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Hair Removal Methods. Pros and Cons.


Millions of people seek hair removal treatments to rid their bodies of unwanted hair. It is no longer women seeking these treatments. Recently, men have entered the market searching for ways to keep their skin smooth and hair-free. Many treatments are available, ranging from expensive in-office procedures to cheaper at-home options.

What is hair?

Hair is composed of a long string of proteins called keratin. It grows from hair follicles located in the deep layer of the skin. Hair growth is a complex process governed by several key factors.

  • Hair grows at different speeds based on its location. Scalp hairs grow about half an inch per month, while eyelash hairs grow 1/4 inch per month.
  • Men's hair grows faster than women's.
  • Growth is also affected by certain medical conditions, medications, nutrition, age, and genetics.
  • Proper hygiene and treatment of the hair can keep it in good shape.

How do hairs grow?

The hair growth cycle has 4 phases: Anagen, Catagen, Telogen, and Exogen.

  1. Anagen - This is the growth phase of the hair cycle. It can last on average 3-5 years but varies depending on the location of the hair on the body. Most hairs are in this phase at any given time.
  2. Catagen - Catagen begins after anagen and is called the transition phase. It only lasts several days as hair growth slows.
  3. Telogen - Telogen is the resting phase where hairs are in limbo. They are not growing or falling out. It can last several months.
  4. Exogen - Some consider this a phase of its own, and others consider exogen as part of telogen. This is the shedding phase that lasts several months. It is normal to lose 100 hairs a day.

What are hair removal treatments available?

There are many effective hair removal treatments on the market. With research and experimentation, you will find the right one for you.

  1. Shaving - Most people begin shaving because it's the most widely available option. It involves cutting the hair off the skin's surface with a razor. Unfortunately, this can lead to ingrown hairs. Also, depending on your tolerance of hair growth, it needs to be done daily to preserve your smooth appearance. While labor intensive, it is usually painless.
  2. Waxing - Waxing with hot or cold wax can be performed at home or in a salon. It involves pulling the hairs out at the follicles, where they grow. Therefore, it can be painful. Also, it requires long hair, so the wax has something to adhere to. The results can last for weeks. Just be careful not to burn yourself if you are doing it at home.
  3. Plucking - Plucking with tweezers is quite labor intensive and is ideal for just a few troublesome hairs, such as the eyebrows. This can also be performed at home or in a salon. Ingrown hairs can occur.
  4. Depilatory creams - This is another at-home hair removal treatment. The chemicals in depilatory creams dissolve the hairs only at the skin's surface; therefore, they do grow back quickly. There are different creams for different locations on the body, and they are not interchangeable. Depilatory creams for the legs should not be used on the face.
  5. Threading is an Indian method of removing hairs by twisting threads around them to pull them out from the hair follicles. It does cause some discomfort, but the results can last weeks. It is ideal for smaller areas of the face. Threading is usually performed at salons.
  6. Laser and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments - These treatments target the pigment in the hair follicles to selectively remove only the hairs without damaging the surrounding skin. There is minimal discomfort with long-lasting results. It can take several treatments to get permanent hair reduction. The hairs that grow back are thinner and lighter. Periodic maintenance treatments are required to keep long-lasting results. There is no downtime, and it can prevent ingrown hairs and razor burn for most people. The downside is it only works on dark hairs, and you cannot get it if you are tan. The most effective treatments are from a doctor's office. At-home devices are not as powerful and are not for everyone.
  7. Electrolysis - This option can permanently remove hairs by passing an electrical current through the hair follicles. It takes several treatments to accomplish this, but it works on all hair colors. There is no downtime with this treatment. Patients experience minimal discomfort. There are at-home kits, but the best results come from treatments at a doctor's office.
  8. Prescription creams - Vaniqa is an FDA-approved prescription cream that decreases facial hair growth but does not remove hair. The cream is painless but requires consistent daily use for good results.
  9. Bleaching - While bleaching creams do not remove hairs, they make them less noticeable. It works best on thin hairs.

Conclusion

Unwanted hair is a common problem for men and women. Many options are on the market today, including at-home and professional treatments. It will take patience and experimentation until you find the one that is right for you.

Key takeaways

Unwanted hair is a common problem for men and women.

Many at-home hair removal treatment options, such as shaving, plucking, depilatory creams, and waxing, are available.

Professional hair removal options include laser and light treatments, threading, and electrolysis.

The best option depends on your hair removal goals, available time, and lifestyle.

Ask your dermatologist if you need help deciding what treatment is right for you.

References

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. Hair Removal.
  2. Bolognia, J, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer, JV. (2012). Dermatology. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders.
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