A Comprehensive Guide to Hair Removal Methods
Wintertime should be the peak of the hair removal season. Cold weather keeps the skin covered, so growing out unsightly underarm, leg and bikini-line hair for the best hair removal results is not so challenging. But as most women come out of hibernation from hair removal and begin to embrace the warm sun and longer days, they suddenly seem to realize that the furry body they grew into during the winter is not the growing trend. Hair removal has become so mainstream that women are now requesting forehead and neck clean-ups so their wispy little hairs do not interfere with a perfect sleek ponytail.
First and foremost, the practice is universal. Men, women and teenagers in all income demographics are practicing hair removal methods. Second, skin care professionals do not skimp on their products. Innovative ingredients, exfoliating acids and regenerating retinols give the skin a healthy appearance and prevent many signs of aging. These ingredients used in tandem with monthly facial appointments can also make the skin more susceptible to damage from waxing, depilatory creams and lasers. Every person’s best practice for hair removal is to know the trends and how to use them (even if you do not use these services).
Cutting the Hair: Shaving and Depilatory Creams
Inexpensive and easy to use in the privacy of your own home, shaving and depilatory creams are the most used forms of hair removal by men and women that remove the hair at the skin surface without pulling the root of the hair.
Shaving is probably the most versatile, easy and inexpensive way to remove hair. The initial razor may cost £10 to £20 with blade refill packs costing more. For the best shave, a razor should only be used a few times, and then discarded. Always shave with a lubricant (shaving cream, conditioner, soap) on the skin and a sharp razor to help prevent follicle irritation.
Depilatory creams are formulated to dissolve the keratin protein shaft of the hair, essentially breaking it off. As the product works to break the hair shaft, the chemicals are dually having an action on the skin surface. Coarse terminal hairs on the lip or chin require more time to process, therefore, the depilatory product needs to remain on the skin for a longer period, making chemical burns and sunburn sensitivity an increased risk. Fitzpatrick IV and V skin classifications, and Indian and Asian skins may have an increased risk of developing hyperpigmentation from the chemicals. Depilatory creams are more beneficial for fine hair of the body, like the legs and arms.
Shaving the face requires special care for a man and is sometimes the best means of hair removal for a woman. Pseudofolliculitis Barbabae (PFB) is common for most men and generally the most severe in African American men. The coarser and curlier the hair, the more prone it is to PFB (this also pertains to the bikini area). The trapped inward curling hair combined with an introduction of facial oils and bacteria into the follicle can cause an inflamed ingrown hair. Without proper prevention, exfoliation and extraction, the follicle can cause scarring or further infection of the area. Men and women who are prone to this condition should exfoliate regularly; shave with a single blade in the direction of the hair growth, or trim. Women experiencing hormonal changes can grow dark terminal hairs on the lip or chin with, or without, an increase in the thickness and length of vellus hair. The lip and chin are the best areas for waxing. Save the skin of the face by dermaplaning in the treatment room to remove vellus hair. The hair will not grow back thicker and clientele will appreciate the smooth look. Women who suffer from melasma should never wax, but shave instead. The heat and trauma from hot wax can induce pigmentation and worsen the condition. Facial hair removal is not always simple, but shaving is an excellent option for most skin types.
Getting to the Root: Waxing, Sugaring and Tweezing
A mainstream method of hair removal at home, in the treatment room and in public “brow bars,” waxing is a practice that can be virtually painless when a confident technique is used in conjunction with a high quality wax. Sugaring hair removal involves a sugar-like paste being smeared along the skin surface and removed like a wax. Tweezing, like waxing, removes the hair bulb from the follicle and is more practical for smaller areas and touch-ups after waxing. In some cases, regular waxing and tweezing over time has slowed the hair growth and thinned the hair resulting in longer, smoother results in-between sessions. When you use a good wax, clients do not have to leave your facility with red irritated skin.
