Whether you prefer the “baby’s bottom” or “glass” analogy, people love smooth skin. Some would have themselves hairless except atop their heads, eyebrows, eyelashes and in other preferred areas on their faces (e.g., male mustaches, beards, sideburns). For these people, the challenge is generally hair removal, not growth.
Our hair is composed of the hair follicle and shaft. You see the external portion of the shaft. We each born with an average of five million follicles, not receiving any more. The distribution of the hair follicles on our body is genetically determined. Growth is dependent upon initiation and continuation of appropriate neural and hormonal factors. The follicles in different parts of the body are different and produce hair fibers of different size, shape, and color. Thereby hair tends to be thicker or more coarse on the body and scalp with finer hair on the face.
Because of different hair colors and distribution patterns, how the hair contrasts with skin color, and common or trending social/cultural practices, many people elect hair removal of some type or another. Methods include:
- Scissors – however, you can’t cut what you cannot see or reach. With blunt-tipped tools, good line of sight and easy reach, scissors are good for whacking down long overgrowth.
- Shaving or trimming – single blade safety razors are more efficient. Multiple blade cartridge razors tend to clog readily but are easy to handle on curved surfaces and less prone to precipitating nicks and cuts. Electric shavers never generate nicks and cuts, but vary in effectiveness and rarely produce as smooth a surface as with razors.
- Depilatories – these are premixed creams, or powders you mix with water and apply a thin paste. They chemically dissolve hair upon application, generally in less than fifteen minutes. As hair thickness differs around the body, depilatory manufacturers often produce two different product strengths. Make sure that you do not use the stronger products on more sensitive skin. For single strength powdered products, dilute the mixture a bit. Don’t leave products on the skin for too long, avoiding irritation if not burning your skin.
- Friction – some people are able to almost buff away hair. If your hair is this fragile, you are probably more concerned about hair retention than hair removal.
Temporary Removal, Epilation – mechanical removal of the entire hair from the root. Generally, this occurs without damaging the underlying follicle. Sometimes curly hairs break at/below skin level, curling back, carrying surface bacteria, causing local inflammation/pimples. If successful, it can last several days to several weeks and may be achieved by:
Epilators – mechanical devices grasp hairs and pull them out. Some are manual and slower than electrical versions. Hair should be long enough to grasp, but not too long.
Sugaring – hair is removed by applying a sticky paste to the skin in the direction of hair growth and then peeling it off, with hair embedded. There are many homemade sugaring recipes available.
Threading – a very low tech practice, generally requires a quite a bit skill to perform, rolling a twisted thread across skin to grab and pull hair.
Tweezing – grabbing and pulling out hairs one at a time with fingers, tweezers, small needle-nosed pliers or similar tools.
Waxing – applied in melted status to skin/hair, followed by cooling and then removal.
- Vaniqa (prescription product) – active ingredient eflornithine hydrochloride inhibits the enzyme ornithine decarboxylase, alleging to prevent new hair cells from developing. It is applied as a cream. However, the product is expensive, you may be locally or systemically sensitive to it, and it does not work for all.
Permanent hair removal
Electrolysis – used by many in the United States, approved by the FDA, permanently destroys cells responsible for hair growth by way of insertion of a fine probe in the hair follicle and the application of an electrical current adjusted to each hair type and treatment area.
Epilators – be careful with an application on eyebrows and eyelashes as hair removal in these areas may result in follicular damage and permanent hair loss.
Permanent hair reduction
Laser hair removal – technology became widespread in the US and many other countries since the 1990’s, FDA approved in the U.S. since 1997. But, it is expensive, whether performed by a professional or with quality home equipment. Local overexposure may result in burns and mild, reversible skin pigment changes.
Intense pulsed light (IPL) – lower energy than laser. Less expensive equipment and per session cost. However, generally not as effective, requiring more treatment sessions.
It is a lot like auto care. If it is in your budget, you can take the vehicle to a high-end facility at which they will clean, wax and detail the exterior, interior and leave your vehicle with a “new car smell”. And, you can receive such service as often as you believe you prefer and can afford. Likewise, you can take your body in for cosmetic bathing, manicures, pedicures, hair removal, as well as hair/make-up care as you have the need, time and means.
A highly recommended hair removal health program for those on a tighter budget would be as follows. This is particularly beneficial for women who are hormone-challenged, with highly contrasting skin/hair colors. First, developing some relevant skills among a small group of trusted friends may be desirable, as you may then help each other. Mild powder-based depilatories are very inexpensive and can be diluted significantly as you test the sensitivity of your torso and public, perineal and perianal regions. Otherwise, sugaring may most cost-effectively address the torso and other areas between the thighs without risk of chemical irritation. Gently cleanse your skin, followed by small needle-nose plier tweezing areas of ingrown hair recurrence, then sugaring and post-procedure gentle skin care. Include quality hair and bed linens cleansing to be most effective for facial skin care. Get smooth as a baby.