Should You Change Your Hair Removal Methods? Pros and Cons
It's an interesting concept that from the day we start sprouting unwanted hair on our bodies we become determined to find ways to remove it as quickly as possible. In fact, boys usually watch their fathers shave with sheer fascination and are often curious enough to ask for their first shaving lesson long before any hair starts to grow. Preparation for that first proper shave is an important step in adolescence, and an opportunity for father and son to bond. For girls, hair removal is mostly about the desire for beautiful, soft, sexy skin. Ladies can be fanatical about removing hair to achieve long lasting results. In this article, I will explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of these options so you can choose the right method for you.
Hair Removal is a Personal Choice
It doesn't matter whether that unwanted hair is on the legs, armpits, bikini line, upper lip or any other body part. It's just a fact that certain hair on the body is considered unsightly, or undesirable. Of course, this belief varies from person to person and so hair removal does become a very personal choice. The way a person chooses to remove that hair is, once again, a very personal decision. Some people prefer quick and easy solutions like shaving, and others prefer more permanent methods such as laser treatments.
So when I think about the best methods for hair removal, I would like to present some popular methods, and well as some that you may not have heard of. By considering the advantages and disadvantages of each method, you can decide for your self which option would suit you the best.
Shaving is the most common form of hair removal for men and women, and is easily done. These days, you simply buy a razor, and use it as instructed. There are countless different razors on the market, from disposable razors, to cartridge refill razors, to electric razors. Each one is designed to perform the same task, and that is to remove the hair as close to the skin as possible. A "close" shave is therefore the one that produces the most desirable effect.
In the 1800’s, barbershops would carry straight razors and scrape them across a man’s face to trim beards and mustaches. Although men in that time were seen as being dignified with facial hair, in today’s society the opinion has changed somewhat, and it is more usual to see men without facial hair. This is especially true of business men who need to present a clean, crisp sharp image in their profession. While there are still barbershops open, their services focus more on haircuts than hair removal. This is probably because it has become increasingly easier for a person to buy their own razor and use it at home on a daily basis.
For women, there are many different types of razor on the market, and as a consumer it's not an easy choice to pick the "best one". Disposable razors can be cheap to buy, but not necessarily good for the environment (especially if you switch to a new one every couple of days). I choose to use a razor with refillable cartridges because that way I only have to buy one handle, and then I simply attach a new cartridge to the handle every few days. It is also my experience that a cheap razor will do a poor job. On the other hand, refillable cartridges can get very expensive but do tend to result in a better, closer shave.
Probably the biggest disadvantage of shaving is that it needs to be done frequently to maintain that desirable, "just shaven" look and feel. That is because shaving only removes the hair at skin level, and not completely out of the hair follicle itself. Many of us are quite familiar with the annoying stubble that appears within 24 hours of shaving. Men would refer to this as the "5 o'clock shadow".
- Simple and quick
- Does not cause skin irritation
- Effects are not long-lasting; hair continues to grow
- Can "nick" or "scrape" the skin if not carefu
Watch the You Tube videos on the right to get a good understanding of how to shave properly, and for some really interesting tips and techniques.
Waxing is a razorless technique of hair removal, and a method of physically pulling the hair out of it's follicle. This achieves a longer lasting result because it can take weeks for the hair to grow back, and when it does grow back it is usually thinner and a little bit less noticeable each time. For this reason, you may consider waxing to be one of the best methods for hair removal.
The waxing technique involves spreading warm wax over the area of skin, usually with a plastic spatula, in the direction of hair growth. The warm wax works deep into the skin, grasping each hair near the root. Paper strips are then applied to the surface and quickly pulled off in the opposite direction to the hair growth, and the hair is removed. If using wax at home yourself, you should be careful when heating it so as not to burn yourself.
Many people consider this technique to be painful and cause skin irritation, especially on delicate areas of the body, such as the bikini line or armpits. However, the irritation is usually worse the first time and subsides with additional applications.
The great thing about waxing is that it's particularly effective on large areas of the body, such as the back or chest. Waxing can also be achieved on smaller areas of the body, such as eyebrows. However, this can get tricky especially if you want to do it yourself, and so I would recommend visiting a qualified beauty technician.
