and causes the follicle to die.
I opted for electrolysis to get rid of the hair on my upper lip and lower chin, and the whole process took about one year and cost me around $2,000. It’s not cheap! Expect to pay anywhere from $50-$80 an hour and you’ll likely need about a year of bi-weekly treatments to treat large areas like lips, cheeks and, chin or bikini.
It’s also not pain-free like a lot of ads say. You’re essentially electrocuting your hair follicle. Near the end of the hour, expect to get very uncomfortable at each surge, like a shiver running up and down your spine. Topical analgesics can help ease the pain. That being said, I never had a hair return on my lip and only a few on my chin.
PROS: It’s currently the only method of permanent hair removal available, little-to-no after effects
CONS: Expensive, time-consuming, slightly painful
Often called automatic tweezers, epilators are cheap, effective, and super easy to use….but they are not pleasant. And by “not pleasant”, I mean they hurt! Imagine tweezing every individual hair at rapid speed. Not fun. As with waxing, eventually the area goes slightly numb after a while and less painful.
Epilators are my go-to method for quick clean-ups on the go. You save the mess of having to lather up to shave, which is great if you don’t have a bathtub near by. They can give you some wicked irritation though if the area isn’t cleaned before and after. As with waxing, epilators rip the hair out at the follicle rather aggressively and leave them open and exposed to bacteria. It’s important to use a calming balm or toner after using an epilator.
PROS: Quick, cheap, very easy to use, lasts as long as waxing
CONS: Painful, can lead to irritation or acne flare-ups
There’s no right or wrong answer to removing unwanted hair, and many women use a combination of methods to give them the best results. I shave my legs, wax my bikini line, use an epilator on my cheeks and chin, and used electrolysis on my upper lip.
There are many options available out there. Just know that you are not alone in the struggle! A LOT of women experience unwanted body hair and the struggles both physically and emotionally that can come with it. It’s all about taking the steps you need to to feel your best.
Until next time,
Miss Body and Mind