Regardless of how fully you’ve mastered a beauty and grooming routine, it can still be frustrating to think you’re on top of your game only to catch a glimpse of a scant ‘stache or rogue chin hairs in the mirror. (And though bushy eyebrows are popular right now, they still can benefit from a bit of taming.)
Hair is obviously natural and it’s cool to embrace it, but it’s also understandable if you want to nix and groom. Fortunately, the beauty and aesthetics industries has an array of hair removal options at our disposal. These range anywhere from threading to electrolysis to depilatory creams. We’ve outlined seven of the best and most popular choices, including their average cost, what the process is like, and who the ideal candidate is for each.
What it is and how it works: “Electrolysis uses a fine needle and inserts it into the hair follicle, and then delivers a small amount of energy to destroy the hair follicle permanently,” says Heather Rohrer, owner of Center for Aesthetic Medicine and Human Performance™ in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “It was one of the first hair removal techniques to hit the market and is the only FDA-approved method for permanent hair removal.”
Though results are permanent (which is incredibly appealing!), electrolysis does have a few drawbacks, namely how time-consuming it is. Only one hair follicle gets treated at a time with this procedure, so take that into consideration when planning what area you’d like to get treated. You’ll also likely need to book additional visits in order to reap the rewards of electrolysis. Another factor to consider is that this option is considered more uncomfortable, even painful, compared to other hair removal treatments. Some don’t complain about the pain, but others feel a warm zap when the hair is being removed. Ice or lidocaine are often used to numb the area, which can help reduce discomfort.
Because needles are involved, and because electrolysis is a special technique that requires skill, be selective when choosing a provider. Seek someone who’s reputable (preferably a member of the American Electrology Association, AEA), highly familiar with the treatment process, and who works in an extremely hygienic facility.
Ideal candidate: “This method of hair removal is best for candidates who are looking to have it done on a very small area on their body that has sparse, scattered hair,” says Rohrer. “Electrolysis is a huge commitment and most of my patients that have experienced electrolysis say it can be slightly painful.”
Average cost:Cost can depend on a number of factors including the area being treated, the amount of hair removed, and your geographic area. However, it tends to be similar to the cost of laser hair removal. For the complete treatment (say, two to three visits, not per session!) of a small area, such as your chin or upper lip, you can expect to pay roughly $600 to $900 total.
Laser Hair Removal
What it is and how it works: Laser hair removal has made its mark in the beauty industry in recent years due to its efficacy, lower discomfort level (though of course, this is subjective), and the fact that it can be performed on many different parts of the body. “It works by using concentrated light to heat the pigment in hair, which in turn destroys the stem cell in the hair follicle,” explains Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, medical director of Mudgil Dermatology™.
A single treatment can take anywhere from five to 40 minutes, depending on the area being treated, though six to eight treatments over a course of two months is generally required for permanent reduction. That’s right: laser hair removal can’t permanently get rid of all your hair. However, you’ll see a dramatic reduction in growth after your initial treatments, and can book touch-up appointments if you see any stray hairs growing back in the years after your appointment.
The sensation of laser hair removal is typically compared to being “snapped” with a large rubber band. Some may find this feeling more painful than others. To help reduce discomfort, it is essential that the hair in the area being treated is as short as possible, so the laser targets only the pigment under the skin instead of anything at its surface. Taking an oral pain reliever (like ibuprofen) about 30 minutes before your appointment could help reduce pain. You can also consider numbing cream or icing the area in anticipation of the your treatment, but discuss any of those options with your provider before trying it.
Ideal candidate: Some methods of laser hair removal are not as effective on fine or lightly colored hair. This is because the laser energy is absorbed best by highly pigmented hairs. Mudgil says, “It's important to choose your provider very carefully for laser hair removal, particularly if you're darker skinned, as there is real risk of burning the skin with laser when performed at the wrong settings in the wrong hands.” Highly qualified providers with in-depth knowledge of laser hair removal treatments will know which lasers are suited for your skin type.
Average cost: The cost depends on the size of the treated area, along with how many treatment sessions are required. The average package price can range from around $300 to a few thousand dollars, with smaller areas like the upper lip costing less per session. Larger zones (such as full legs) can be a bit pricier.
What it is and how it works: “Waxing is a temporary hair removal option that works by pulling the hair out by its root,” says Rohrer. “Wax is applied to the skin, which then clings to the hairs. Once the wax is pulled off (typically using cloth strips), the hair comes off with it.” There’s also stripless wax options where the wax hardens on your skin and then is ripped away, which may be gentler on your skin. Wherever you go, hygiene should be a top priority. Double-dipping the wax is a major no-no, and the facility should be spotless.
For waxing to be most effective, hair should be between one-fourth and three-fourths of an inch long. However, Rohrer explains,“Inconvenient regrowth can be seen as early as one week.” She adds, “Waxing must be done every three to four weeks if you want to maintain results.” Since hairs are being pulled from the root, mild discomfort is typical. It’s generally a sharp, quick pain that dissipates within a few minutes after removal (it’s similar to the sensation of a tight band-aid being ripped off). Your skin may feel warm and sensitive in the couple hours that follow.
