It’s never fun or easy to talk about facial hair. Upon hearing those two embarrassing words, many of us change the subject, instinctively shield our lip area with our hands, and go on believing we’re the only women on the planet plagued by unwanted hair.
Well, chin up because more than 20 million American women are performing weekly facial hair removal rituals–some in salons, others behind (locked) bathroom doors. And there’s one thing we all have in common: we want to know the absolute best and worst ways we can wage war on facial hair. Here’s the scoop on 6 popular hair removal methods.
Pros: Waxing temporarily removes hair at the root for around three weeks and is not very expensive, says dermatologist and author Dr. Debra Jaliman. It takes a lot longer to grow back then shaving and, after repeated sessions, may not grow back as thick.
Cons: You’ll need patience–something most women who see pesky facial hairs sprout up in random places do not have in abundance. “Waxing need some regrowth in order to be effective so you need some stubble,” Jaliman says. “Also the treatments can be painful and can lead to ingrown hairs. If you’re using retinoids and waxing, the wax can pull off the top layer of your skin. And if you’re using hot wax it can burn you.”
Pros: If you’re in a rush and want to remove hair at home, Jaliman says depilatories–creams that contain chemicals that weaken your hair so you can just wipe it away– are convenient. “It’s painless and it’s inexpensive,” she says.
Cons: Dermatologist Dr. Chynna Steele has some choice words to share about her feelings on depilatories: “The worst option is a depilatory because it is caustic to the skin and can burn or irritate the skin,” Steele says. “Additionally, it’s completely temporary and the hair grows back quickly because you only remove the portion that is above the skin (versus taking it from the root).”
3. Laser hair removal.
Pros: The laser penetrates to the hair follicle and inhibits growth, which can lead to permanent hair removal, Jaliman says. Consider a life of freedom from razor stubble and ingrown hairs a pretty sweet perk, as well.
Cons: Laser treatment can be expensive–even more so when you consider the fact that one or two sessions isn’t usually enough for most clients. “After your initial set up treatments, which are about 5-6 treatments about 4-6 weeks apart, you will still have to do maintenance for long term results, which may be a treatment every 6 months or so (although it varies per patient),” Steele says. Do your homework before you choose a laser technician, as one of the risks of a bad treatment is burning, Jaliman warns. And, sorry ladies, but if you have blonde or grey hair, lasers aren’t going to work for you.
Pros: Electrolysis, which uses a fine needle to apply an electric current to the hair follicle, is good for small areas–and, after several sessions, can be permanent, Jaliman says.
Cons: Can you say commitment? “It takes many treatments,” Steele says. “It is hard for any provider to tell you how many because they say it varies from patient to patient. Treatment commonly lasts several months and can be years.” As with laser treatments, find a quality electrolysis, because if done improperly, it can lead to “ice pick scars and skin discoloration,” Jaliman says.
Pros: Got just a few stubborn, stray hairs? Grab your trusty tweezer. “Tweezing is a fine method of hair removal, but obviously is only reasonable when you have a few hairs (like those random chin hairs),” Steele says. “It removes the hair from the root so it tends to last longer than something like a depilatory.”
Cons: Unless you want to spend hours in the bathroom, only tweeze if you can count the number of hairs on your face. And don’t dig deep. “You can get in big trouble with causing sores, scabs, etc. in the skin by trying to ‘get hairs out’ that you believe are stuck under the skin,” Steele says. “If you tend to get ingrown hairs or hair bumps then I highly recommend laser treatment or using a cream that minimizes the bumps. Prescription Retin A cream, anti-inflammatory creams and antibiotic creams are good options.”
Pros: Like waxing, threading is a good option because it’s safe, affordable and salons that offer the service can be found in most cities and towns. “Because they both remove hair from the root, the hair removal lasts longer than something like shaving or a depilatory,” Steele says.
Cons: Ingrown hairs are always a possibility with threading and you’ll have to deal with the pain of growing your hair long enough so that it can be pulled out. And then there are aesthetic risks. “If someone isn’t careful they can take off too much hair, especially from your eyebrows,” Jaliman says.
Have a tried and true hair removal method that’s worked for you? Share in the comments.
For more beauty tips, check out How to ask for your favorite celeb’s hair color at the salon and Ingrown hairs 101: What are they, where do they come from and how to get rid of them.