The desire to remove excess or dark hair usually begins in adolescence and seems to continue until the day we die. Whether it is hair on the face, armpits, legs, bikini line, or other body parts, many women AND men are intent upon having the hair on their scalp be the only visible hair on their bodies. With the emphasis on smooth, hairless skin, it is interesting to note that excess hair, especially in women, is still a taboo subject.
There are many options available to remove unwanted hair, but few options to get rid of hair permanently. The different methods of hair removal from the old stand-by, shaving, to the new treatments, lasers and Vaniqa, are discussed here. Each person should chose a method or combination of methods that works best for them depending on cost, time available, skin type, and the desired hair-free area.
Understanding how hair grows helps us understand how to keep hair from growing. Each hair is contained in a pilosebaceous unit, which consists of a hair shaft, hair follicle, sebaceous gland, and erector pili muscle. Hair growth and shedding is a continuous cycle through 3 phases. The anagen phase is the growth phase, the catagen phase is a transitional state, and the telogen phase is the resting phase. Hairs spend a variable amount of time in each phase determined by genetics, hormones, and area of the body. Hair in the anagen phase is more susceptible to injury than hair in the telogen phase. All of these factors must be considered when choosing a method of hair removal.
Bleaching is actually not a hair removal method, but rather a way to make the hair less noticeable. This is especially useful for areas that already have thin but dark and therefore noticeable hair like the arms, face, or neck. Bleaching is performed by applying a chemical to the desired area, which removes the pigment from the hair.
Hair Removal with Shaving
Shaving is the most temporary method of hair removal because it merely cuts the hair off at the skin surface. Shaving does not make the hair shaft thicker, darker, or grow faster or slower. However, the short hair shaft may be more noticeable as it grows out because it has a blunt tip instead of the normal tapered tip. Shaving should be done after applying some type of moisturizer to the skin to help the razor glide over the skin, not cut or scrape it. Common moisturizers include water, shaving cream, hair conditioner, or body wash.
Physical Hair Removal
Physically pulling the hair out of the follicle is a common and fairly inexpensive method of hair removal. None of these methods changes the color, texture, or density of the hair. The hair takes longer to grow back because it must grow to the surface of the skin before it is noticed. Because hair grows at different rates, some of the hair that has been physically removed may take more time to grow back in. Repeatedly pulling hair out of the follicle may damage the follicle enough over time to keep it from producing more hair.
Physical Hair Removal - Plucking
Plucking hair with tweezers is an effective way to remove hair but can be very time consuming. The hair shaft must be long enough to grasp with tweezers.
Physical Hair Removal - Waxing
Waxing is an effective method of removing large amounts of hair at one time. In this method wax is warmed to allow it to be spread easily over the skin in the direction of hair growth. The hair becomes embedded in the wax, which cools and firms up grasping the hair. The wax is then quickly pulled off in the opposite direction of the hair growth, pulling the hairs out of the follicles. Cold waxes are available usually attached to strips, which are patted onto the skin. Wax that is still left on the skin must be peeled or scratched off. Caution must be used when heating wax so as not to burn the skin.
Physical Hair Removal - Sugar Waxing
Sugar waxing is a popular form of hair removal that works in the same way traditional waxing does. A thick sugary substance similar to caramel is spread on the skin in the direction of hair growth. The hair becomes embedded in the caramel. A cloth or paper strip is patted onto the caramel and then pulled off quickly in the opposite direction of the hair growth, pulling the hairs out of the follicles. The advantage of this method over traditional waxing is the clean up. The sugar substance is water-soluble and can be removed easier than wax by rinsing with water.