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 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 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
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.
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
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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