- Long-lasting hair removal
- Great for large areas
- Skin can feel much smoother than from shaving
- Re-growth is reduced
- Can be painful
- May cause skin irritation
- Hair needs to be grown slightly for best results
- Can be messy
An interesting alternative to waxing is "sugar waxing". Essentially, the method of hair removal and the results are the same. But instead of wax, the substance is a sugary substance which is water-soluble. This makes clean-up a lot easier and less messy.
How to Wax Your Legs
Hair Removal Creams
Hair removal creams, or depilatories are extremely messy and inconvenient to use, but are certainly an effective form of hair removal. These creams usually include a chemical called thioglycolate mixed with either calcium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide. The combination of chemicals works by "melting" the hair away.
A typical application of the cream must be left on for 5-10 minutes before being rinsed away. If used properly, the hair will have dissolved during the treatment and will get washed away with the residue. Some people avoid this method of hair removal because of the waiting time involved before rinsing; it can be inconvenient, and the chemicals often smell quite harsh.
Typically, depilatories are used more by women than by men, although there are some products on the market typically formulated for men. Some women choose to use this method of hair removal for just the smaller areas of unwanted hair, such as the upper lip. Others consider it a good alternative to shaving everyday because re-growth takes longer.
- Re-growth longer than shaving
- Good for large or small areas
- Smelly, harsh chemicals
- May cause skin irritation
Plucking is another form of physical removal of the hair, and is usually associated with much smaller areas, such as the eyebrows. Plucking is achieved by simply taking a pair of tweezers, gripping an individual strand of unwanted hair, and then quickly tugging it to remove it from its follicle.
- Great for individual unwanted strands
- Can cause some discomfort and redness
Hair Removal Spray
One other treatment, that is becoming more and more popular with women, is hair removal spray. It is used mainly for removing unwanted hair on the legs. To use this product, simply spray it on and then shower it off in as little as 3 minutes. The dissolved hair and solution is simply rinsed away.
This is one of the simplest and most affordable ways to get rid of leg hair, and arguably a lot cleaner to use than certain creams. Hair removal sprays usually have different fragrances (fruit or mint, for example) which can be more pleasant and bearable than some depilatories. This method might be useful to anyone in a hurry, because it is very fast acting and easy to rinse off in the shower.
- Easy, quick to use
- Pleasant fragrance
- Hair removal is longer lasting than shaving
- Some chemicals may cause skin irritation
- Not suitable for facial hair
Laser Hair Removal
A newer, more modern treatment that you may or may not have heard of is “laser hair removal”.
The technology of laser treatment is much more complex than other more traditional forms of hair removal. Lasers send out light at varying pulse widths, energy output and wavelengths, causing a breakdown of the hair's structure. This is known as "selective photothermolysis". It essentially means that a specific wavelength of light and pulse duration is matched to achieve the best results without damaging the surrounding tissue.
Because of the controversy surrounding this technology, many people ask "is laser removal safe?" To answer that question, it was indeed deemed safe in the 1990’s by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and since then, home kits for laser hair removal have been introduced to the market.
Depending on the amount or type of hair you have, it could take a couple to over ten treatments to get rid of the hair, but once you get it laser treated, it’s a permanent solution.
Espn's Dave Singer documented his personal experience of laser hair removal in the YouTube on the right. Watching the video will give you a much better understanding of how the process works.
- Permanent solution for hair removal
- Is laser removal safe?
- More expensive than traditional methods
A final method of hair removal that is worth mentioning is electrolysis, a technique that is generally performed by a qualified technician. Electrolysis works by inserting a very thin needle inside the hair follicle and burning the hair root by means of an electrical current. This permanently destroys the follicle and prevents further hair from growing back.
Since each hair follicle must be treated individually, and it may require a couple of applications to each hair until it is completely destroyed, treatments can be lengthy and require a great deal of patience. It is therefore not a very popular method of hair removal. However, for very small areas of unwanted hair, electrolysis could be a worthwhile consideration.
- Permanent hair removal
- Lengthy treatments
- Mostly appropriate for small areas
Sources and Further Reading
- Hair Removal Methods
WebMD explains different hair removal techniques, such as waxing, threading, and laser hair removal.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Louise Fiolek