Hair Removal Methods: Which Is Best for You?
Which hair removal method will work best for you depends on how much pain you can endure, how long you want to remain hair-free, and where the hair is. Eight methods explored, from shaving to IPL, all of which can be carried out at home.
When to Remove Hair
You'll find hair removal, or depilation as it's properly called, a more comfortable experience if you take a warm bath or shower beforehand to open the pores and soften the hair. It's best done in the evening in order that your skin can recuperate while you sleep; it's bound to be sensitive, so spraying it with deodorant and perfume, or exposing it to blazing sun or bitter winds should be avoided.
Shaving is quick, easy, and painless. But because it needs doing at least every other day, it can lead to irritations—especially if you wet shave.
Although safety razors were invented to minimize the risk of cutting, you still need to be careful.
Shave in the shower or bath and, instead of a soap-based product, use oil as a lubricant, which has several advantages:
- Oil is transparent, allowing you to see exactly what you’re doing
- It's a great moisturizer
- You’ll get a closer shave
- You’ll be less liable to cuts and nicks
- It reduces or eliminates the probability of razor bumps and rashes, even if you shave daily
There's no need to buy a product labeled "shaving oil;" any cosmetic or edible oil is appropriate. If you shave in the bath and your back and shoulders are prone to acne, use jojoba oil, which is non-comedogenic.
For best results, shave against the direction of hair growth using a razor ergonomically designed for the body rather than the face—in other words, don’t use a man’s razor.
Dry shaving eliminates the risk of cuts and nicks completely, making it a good option for the bikini area and armpits, as well as for sufferers of varicose veins, warts, eczema, and other conditions that affect the skin.
Always use a device designed for the contours of the female body—that means, never borrow a man’s shaver. For a finish as smooth as you'd expect from wet shaving, invest in a wet and dry device that can be used in the bath or shower.
If dry shaving (not in the shower or bath), sprinkle the skin with body powder or cornstarch beforehand. This allows for a closer shave and prevents irritations.
Always shave in the direction of hair growth, and trim longer hairs before you begin.
The extraction of hair at the root is called "epilation," and is done with an epilating device or by waxing and sugaring. Precisely how long you'll remain hair-free after epilating depends on body area—e.g., underarms might need doing every two weeks, and legs every five weeks.
Epilation is only effective on hair that is at least 1/8 inch (3 mm) long, but, even then, it may not be absolutely thorough. For perfect results, you'll probably have to finish off with a pair of tweezers.
Owing to its abrasive nature, epilation is unsuitable for sufferers of varicose veins, warts, eczema and diabetes. It's also not recommended directly after tanning, whether in the sun or a solarium.
Hair Removal With an Epilator
An epilator extracts hair with a mechanism resembling multiple tweezers, which is why it's also referred to as "electric tweezers."
Most epilators have an integrated massage function, as well as the ability to hold skin taut in order to lessen pain. A wet and dry device used under the shower can further minimize discomfort.
Epilators are safe for all body areas, but not the face.
Waxing and Sugaring
Because waxing and sugaring only work on skin that is dry and oil-free, dust the area to be treated with body powder or corn starch before you begin.
Excess wax left on the skin after treating should be wiped away with either vegetable or baby oil and a cosmetic tissue.
Cold wax is available on ready-to-use strips of various shapes and sizes, depending on where it is to be applied. It's easy to use and most suitable for large areas, like the legs.
Just warm a strip between your palms, pull its two layers apart, smooth onto the area to be treated in the direction of hair growth, then quickly rip off against the direction of growth.
Results last for up to four weeks.
Because hot wax opens the pores, it tends to cause less pain than cold wax, which makes it more suitable for sensitive areas like the bikini line and face.
To use, gently heat the wax until it’s soft but not quite fluid: the ideal temperature is about 90 F (30 C), so you may not have to heat it at all during hot weather. Using a spatula, spread thinly in the direction of hair growth, press on a fabric strip, then quickly rip away against the direction of growth.
If removing facial hair, hold the skin taut when you pull the strip away to minimize discomfort.
Results last for up to six weeks.
Sugaring (sometimes called "sugar waxing" or "Persian waxing") is done with a substance called halawa—a sticky mass of lemon juice, sugar, and oil or water. It’s been around for thousands of years and, according to legend, was used by Cleopatra in ancient Egypt. Nowadays it's marketed as "sugaring wax."
There are several methods of applying sugaring wax, but it works best if used in the same way as hot wax.
If the sugaring wax is of a firm consistency, you'll need to warm it before applying in order that it's spreadable.
As with hot wax, spread a thin layer in the direction of hair growth using a spatula, press on a fabric strip, then quickly rip away against the direction of growth.
Results last for up to six weeks.
Hair Removal Cream
Depilatory cream provides a painless, non-abrasive method of hair removal suitable for sufferers of varicose veins. Results last for up to ten days, which makes it a better option than dry shaving.
Unfortunately, in spite of being heavily fragranced, it smells less than pleasant and is liable to irritate sensitive skin. This is due to thioglycolic acid, its active ingredient, which can dissolve hair right down to the root.
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) Permanent Hair Removal
Permanent hair removal by IPL can now be carried out at home for a fraction of the salon cost. You'll find devices marketed for home use for between $200.00 and $500.00.
Not only is it the easiest method of depilation, it's also absolutely painless.
It works by heating the hair at the root, causing it to shed. After the first treatment, you'll notice that the hair grows back more slowly and sparsely until, after a further eight or nine treatments, it ceases to grow altogether. Use the device about once a month.
Because the efficacy of home devices is still controversial, arm yourself with plenty of information before purchasing, and read as many reviews as possible.
© 2010 Jayne Lancer
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