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Guide to hair removal

Hands applying wax to woman's leg for hair removal guide
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Body hair is totally natural. We all have some, and there's nothing wrong with that! Whether you choose to keep it or remove it, it’s a personal decision that is yours alone.

Hair removal has long held a reputation for being time-consuming, messy, expensive and sometimes downright painful! But with more options available than ever before, there may be a perfect option for you. Read on for a quick guide to getting smooth skin.

Prepare your skin for hair removal

Preparing the skin is an essential part of the process. A little prep will ensure a smoother finish and reduce irritation. Be sure to patch test any new products according to the instructions on the pack, typically 24-48 hours prior to use.

Clean skin

Start by gently cleansing the skin. By removing any dirt, sweat or product from the surface of the skin, you will get a better result from your hair removal product and also lower the risk of irritation or infection.

Exfoliate skin

Exfoliating gently removes dead skin cells which clog the skin. You might choose a chemical or a physical exfoliant - such as a loofah or body scrub. 

You may wish to leave a little time between exfoliation and hair removal. Some exfoliation can make the skin more sensitive, especially when combined with some forms of hair removal, such as waxing or hair removal cream.


Methods of hair removal

These are some of the most common, and widely available methods of hair removal:

Manual shaving

Shaving is one of the cheapest and quickest methods of hair removal. It involves cutting the hair very close to the skin with a razor. You can shave pretty much any area of the body, but thicker/coarser hair is more prone to irritation. Regrowth happens quickly, sometimes within a day, and can feel ‘stubbly’.

Do

  • ensure to prep the skin - use a shaving foam or oil to help the razor glide over the skin
  • shave in the direction of the hair growth pattern
  • use a sharp razor, and keep it clean 

Don't

  • rush - it can result in nicks or cuts
  • use a blunt razor, this can increase the risk of cuts and infection
  • repeatedly shave the same areas in the same session - this can cause irritation

Waxing

Waxing is a popular method of hair removal. It can be used anywhere from sensitive areas such as upper lip brows and bikini lines, to larger areas such as legs. It's quick, as it removes multiple hairs at once, but can be painful! By pulling each hair out from the root, waxing removes the hair follicle, slowing down the regrowth process. 

Do

  • ensure hair is the right length; if it's too short, the wax can't grasp it, too long and you'll have to trim the hairs down
  • apply the wax in the direction of the hair growth, smoothing the hair down
  • avoid using retinol and exfoliating products on the face prior to waxing

Don't

  • sunbathe immediately after waxing
  • use wax that’s too hot - it can burn
  • re-wax the same area in the same session, especially when using soft wax strips

How to choose from the different types of wax for hair removal?

Waxing can be done with ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ wax. Hard wax is applied warm/hot and allowed to harden as it cools. It grips the hair, rather than the skin itself, so it can be less painful to remove. This can make it more suitable for sensitive areas like bikini lines as it's gentler on the skin.

Soft wax is applied with waxing strips which are smoothed down then pulled back from the skin swiftly, removing the hair. Soft wax adheres to skin as well as hair, so it can remove the top layers of skin. This can lead to redness and irritation, but it is well suited to larger areas like legs and the back.

What is epilating?

Home epilation is a technique using a handheld electrical tool. Epilators pull out each hair from the root, which can be painful for some. But, like waxing, it removes hair at the root, slowing down the regrowth process, meaning you don’t have to repeat the process so often.

Do

  • hold the skin taut
  • work against the direction of the hair's growth
  • leave plenty of time if epilating before a big event, your skin may be red for a few hours after

Don't

  • epilate over irritated or broken skin

Hair removal creams

Depilatory creams work by applying chemicals that weaken the protein in the hair's structure. Before using a depilatory cream, you should do a patch test on your skin to test for any type of skin irritation or intolerance.

Do

  • leave plenty of time - it can be messy and time consuming

Don’t

  • forget to do a patch test

What is electrolysis?

