- Hair Removal Options: Are There Permanent Solutions?
- All The Ways I’ve Removed My Body Hair—& What I Think Of Them
- No removal
- Best Ways to Remove Leg Hair
- How to treat and prevent ingrown leg hairs
Hair Removal Options: Are There Permanent Solutions?
Shaving simply gets rid of hair at the surface, which is why it grows back so quickly. Tweezing removes the hair as well as its root, which helps slow down regrowth. But even with tweezing, the hair will likely grow back in a couple of weeks.
If you’re looking for longer-term hair removal solutions, it may be time to consider other hair removal techniques. The following methods are ranked by their ability to remove hair for the longest amount of time.
Electrolysis involves the use of shortwave radio frequencies distributed through fine needles placed directly into your hair follicles. The intention is to destroy the hair follicle so that it doesn’t stimulate new hair growth. This procedure needs to be done by a dermatologist or a certified electrologist.
Unlike other hair removal options, electrolysis is considered a permanent solution by the Food and Drug Administration. However, for best results, you will need multiple follow-up appointments.
Most people need follow-up sessions every week or two. Depending on the length of the session, the cost is typically around $35 to $100 per session.
Electrolysis can be done anywhere on the body, and works for most skin types. The most common side effect is pain and redness from skin irritation. Rare but serious side effects include scarring and infection from the needles, as well as keloids (an overgrowth of scar tissue).
Laser hair removal
Laser hair removal is another longer-term hair removal option. Like electrolysis, this treatment targets the hair follicle. It works by damaging the follicle with high-heat lasers to stop new hair from growing.
According to the Mayo Clinic, laser hair removal can be done anywhere on the body, with the exception of the eye area. The treatment tends to work best in people with light skin tones who have dark hair.
Like electrolysis, laser hair removal requires multiple sessions for best results. Depending on the area of hair removal, you may need about four to six treatments spaced four to eight weeks apart. It can cost up to $250 a session.
In most cases, hair removal lasts several months, and in some cases it might last for years. When hair grows back, it’s often finer and lighter in color. However, laser hair removal doesn’t guarantee permanent hair removal.
The most common side effect is 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. More serious side effects include blistering and scarring, but this is rare.
If you don’t like the idea or the cost of electrolysis or laser hair removal, you may want to talk to your dermatologist about prescription creams.
One type in particular is called eflornithine (Vaniqa), which you apply twice a day for one month. It works by inhibiting the production of enzymes that stimulate hair growth.
According to a study on this treatment, the results can last up to eight weeks, after which you can start the process over again. A month’s treatment costs about $50.
Eflornithine works only for facial hair, and is better suited to women. Some side effects may include burning, rashes, and acne breakouts from follicle disruption.
Professional tweezing and waxing
An option for smaller areas of your body is professional tweezing and waxing done by a certified aesthetician. When hair is removed this way, it’s pulled directly out of the root. Depending on how fast your hair grows, results may last from two to eight weeks.
This is a less expensive option than laser hair removal or electrolysis, but you may need to repeat the treatment more often.
While tweezing can be done on any area of the body, waxing shouldn’t be done around the genitals, nipples, ears, or eyelashes. You should also avoid applying wax over varicose veins, moles, or warts, or on skin that’s chapped or sunburned.
The most common side effects of both professional tweezing and waxing include mild rashes and irritation, but this is usually temporary.
This treatment consists of an over-the-counter gel or cream that you put on your skin. It works by weakening a protein in your hair called keratin. This causes the hair to fall out and be easily wiped away.
Depilation doesn’t target the hair follicle, so the results may only last for about two weeks. However, it’s an inexpensive option that you can do at home.
Make sure you use the right type of cream for the area where you want to remove hair. Some creams are formulated for the face, and others for the body or pubic area.
It’s a good idea to do a patch test on a small part of your skin before using chemical depilation on a larger area of your body. Side effects of this treatment can include chemical burns, rashes, and blisters.
All The Ways I’ve Removed My Body Hair—& What I Think Of Them
Oh, the joys of hair removal. For me it started in the third grade with an intense, adolescent fury at the fact that my mother wouldn’t let me shave the peach fuzz from my chicken legs. I’ve since had plenty of conversations with roommates and friends about shaving versus not shaving, waxing versus not waxing, whether spending more money than I ever should have on laser treatments that failed was worth it, and how Advil is sometimes necessary to get through the pain of a nose wax. My first ever professional Brazilian wax was perhaps the most physically painful experience of my life (including the time I broke my foot dancing around my kitchen with headphones in). I’ve gone through phases. I’ve grown all my body hair out. Then waxed my arms. Plucked the invidual hairs from my upper lip and shaved my entire face.
All that said, body hair is nothing if not about personal choice—do it, don’t do it…but if you are going to do it, there are lots of options. Which one is right for you? I’m not sure—but I’ve dissected them below just in case you’re looking to feel like a seal, but don’t totally know how.
