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Hair Removal Methods

For do-it-yourselfers, a variety of home-use hair removal products are available over the counter. These include shaving creams, foams, and gels; waxes; chemical depilatories; and electrolysis devices. Professionals at beauty and skin care salons and in dermatologists' offices provide waxing, electrolysis, and, most recently, laser treatments to remove hair.

The cost, safety, effectiveness, and ease of use of the various methods, as well as the area and amount of hair growth to be treated, are some factors to weigh in choosing a method and deciding whether to go to a professional. Often, different methods are better suited for different areas.

Shaving

Shaving is by far the most common method of hair removal for both men and women. Men have been shaving their beards and mustaches for thousands of years, but cosmetic hair removal in women was relatively uncommon until after World War I. Now, many American women routinely shave their legs and underarms.

Depilatories

Depilatories act like a chemical razor blade. Available in gel, cream, lotion, aerosol, and roll-on forms, they contain a highly alkaline chemical--usually calcium thioglycolate--that dissolves the protein structure of the hair, causing it to separate easily from the skin surface. It's very important to carefully follow the use directions for depilatories and to do a preliminary skin test both for allergic reaction and sensitivity. Hair and skin are similar in composition so chemicals that destroy the hair can also cause serious skin irritations--possibly even chemical burns--if left on too long.

Tweezing and Waxing

While depilatories remove hair at the skin's surface, "epilatories," such as tweezers and waxes, pluck hairs from below the surface. Waxing and tweezing may be more painful than using a depilatory, but the results are longer lasting. Because the hair is plucked at the root, new growth is not visible for several weeks after treatment.

Tweezing is impractical for large areas, however, because it is such a slow process. Women mostly use tweezers for shaping eyebrows and removing facial hair.

Waxing, too, is mostly done to shape the eyebrows and remove hair on the chin and upper lip, says Brenda Ruffner, a cosmetologist in Rockville, Md., although, she says, many women also have their legs, underarms, and bikini line waxed.

Electrical Epilators

Two types of devices use electric current to remove hair: the needle epilator and the tweezers epilator.
Needle epilators are used in electrolysis. Because this technique destroys the hair follicle, it is considered a permanent hair removal method. The hair root may persist, however, if the needle misses the mark or if insufficient electricity is delivered to destroy it.

Like needle epilators, tweezers epilators use electric current to remove hair. The tweezers grasp the hair close to the skin, and applied current travels down the hair shaft to the root. And, like needle epilators, electric shock is possible if the tweezers touch the skin instead of grabbing the hair. Tweezers epilator manufacturers can claim permanent hair removal if they can provide supporting data.

Laser

Cosmetic hair removal can be quick and easy or time-consuming and somewhat uncomfortable. It can be costly or inexpensive. But, for just about anyone who so desires, there's a way to get rid of the hair you don't want.

 

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