Facial waxing is a delicate service and you need to take care of your skin and receive regular facial treatments. Whether you are a man or woman, the only type of wax that should be used on the face is a cream wax. Gel and natural waxes do not contain titanium dioxide, an ingredient that aids in saving the skin’s integrity by acting as a barrier between the resin and skin. As mentioned previously, hormonal changes in a woman’s body affect her hair growth and skin. She may get more hair on her face and less on her body. Her skin may thin and become dry, or she may experience pigment changes, like melasma. These changes can occur during a woman’s childbearing years and beyond menopause. The best facial hair removal for her is a cream wax for the lip and chin, and dermaplaning (or shaving with a safety eyebrow razor, not a scalpel). Most men enjoy simple grooming during their facial service. A nose, ear, nape of the neck and brow tweezing are acceptable. Hair within the ear and nose are not visible (unless you are staring into the orifice) and they act as a screen to the opening, preventing debris from entering. Waxing inside the ear and nose is not necessary and can be painful. Creating the safest and most tolerable hair removal means for men and women is achievable with improved technique and superior product use. But waxing will never be a simple service because of skin care use, treatment frequency and availability, and some prescription use. Always follow the rules you learned in school and those outlined by wax manufacturers.
The bikini area is by far one of the most popular regions to wax. Shaving can sometimes make the hair grow back thicker and denser, while depilatory creams can irritate the sensitive area or ineffectively remove the coarse hair. Bikini and bare-it-all Hollywood or Brazilian waxing is best left to experienced professionals because of the increased risk of infection after a waxing procedure and the potential risk of skin tearing with inadequate positioning and pulls. This region of the body is moist and warm – the perfect combination for a bacterial breeding ground. Combine this environment with freshly opened follicles after waxing and you have hundreds of portholes for infection. Bikini waxing is a popular summertime service, but is actually best started during the winter and maintained throughout the year for the best results. A cream strip wax is suitable for the pubic region and thighs, while a cream hard wax is best for around the genitals because hard wax is gentler and the added titanium helps protect the skin. Practicing proper sanitation and cleanliness, and the post-waxing precautions is a must-do for all service providers.
Although popular, one of the major drawbacks to waxing is ingrown hair formation. As the hair redevelops and grows out of the follicle opening, it can curl back into the skin.
This is generally caused by:
- thick hair growth with curl,
- oil and dead skin blocking the follicle due to improper exfoliation,
- poor waxing technique, or
- the long-term waxing has made the hair too fine and weak to break through the epidermal surface.
Prevent ingrown hair development by keeping the skin soft and supple – this means moisturize often – and exfoliate regularly to prevent cellular build-up that may block the hair growth. For more severe cases, like PFB, trim the hair or have laser hair removal. Compared to our next topic (electrolysis, laser and IPL hair removal), waxing is still a viable, inexpensive, effective and widely used method of hair removal, especially for larger areas of the body, where alternative means can become time consuming or expensive for the general public.
Destroying the Evidence: Electrology, Laser and IPL
As professionals in the beauty industry, it can sometimes be disheartening to hear that clients can purchase “professional” treatment devices over the Internet. Laser hair removal and electrology devises are no different. The manufacturers of these tools have placed thousands (if not millions) of dollars into marketing and research to prove to the consumer that they are viable. As a professional skin care provider, we accept that they are available to the general public and be honest with your clients about what these tools are capable of and the results they can expect.
Electrolysis uses an electrical current to destroy the follicle’s stem cells, thus preventing future growth. Most modern units blend electrolysis and thermolysis, utilizing both electricity and heat to stop follicle growth and offer a permanent solution for hair removal. Because it is current-based and not light-based, it can be used on all hair and skin colours – although it is especially beneficial for grey/silver hairs. However, there is an increased risk of pigmentary changes and keloid scarring on Fitzpatrick IV and V skin tones. Because of the potential for skin damage, most professionals do not recommend home-use electrology tools. This method of hair removal requires skill and knowledge of the anatomy of the hair. Improper needle depth insertion, incorrect current settings and using the tool at the wrong cycle of hair growth can result in ineffective treatments and a waste of money. Overall, the FDA has approved many electrology devices for permanent hair removal at home because they operate under the same technology as professional units, but at a lower voltage and current to help prevent any user-inflicted damage. If a client has the time, patience, understanding and is willing to learn, he/she can perform electrology at home.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and laser hair removal is a fast-growing trend that is increasing in affordability, accessibility and safety for consumers. The most widely used lasers for hair removal include the long-pulsed ruby, alexandrite, diode and Nd: Yag. Long-pulsed lasers generally take three to four treatments to reach maximum hair reduction. More recent studies have employed IPL technology as a viable hair removal option. These devices can take six to eight treatments. The ideal candidate for any light-based method is fair skinned (no tan) with dark hair because lasers utilize selective thermolysis (targeting pigment to heat the melanin in the hair and damage the follicle). Since its inception over 20 years ago, some laser hair removal treatments have been proven efficacious for the treatment of Fitzpatrick IV and V skin tones. The success lies in the type of light wavelength used, fluence and duration of the pulse.