Pros: Waxing is the process of ripping out all the hairs in a specific area out by the root all in one go. The great thing about this method is that it actually removes all the hair from an area. Every last one. It lasts longer than shaving, is fairly affordable even when done by a professional, and there are safe at-home options you can do yourself.
Cons: It also is a famously painful hair removal process. (I’d argue the most painful.) Especially when your body hair is as course and dense as mine is. It’s not permanent and you can’t use in sensitive areas or while on retinols—I learned this the hard way (i.e. waxing my upper lip while on Tretinoin)—lest you want to lose a layer of skin along with the hair.
Pros: Shaving is supremely easy. It’s also an inexpensive technique you can do at home. Find razors—both disposable and reusable—available in literally any drugstore. Shave every day if you want to. Works especially well on bodies with very fine, thin hair.
Cons: Ingrown hairs. Razor burn. Need lots of water and a good lather for it to work at all. All for a process that doesn’t last. And the pink tax is real.
Pros: Sugaring is a technique that uses a concotion of lemon, water, and sugar to pull the hairs out by the root. I have yet to try this method, but after talking to a handful of Glossier employees, all of whom go to Hortus in lower Manhattan, I learned that this all-natural process is similar to waxing but “WAY better,” “does not hurt as much,” and is “great for sensitive skin.” The solution is water soluble, doesn’t contain resins like waxes do, and over time, can ultimately result in permanent removal.
Cons: Still yanking all the hairs out by the root = still painful. The lemon can be sensitizing depending on the person, and, like waxing, this shouldn’t be done in conjunction with retinols or retinoids.
Pros: If you have fair skin and very dark hair, you’re a good candidate for laser hair removal because it targets the color of the hair follicle, essentially burning it so that the hair falls out. In my opinion, it’s not as painful as people say—especially if you have an experienced professional using a machine with soothing mechanisms like cool wash cloths and aloe gel. Just little zaps once a month.
Cons: Laser hair removal is fucking expensive. And it doesn’t always work. If your hormones change, everything you paid to remove will probably grow back. You have to do a minimum of six different treatments about every six weeks for it to really last, and even then, it might not be enough. It’s a waste of your damn money if that is the case.
Pros: I haven’t tried this method either but Senior Editor Ashley Weatherford, a regular Nair user, says it does actually work. The process is affordable and it creates fewer ingrown hairs than shaving. A fairly easy, DIY routine.
Cons: According to Ashley, even the “new, improved scent” formulas still smell bad. The chemicals in it are “probably bad for you” and Nair needs to be left on for a specified, slightly awkward amount of time (eight minutes) during which you must sit immobile on a towel in your apartment and wait. While smelling bad.
Pros: A medical process that really works!…even more permanently than lasering. It’s essentially done by inserting an epilator into the hair follicle to kill the center of hair growth. No permanent side effects. Electrolysis is also backed by the FDA, who says it can be safely done anywhere on the body (including eyebrows!).
Cons: Really, really, really painful—more painful than waxing OR lasering—and, while perhaps not as expensive as a laser treatment, still costs more than a lot of the other options.
Pros: Incredibly easy (do nothing!). Kinda sexy, especially because it defies unrealistic societal expectations about the human body.
Cons: An aesthetic choice that’s based on preference—AKA not for everyone.
Photo via ITG.
Best Ways to Remove Leg Hair
You see them on runways, commercials, at the pool, and at the beach: women with flawlessly smooth legs with no signs of irritation or redness. What’s their secret to removing leg hair?
There’s an entire array of leg hair removal options to choose from, including the tried and true shaving and the more involved leg waxing and laser hair removal, among others. Factors that will help you make a decision include cost and how long you want the results to last. Hint: You can expect to pay more for hair removal options that last the longest, such as laser hair removal.
“How to remove the hair is a completely individual preference, based on cost, pain tolerance, and your skin and hair type,” says dermatologist Jami Miller, MD, of the Vanderbilt University department of medicine in Nashville, Tenn.
Here’s a primer that will help you choose the best option for your leg hair removal.
DIY Choices for Hair Removal
Shaving leg hair, the most affordable choice, can be done easily at home. High-end razors and shaving creams may be tempting, but Dr. Miller says you really only need to make sure your razor is sharp and clean, and has at most two blades. Using a moisturizing gel or cream can also help achieve a smoother shave.
With a little practice you should be able to get a close shave and very little razor burn or bumping. But depending on how fast your hair grows, you may need to shave again within a day or two to keep the same look and feel. Exfoliate gently between shaving sessions and moisturize after you bathe to help keep your skin soft and smooth.
Depilatories are drugstore creams and lotions that help to remove hair shortly after they are slathered on. Newer scents have replaced the unpleasant odor of original formulas. “Depilatories are easily done, but hair removal is often uneven,” says Miller. Additionally, skin that is easily irritated is likely to develop a rash due to the depilatory ingredients. The results tend to last longer than shaving, but not as long as waxing.
