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Removing Unwanted Hair: What Are The Options?

Updated on February 5, 2013

If unwanted excess hair is proving embarrassing or undesirable, you might be wondering how best to get rid of it. The most popular forms of hair removal include waxing, shaving and hair removal creams, but there are also other options such as sugaring, epilation and laser hair removal. Each of these methods has their advantages and disadvantages, so it is often purely personal choice as to which hair removal option suits you best.

Shaving

Shaving is one of the most popular forms of hair removal as it is generally less painful than waxing and not as messy as using hair removal creams. It is relatively cost-effective as disposable razors can be bought cheaply and soap can be used instead of shaving gel. This form of hair removal involves lathering up beforehand with soap or shaving gel so that the razor is less likely to cut your skin when you glide it up the area that you are shaving. This cuts the hair near the surface of the skin, which is why the hair tends to grow back within a matter of days. It works best on the legs and underarms, as shaving the bikini line can be uncomfortable when the hair starts to grow back. Shaving can easily be done at home and there is no need to visit a professional to have it done. 

Waxing

Waxing is one of the best options for removing unwanted hair on a longer basis. Whereas shaving will often need to be repeated once or twice a week, waxing usually takes place two to six weeks as the hairs need to grow to a certain length before they can be waxed properly. This is because waxing involves spreading cold or hot wax onto the skin and removing them in the opposite direction to the hair growth to literally pull the hair out at the roots, which ensures that it takes longer to grow back again. As you might expect from this brief description, waxing is one of the most painful types of hair removal, especially for the first few treatments. After this, your body can become accustomed to the pain and adjust itself accordingly. Whereas shaving works best on certain areas, waxing can be done on almost any area of the body. 

If you choose to have your unwanted hair waxed, it is best to have this done by a professional beautician at a salon. This will undoubtedly cost you more than if you opted for an at-home waxing kit, but there is less chance of getting an uneven wax that looks unsightly or just plain embarrassing. 

Sugaring

This is often used as an alternative to waxing, especially as it can be less painful. Instead of attaching itself to both the skin and the hair, the sugar paste tends to attach itself purely to the hair. Sugar pastes can be made using water, sugar and lemon juice, but it may be better to buy a pre-prepared sugar paste as it can be difficult to achieve the right consistency without plenty of practice. If you choose to create your own sugar paste, heat the mixture in the microwave for two to three minutes so that it becomes thicker. Leave the mixture to cool for a few minutes before spreading it onto your skin, although ideally it should be slightly warm on application to ensure that it spreads easily.

Because it is made from natural ingredients, it is easy and cheap to create. In comparison to waxing, it also less messy to clean up excess sugar paste as it is water-soluble. The main advantage of sugaring is that you can remove shorter hair than if you were to wax the same area. Whereas waxing requires hair to be a certain length before it can be removed, sugaring can remove hair that is one-eighth of an inch in length,

It is common to put some talcum powder over the area that you want to de-fuzz prior to applying the sugar paste. After the sugar paste has been spread onto the area, a porous cloth is pressed onto this and removed in the opposite direction to the hair growth. This should remove hair in the same manner as waxing. 

Epilation

This is becoming a more popular form of hair removal. An epilator is an electrical device that is designed to pull hair out at the roots. Before you epilate, you need to encourage the hair to "stand up" by running your hand across it in the opposite direction to the growth. This will enable you to pull the hair out at the root more easily. As is usually the case with other forms of hair removal that pull hair from the roots, the hair is less coarse when it grows back. It features a rotating head that grips multiple hairs at a time. Epilation can be used to get rid of hair all over the body and is one of the least messy forms of hair removal. Although it may sound time-consuming, using an epilator to remove hair on both of your legs can take half an hour or less. Unlike waxing, the hair only needs to be around a millimeter in length when it is removed so you can de-fuzz almost as soon as the re-growth appears again. As the hair is being removed at the root, epilating can be quite painful. Generally speaking, the pain can be minimized by trimming the hairs before using the epilator (if they are fairly long and thick) or using the epilator on a regular basis so that the re-growth is relatively short. You may find that your skin looks red and "bumpy" after epilation, but this should settle down within a matter of hours. 

