Alternatives to Shaving as a method of Hair Removal


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If shaving is not the method of hair removal for you, you need not worry as there are many other options available.

Waxing

While generally not the method of choice for facial hair removal, waxing is an effective method of removing unwanted body hair. It does not carry the risk of cutting that shaving does, and only rarely irritates your skin. Waxing has the advantage of removing hair from the root rather than cutting it at skin level. This means that it takes significantly longer for hair to grow back (about 1 to 8 weeks depending on the individual).

Wax is spread over the target area before either a cloth or paper strip is applied to said wax and removed quickly and against the grain. Both wax and hair are removed, leaving pristine and hairless skin. Some methods of waxing use a hard wax which is applied without a strip of cloth or paper.  This wax hardens as it cools and is easily removed afterwards, meaning there is a smaller chance of irritating your skin.

The caveat to waxing is that it is notoriously painful! Particularly in sensitive areas like the pubic region. Another negative point is cost, while you can wax at home, many areas are hard to reach or wax properly, and so a qualified beautician is needed to conduct regular, and hence costly, treatments. Some people also experience ingrown hairs and irritation, some bleeding can occur but this is more rare.

Sugaring

Sugaring is a method of hair removal that dates back a few thousand years. It is not dissimilar to waxing and hence is often dubbed sugar or Persian waxing. Sugaring solutions are composed largely of sugar, with other potential ingredients including cornstarch, water, honey, molasses, guar gum, vinegar, orange, and/or lemon juice. Recipes can vary and different salons use different products.

The sugaring wax substrate clings to hair rather than skin, which means it can be less painful than waxing where the wax adheres to your skin too. Otherwise the process is similar to waxing, the paste is applied and a cloth or paper strip pressed onto it before being removed quickly against the grain.

Hair removal cream

Hair removal or depilatory creams are applied to remove hair by means of a chemical interaction. The active ingredient in most products is calcium thioglycolate, a molecule which weakens hair by breaking down keratin, an important protein in hair’s structure.  The result is a weakened hair which is removed by means of a scraper that is usually provided with the cream.

Not unlike shaving, hair is removed at the skin level with these products, meaning that hair re-growth will be at the same rate as shaved hair. Unfortunately the protein targeted by depilatory creams, keratin, is also an important part of a layer of the skin called the epidermis, meaning that if the product is left on for too long you will experience some irritation.

Depilatory creams are quick and easy to use, they are reasonably cheap and are available in any chemist’s and most big supermarkets. The products can be used in the comfort and privacy of your own home, which saves the embarrassment you might feel if arranging a waxing appointment. The downside unfortunately is that hair will begin to re-grow within a couple of days of removal, they generally have a strong smell that can be quite unpleasant, and carry the aforementioned risk of skin irritation. They should also not be used for facial hair unless the product is specifically designed to that end.

IPL, laser treatment, and electrolysis

All the methods discussed so far are basically temporary treatments that require repeated applications to maintain smooth and hairless skin. If you’re looking for a more permanent solution then there are options out there that might suit you.

Laser hair removal is perhaps the most widely practiced treatment with an efficacy and safety proven and accepted by dermatologists. A laser is essentially a focussed beam of light that can cause specific, targeted damage while leaving the rest of your skin intact. In the case of hair removal, lasers target the pigment melanin found in higher quantities in darker hair and essentially heat and kill hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments operate on the same principle as laser therapies, but apply light energy as rapid high intensity pulses. This method has become increasingly widespread due to its ease of use and cheap cost. While previously restricted to cosmetic clinics and spas, home IPL kits have become available for widespread use.

Electrolysis is another long term option, and the only existing method of permanent hair removal for light hair colours. Laser and IPL only work on darker hair as they target melanin as discussed above. The technique works by passing electricity into hair follicles by mean of a metal probe, damaging the structure responsible for hair growth either by overheating or generating a caustic substance called lye, or even a combination of both mechanisms.


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