Which hair removal method won't harm my skin?

Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery Before you decide on a hair removal method, examine all of the options and the potential risks. See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.
Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery Before you decide on a hair removal method, examine all of the options and the potential risks. See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.
©iStockphoto.com/Yanik Chauvin

If you've got unwanted body hair, then you're probably always on the lookout for a better hair removal regimen -- preferably one that doesn't cost a mint and feel like torture. But safety should be a consideration, too. While no hair removal can boast being completely foolproof and risk free, most shouldn't harm you when used correctly.

Here are a few effective ways to send hair packing:


  • Pluck and shave. Tweezing is probably the fastest and safest way to get rid of unwanted hair near your brows. For larger areas, shaving is as safe as your hand is steady. First wet the area with warm water to soften up the follicles, and then shave by moving the razor in the direction your hair grows.
  • Wax on, wax off. Visit a professional, and ask about soy-based waxes -- many aestheticians use those now instead of chemical-based waxes. In addition to being less irritating on contact, soy wax sticks only to the hair you're trying to remove, and not to surrounding skin. However, since waxing removes the entire hair shaft and leaves the follicle wide open, you'll want to apply an antibacterial lotion afterward to reduce the chance of getting an infection [source: Bouchez].
  • Dip into depilatories. When used correctly -- in the appropriate spot for the specified length of time -- hair removal lotions, creams and gels are safe for most skin types. Theses products eliminate hair by dissolving the protein shafts of the individual strands [source: MayoClinic]. Handle these chemicals with care, though, and don't leave them on longer than the recommended time frame. If you do, they can irritate or even burn your skin [source: WebMD].
  • Try electrolysis. If you feel you've logged enough shaving hours for one lifetime, you may want to consider electrolysis. Electrolysis is a procedure that involves destroying hair follicles, one at a time, using a tiny needle and an electric pulse. It's not painless, but it is permanent. However, this treatment is not ideal for people with very dark skin tones, since it can produce scarring and hyperpigmentation [source: Bouchez, WebMD].
  • Take your medicine. If you suspect your hair growth is hormone-related, oral contraceptives or hormone treatments may help. Talk to your doctor about whether either of these options is right for you.

Though electrolysis is the most long-term of any of these hair removal options, it also has one of the highest chances of permanently damaging your skin, particularly if you have dark skin. Depilatories and waxing can also cause some harm, but generally only if you are allergic or if they are used improperly -- for example, if you leave a depilatory on too long, or use wax that's too hot. Plucking and shaving can lead to ingrown hair and irritated skin, but shouldn't lead to any long-term side effects. In the end, every person's skin is different, so you may need to do some trial and error to find out which method works best for you.

To learn more about these and other hair removal techniques, check out the links on the following page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Bouchez, Colette. "For Women Only: Best Options for Hair Removal." WebMD. (Accessed 8/16/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/for-women-only-best-options-for-hair-removal
  • The Mayo Clinic. "Hirsutism." (Accessed 8/16/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hirsutism/DS00858/DSECTION=lifestyle%2Dand%2Dhome%2Dremedies
  • WebMD. "Cosmetic Procedure: Hair Removal." (Accessed 8/16/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/cosmetic-procedures-hair-removal