The Lowdown on Leg Waxing
Leg waxing is a hair removal procedure you can do at home or at a spa or salon. Hot wax is applied to the leg in patches. A clean cloth or paper is pressed onto the wax and then ripped off the skin, taking the wax and hair with it.
Waxing lasts longer than shaving off leg hair, but to be effective you will have to let the hair grow long enough for the wax to be able to pull it. “Letting the hair grow out isn’t appealing to some women, especially in mid-summer,” says Miller. Leg waxing is one of the more painful options, but hair becomes finer and easier to pull out the more you do it, she adds.
A razor burn-type of reaction is unlikely, but you may get some bumps as the hair grows back in. Gentle exfoliation and moisturizing will help.
Almost Permanent: Laser Hair Removal
During laser treatment, a low-energy beam is directed at the skin, where it is absorbed by the dark pigment in the hair follicles. With repeated treatments — usually at least three — this stops most hair growth, though re-treatment may eventually be needed.
“Laser is best for people with light skin, no tan, and with dark hair,” says Miller. White and pale blonde hair does not respond to laser treatment. “You should also not have laser hair removal if you have a tan, as you risk developing light spots that may be permanent,” warns Miller.
Women with dark skin and dark hair can opt for laser hair removal, but will have to check that their doctor has the right equipment. “Be sure to see a physician who is an expert at laser hair removal of darker skin types to minimize the risk of light spots,” says Miller. “Most people find it painful, but bearable.”
There is a slight risk of infection after laser hair removal, but the damage to your wallet may be what’s most painful. Insurance likely won’t cover the multiple sessions needed to remove all leg hair, so you will be paying out-of-pocket. Costs vary, so make sure to get an estimate from your doctor before you proceed. On the positive side, the results of laser hair removal last a long time, although after several years you will probably need to have stray re-growth treated again, says Miller.
Electrolysis is a process in which a small needle is inserted into a hair follicle. The needle generates a spark of electricity that burns out the hair. As a result, it is not a good option for full leg treatments, although electrolysis is a good way to handle troubling hairs or patches. This is a better option for people who have light or white hair and it does not result in the white spots that plague some women after laser hair removal.
“Electrolysis is also expensive, requires several sessions, and can only treat a relatively small area at a time,” says Miller.
In your pursuit of smooth legs, it may be best to begin with the most affordable options. However, the choice will ultimately depend on your personal preferences regarding convenience, cost, and pain.
How to treat and prevent ingrown leg hairs
Use the following methods to help prevent ingrown hairs:
Dirt, oils, and dead skin cells can clog the hair follicles. Removing these can treat and help prevent ingrown hairs.
Exfoliation before shaving can help. Scrub the legs with an exfoliating body wash or use a loofah to help remove dirt and unclog pores.
Exfoliation also gently scrapes away the dead skin cells that accumulate on top of the skin. This layer of dead cells can trap new hairs inside the follicles, causing them to grow inward.
Also, gentle exfoliation is sometimes enough to pull ingrown hairs up and outside the skin, where they can grow correctly.
Try a dry brush
Dry brushing is a way to get rid of dead skin cells. Brushing the skin with a firm, long-bristled brush in a circular motion can gently scrape away the outer layer of dead skin cells, revealing softer skin underneath.
Removing this layer can also keep the pores and follicles clear and prevent hairs from growing inward.
Use shaving cream or gel
Share on PinterestUsing shaving cream or gel can help to prevent ingrown hairs.
Shaving cream adds moisture and reduces friction when the razor glides over the skin.
Too much friction can result in irritation and inflammation. It may also cause razor burn, in which the skin becomes bumpy, red, and sometimes painful. By reducing friction, shaving cream reduces the risk of irritation.
The type of shaving cream can also make a difference. Sensitive skin may react to ingredients in some creams.
Chemicals and fragrances in shaving creams can irritate and inflame the skin, leading to skin issues, such as ingrown hairs.
People with sensitive skin may benefit from using natural or hypoallergenic products on their legs.
Choose the right razor
Ingrown hairs on the legs can signal that a person is using the wrong type of razor.
A good razor should glide gently across the skin, leaving behind no missed or half-shaven hairs. Replace razors regularly to avoid dullness, which can add friction.
Razors that do not glide smoothly can catch and pull hairs, and ingrown hairs can result. A razor that catches can also cause small nicks and cuts, which can become infected.
In the past, some dermatologists believed that single-blade razors reduced risk to the skin. However, a 2013 study showed no difference between single- and multiple-blade varieties.
Shave in the direction of growth
Hairs in an area tend to grow in the same direction. Shaving in the opposite direction can cause the hairs to have very sharp tips. This makes it easier for them to penetrate the skin and grow inward.
Practice good shaving techniques
Some other tips for preventing ingrown hairs due to shaving include:
- Always use a sharp, clean razor, avoiding razors with any signs of rust or wear.
- Rinse the blade after every stroke.
- Shave less often, allowing the hair to grow.
- Clean the blade with rubbing alcohol after each use.
- Do not overuse disposable razors.