Electrolysis uses a tiny needle with an electric current running through it, placed in the hair follicle. This weakens the hair, which is then removed. This is intended to be a permanent form of hair removal, but results can vary for the individual. It can be painful, and costly. It's done by a professional, and will take several visits.

Do

  • research to find a trustworthy therapist

Don't

  • expect instant results

What is threading?

Threading is a traditional Indian technique that uses lengths of thin cotton twisted together to catch and lift the facial hair. It is a precise technique that should be done by a professional and is a popular technique for tricky areas such as shaping eyebrows.

Do

Don’t

  • apply makeup or perfumed products for a few hours after

Tweezing

Cheap and simple, tweezing is a great quick fix for removing the odd stray hair, or shaping eyebrows. It's not ideal for larger areas though, as removing the hairs individually is time consuming, and potentially painful.

Do

  • clean your tweezers regularly
  • apply ice to the affected area, if you find tweezing painful

Don’t

  • let your tweezers go blunt, this can lead to pinching the skin, or breaking the hair

Intense pulsed light

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) uses light to pulse into the hair's follicle. As the IPL works on pigment, it typically works best on those with contrast in their colouring - such as light skin and dark hair. Users with light hair, or darker skin tones may find it doesn't work as well for them. 

Do

  • carefully follow the instructions of your IPL handset

Don’t

  • expose your skin to the sun before/after treatment

Laser hair removal

Laser hair removal is an in-salon procedure that pulses highly concentrated beams of light into the hair follicles.

It can remove hair from any area, including delicate facial areas, treating several hairs with each pulse. The sessions may be painful, and several sessions will be needed to see lasting results. However, in some cases the results can be permanent.

Do

  • avoid sun exposure on laser-treated areas, before and after treatment
  • research your practitioner

Don't

  • skimp on your sunscreen after treatment

How to care for skin after hair removal

Depending on the method of hair removal used, there may be specialised advice to follow. So, refer to pack instructions, or your practitioner. As general guidelines for post hair-removal pampering you can:

  • Soothe irritated skin with ice wrapped in a cloth or cold water
  • Moisturise to soothe and hydrate the skin
  • Use Aloe Vera to soothe
  • Wear sunscreen - this is always important but sensitised skin is even more sensitive to sun damage

What to avoid after hair removal

  • Sunbathing
  • Perfume
  • Fragranced products on sensitive skin
  • Saunas and steam rooms
  • Fake tan products
  • Makeup

How to prevent ingrown hairs

Ingrown hairs can occur if a hair breaks off and grows back under the skin.

Some methods of hair removal are more prone to causing ingrown hairs, such as shaving, threading and plucking. If ingrown hairs persist, then perhaps try a different form of hair removal.

Common skin conditions related to hair removal

Sometimes ingrown hairs can cause itchy red, raised bumps. Consult a doctor if you find the area is hot, swollen, or you develop a fever.

  • Many methods of hair removal can result in a common condition called folliculitis. There are many types of folliculitis, varying in severity. Milder versions are sometimes known as 'shaving rash', and may resolve without much intervention. More severe types can lead to infection. If you have pus-filled bumps, blisters or large areas of red, inflamed skin, see a doctor. 
  • Types of hair removal such as shaving, can result in accidentally cutting the skin, and may lead to infections such as cellulitis. This can be serious. If you suspect, even on a small cut, that you have an infection, it is best to get it checked by a medical professional. 

Choosing to remove body hair is a personal decision. There are more options on the market than ever, allowing you to find a solution that suits your body, your lifestyle and your pocket.

We have a wide range of products to keep your skin feeling healthy and looking its best. Discover more tips and advice on skin health, from dealing with dry skin to conditions such as eczema.

References

www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-secrets/routine/safely-exfoliate-at-home
www.bad.org.uk/pils/hirsutism
www.nhs.uk/conditions/ingrown-hairs
www.pcds.org.uk/clinical-guidance/folliculitis-an-overview
https://patient.info/skin-conditions/skin-rashes/folliculitis