Home-use laser hair removal devices utilize laser, IPL and/or thermal (heat) technology to promote damage to the follicle. They are specifically calibrated with select settings like fixed pulse duration and small spot sizes to help prevent any skin damage that could be caused with an inexperienced user of any color. Photothermolysis can cause significant damage to the skin. Darker skin tones (including those with a dark tan) can suffer from permanent hypopigmentation or acquire initial hyperpigmentation with ending hypopigmentation in select areas. Some Middle Eastern and Asian skin types have experienced a condition called paradoxical hypertrichosis, or the transformation of vellus hair into terminal hair (a myth generally heard in regards to a woman shaving her face). Damage to the retinas of the eyes is the highest risk generally associated with home laser and IPL devices. Many are fixed with safety mechanisms to only discharge the light when pressed against the skin. Although the settings are fixed, proper eye care is of the utmost importance. The best advice for any clientele wanting to purchase an at-home laser device would include consideration of their skin colour, sun exposure, hair colour and hair removal expectations (will they be met?).
Fundamental Skin Care
Hair removal via shaving, depilatories, tweezing, waxing, electrology, laser and other common means are a standard practice accepted by men and women alike. Just as we care for our appearance and remove hair accordingly, we should all institute the practice of good skin care to optimize our hair removal results.
- First and foremost, keep the skin clean. Regular cleansing removes dirt, oil and product debris (like deodorant) from the skin surface. Surface clutter can affect shaving and potentially wear the blade faster.
- Depilatory creams may have to work longer to soften and dissolve the hair and increase the risk of skin burning. Cleansing is not simply limited to soap and water; wiping the region with alcohol is a sanitary measure to help keep bacteria minimized and prevent infection and breakouts. This is best for tweezing, waxing and sugaring because the hair bulb is pulled from the follicle, creating a porthole for bacterial infection.
- Client must take caution using public pedicure baths with recirculating water, gym equipment, jacuzzis and saunas, and having sex after shaving and waxing. The opened follicles are more susceptible to bacterial infection. Tea tree oil after these services helps guard the skin from infection with its natural antibacterial properties.
- Hydrating the skin is vital to maintaining good barrier function and keeping the pores and follicles supple. Dry skin needs help stimulating cell turnover, can be itchy and irritated, and has an increased risk of keratosis pilaris and folliculitis.
- Dehydrated skin has an unnecessary build-up of keratinized cells acting like cellophane over the skin and prevents topical products from absorbing optimally into the skin. With dry and dehydrated skin, cells are regenerating (slowly) and causing build-up around the pores and follicles. The growing hair is unable to break through the keratin barrier causing it to curl back and become ingrown, while oil is getting trapped, creating cyst-like bumps and blemishes. All of this can be avoided with proper hydration and moisturisation, balanced with regular exfoliation. This process helps prevent some ingrown hairs and other follicular problems that can arise from hair removal.
- Finally, protect the skin by using sunscreen. Ideally, sunscreen should be applied to all exposed areas of the body and should be reapplied throughout the day. The face, neck, décolleté, hands and arms are key parts of the body exposed with everyday walking outdoors and driving.
- During the summer, shaving or waxing then going to the beach is acceptable only with sunscreen. These hair removal processes exfoliate a very superficial layer of skin from the surface, making more youthful cells vulnerable to ultraviolet damage.
- Having a tan is an immediate contraindication to any laser hair removal procedures because the pigment interferes with the process of photothermolysis and may increase complications. Apply sunscreen to your face and body, and always reapply and cover up when outdoors during the day.
- Hair removal procedures should encompass all aspects of the skin, including basic skin care.