Dare to Be Bare: Hair Removal and What Works Best

What are her silky secrets? We know.
What are her silky secrets? We know.
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For centuries, women have gone to great lengths to undo what their body naturally does: sprout hair in unwanted places. The tedious and sometimes painful task can almost make you wish you lived in a country where hairy, female armpits are accepted.

But until our bodies or societal norms change, we might as well investigate what hair removal practices work best. Here are our silky-smooth insights into the prickly matter.

Short-term Removal

If you're tired of tweezing, consider threading.
If you're tired of tweezing, consider threading.
Jupiterimages/© Getty Images/Pixland/Thinkstock

There are a handful of easy and inexpensive ways to remove hair. Shaving is a relatively quick method to get your body beach-ready. It's mostly painless (save for a nick or two) and it covers the basics: legs, bikini line and armpits. The downside? You have to do it nearly every day to stay smooth. And there's the probability of ingrown hairs and occasional razor burn. For best results, exfoliate first with an at-home sugar scrub treatment, then shave. You may find it creates a smoother result.

Tweezing is the best route for a speedy eyebrow touch up, if you're a masochist. In all seriousness, tweezing is an effective way to get rid of tiny eyebrow hairs by pulling them out at the root, but it's fairly painful until you get used to it. A kinder alternative is threading, which uses small threads to wrap around the hair and pull it out. Threading lasts longer than tweezing. You'll only have to do it every two or three weeks, but this method will require a trip to the salon.

Waxing is a great alternative to shaving. The entire hair is pulled out so you stay smooth for three to six weeks. Your hair also grows back finer and lighter. But, waxing does have big drawbacks. You have to let the hair grow long enough to be gripped by the wax. So, if you're planning on having your underarms waxed, you'll have to sport some hair under there for a while. Pulling the hair out at the root is also painful and it leaves the follicle open, exposing you to infection. Hygienic procedures and a post-wax antibacterial lotion application are a must. You can buy at-home kits, but for hygiene purposes, you may want to consider going to a licensed professional.

And lastly, depilatories are creams that use a chemical compound to dissolve hair. If you leave them on too long, they can burn. If you have sensitive skin, they can be irritants. You'll have to use them nearly as often as you would otherwise shave, but you won't be left with nicks and scars.

Long-term Hair Removal

If you have the patience and the money, there are ways to stay smooth for a longer period of time.
If you have the patience and the money, there are ways to stay smooth for a longer period of time.
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If you're willing to spend more money and time on hair removal, there are a couple of options that will leave you hairless for extended periods of time. The most popular option is laser or pulsed light therapy hair removal. Microscopic lasers are aimed into the hair follicle and destroy the root. Newer model lasers add a bit of suction to remove the hair.

Unfortunately, laser hair removal doesn't work on white hair and it isn't much better with blond strands. The ideal laser candidates are ladies with dark hair and light skin. In fact, only one laser (the ND YAG laser) is safe for dark skin. All others put you at risk of walking away from the procedure with dark spots, scarring and burns. Plan on five to seven initial sessions, with a touch-up approximately once a year.

For women who suffer from hormone-related hair growth, there are effective prescription medications on the market to keep unwanted hair at bay. They're not available over-the-counter, however, so you'll have to pay a visit to your general practitioner or dermatologist to get a prescription.

Permanent Hair Removal

For ladies who are serious about never having another bad hair day, there's electrolysis. Currently, it's the only procedure that offers a permanent solution. As you might have guessed, electrolysis is expensive. Plan on paying $40 to $550 for each part of your body. Each area will require 10 to 25 treatments lasting approximately 10 minutes.

The procedure involves the insertion of a needle into the hair follicle. The needle gives the root a little electric zap that kills it. It can be a fairly painful experience, and there's a small chance the hair will grow back.

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Sources

  • Bouchez, Colette. "For Women Only: Best Options for Hair Removal." Webmd.com, 2010. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/for-women-only-best-options-for-hair-removal
  • "Eyebrow threading vs waxing or tweezing." Essortment.com, 2010. http://www.essortment.com/lifestyle/eyebrowthreadin_smth.htm
  • "Hair removal." Kidshealth.org, 2010. http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/skin_stuff/hair_removal.html
  • "Step-by-step: threading." Indiaparenting.com, 2010. http://www.indiaparenting.com/beauty/article.cgi?art_id=133