Ideal candidate: Rohrer says that the best candidate for waxing is someone looking for an affordable and fast way to temporarily remove hair. This person must also be OK with consistent upkeep.
Average cost: Price depends on the area being treated, but for small areas on the face, including the upper lip and chin, you can expect to pay between $10 and $15 per treatment. Other waxing such as for the underarm, bikini, or a Brazilian can range from around $15 to $80, while large areas such as a full leg can be anywhere from about $60 to $70.
What it is and how it works: Tweezing is generally reserved for shaping eyebrows — though you can technically tweeze any hair on your face. This method consists of removing individual hairs by the root, slowing regrowth for smoother skin that lasts.
“When done by a professional, this process is often done post waxing to fine tune the appearance of the brow, or to remove hairs that were not removed after the waxing process,” says Melissa Lekus, a Los Angeles based esthetician and owner of Melissa Lekus Skincare Consulting™. “Still, it can also be done as the primary treatment if one is sensitive to waxing.”
Results from tweezing typically only last up to four weeks. Pain varies for everyone, but it generally feels like a tiny pinch, and discomfort dissipates within the next hour. Again, seek a facility that prioritizes hygiene and technique. Tools should always be freshly cleaned and not repurposed from one person to the next.
Ideal candidate: Anyone who’s looking to fine-tune a small area of their face, such as their brows, is an ideal candidate for tweezing. It can also work in tandem with waxing for a more polished result. However, there is one possible drawback: “Anytime one removes hair from the root follicle there is a risk of oil (sebum) pooling in the empty base,” warns Lekus. That pool of oil could result in a blemish. “If picking is avoided and a breakout treatment is applied, the breakout should only last one to three days,” she adds.
Average cost: Expect to pay $6 to $75 for professional tweezing.
What it is and how it works: Threading is also typically intended for shaping eyebrows. That said, you can also have other areas of your face threaded — including around your hairline, upper lip, and chin.
“Threading is a method of temporary hair removal using two strands of thread or string to pick up individual hairs and remove from the root,” explains Lekus. “It’s very similar to waxing or tweezing, but generally faster and can pick up the finer hairs that a tweezer might not be able to remove.”
Results also last up to four weeks, and like waxing, the process is slightly more intense compared to tweezing since hair is being removed quicker, and since more hair is being removed at one time. It feels like getting your hair stuck in a rubber band. Temporary redness is common, but it should subside after a few hours.
Ideal candidate: If you have sensitive skin, threading may be a good option for you. “The ideal candidate is anyone whose skin cannot handle waxing due to skin sensitivity, has a compromised barrier, or someone who’s experienced an injury from waxing,” says Lekus.
Average cost: Threading is one of the most affordable methods of hair removal — an appointment to get any area of the face treated tends to cost between $10 and $30.
What it is and how it works: Dermaplaning is different from the other methods of facial hair removal in that its primary goal is to nix the baby fuzz (vellus hairs) that cover your face, rather than coarse hairs like those you might find on an upper lip or chin. It also removes the very top layer of skin cells, so it’s considered an exfoliating treatment, too. The result is skin that’s super soft to the touch, and a canvas that absorbs skincare products more effectively. Some also say that makeup sits better on top of freshly dermaplaned skin. Typically, results last three to five weeks. There’s little to no pain associated since you’re not removing hair, only shaving it. It feels similar to shaving other parts of your body.
Ideal candidate: Dermaplaning is for anyone who wants to nix the baby fuzz from their face. If your goal is to remove thick or coarse hair, a different facial hair removal option on this list will serve you better.
Average cost: Prices tend to range from $75 to $150 per treatment. You could also try DIY dermaplaning with an at-home tool like the Dermaflash® ($150).
What it is and how it works: “Depilatory creams use chemicals to breakdown keratin, which is the protein in hair,” explains Dr. Mudgil. “When the hair breaks down, it's shed from the follicle.” Depending on the formula you’re using, you’ll need to let it set for about five to 20 minutes in order for it to work its magic.
Results usually last about three to four weeks. Be warned if you’re sensitive to smell: these products tend to have a very distinct chemical odor that some say remind them of skunks. Unless your skin is very sensitive and reacts negatively to the product, there’s no pain associated. We recommend spot treating before applying to a large area.
Ideal candidate: Depilatory creams are best for those looking for a temporary hair removal option with the lowest amount of pain. “[Many people] can use these as they’re generally safe and well-tolerated,” says Dr. Mudgil. “However, depilatory creams can sometimes cause irritation in those with sensitive skin and can cause a chemical burn if left on for too long.”
Average cost: A tube of depilatory cream, which can be found over the counter, typically costs between $4 and $25. We’re fond of Nair® Facial Hair Removal Cream ($6) because in addition to removing hair, it also contains sweet almond oil to help moisturize skin.
Product prices may vary from the time this article was written.
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