Electrolysis

This works by using electric pulses to kill hair at the roots. The better electrolysis machines will have a small probe that is inserted into the hair follicle, although there are other types that send electricity down the hair into the hair follicle. This is one of the most painful types of hair removal, and it can take lots of separate sessions to actually kill off a hair. Once a hair has been destroyed by electrolysis, the hair will never grow back again.

Although electrolysis can be done at home, you will usually get better results if the procedure is done by a professional. Some hairs will need the probe to be inserted into the hair follicle at a specific angle, and this may be too complex if you do not really know what you are doing. Having electrolysis done professionally can be expensive, especially as you will undoubtedly need more than a handful of sessions to kill hairs off properly. However, it can be worth it if you want to ensure that the hairs are destroyed for good, rather than being temporarily removed. Professional electrolysis tends to achieve quicker and more effective results as your technician will be targeting the hair follicle itself, whereas home electrolysis machines tend to focus on the hair to lessen the possibility of electrocuting yourself.


Laser Hair Removal

This option is carried out in beauty salons, and involves targeting hairs with laser technology to destroy them. Laser hair removal is often used for removing hair from large areas, such as the back, and tends not to be used for removing hair on the legs, armpits or bikini line. Unlike electrolysis, this is not a permanent form of hair removal. However, it should significantly reduce the amount of hair. Typically, sessions are scheduled every six to ten weeks, and between six and ten treatments are needed to complete the treatment. This can make laser hair removal fairly expensive. It can be relatively uncomfortable, but this can be avoided by having a topical cream applied beforehand to numb the area. 

Depending on your skin tone and the darkness of the unwanted hair, laser hair removal may not be a viable option. Most pale-skinned people will find that a full treatment of laser hair removal gets rid of most of their unwanted hair, especially on areas such as the back. As this option does not actually kill the hair, further treatments may be necessary to remove hair that grows back in the future. 

Hair Removal Creams

In the majority of cases, this option involves applying cream to the relevant areas and leaving it on for a set amount of time. Hair removal creams contain chemicals that dissolve the hair at the roots. Because of this, it is similar to waxing but far less painful. The main disadvantage of hair removal creams is the mess that they create. Removing the cream can be a highly messy business, even if the cream is accompanied by something that is designed to make this process easier. 

Follow the instructions as closely as possible for optimum effects as leaving the cream on for less than the recommended time can mean that the cream has not had time to do its job properly, and the hair will not be removed. On the other hand, leaving it on for too long can be dangerous as the creams can burn your skin. There is also the possibility of having an allergic reaction to the cream. To limit the likelihood of this, do a small 'patch' test twenty-four hours before you intend to use the hair removal cream to make sure that it will be fine to use on larger areas. 

Hair Removal Mitts

This is not particularly well known as a form of hair removal, and can be quite uncomfortable. It works by 'sanding' the hair until it is fully removed. This is often as uncomfortable and time-consuming as it sounds, although it should not be painful as such. The skin will probably be quite tender and red, but this should not last too long. It can be challenging to fully remove the hair in places that you cannot easily see, such as on the backs of the legs. This can make it difficult to remove the hair equally across a given area. In terms of the overall results, it is quite similar to shaving as the hair is only being removed as far as the surface of the day. You can expect the hair to start growing back within days, although you will need to wait for the hair to grow to a certain length before you can repeat the process. 

Plucking

This is best suited to the odd rogue hair as it involves pulling out the hairs on an individual basis with a pair of tweezers. As this is very time-consuming and can be quite uncomfortable, most people restrict it to removing one or two stray hairs, such as around the eyebrows or dark hairs around the nipples. This option works best after a warm bath or shower as the heat will open up the pores so that it is less painful when the hair is pulled out. It is not as painful as waxing as the area that is plucked tends to be considerably smaller. After plucking, the results tend to last for longer than shaving as the hair needs to grow back from the roots. 

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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      I never knew all these things are on the market. Thanks for the information.

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