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Hair Removal Techniques Pros & Cons

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Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

Swimsuit season is coming and I need to remove the hair around my bikini line. I'm also tired of shaving my legs twice a week. Do you recommend any methods to permanently remove hair?

Signed,

Hairy

Dear Hairy,

There are methods for hair removal or epilation, but no proven method to permanently remove hair.

Some methods will permanently reduce hair, with reduction lasting longer with more expensive methods such as electrolysis, laser, and photoepilation. We have millions of hair follicles, so some hair may grow back.

Less expensive hair removal methods are temporary (shaving, mechanical epilators, depilatories, tweezing, and waxing). These methods vary on skin irritation, risks, expense, time involved, and hair growing back.

The following are brief descriptions of various methods for hair removal from the American Academy of Dermatology (www.aad.org) and product descriptions found at Drugstore.com. In addition, some pros and cons from consumers at drugstore.com are briefly summarized.

PROS AND CONS OF HAIR REMOVAL TECHNIQUES

SAFETY RAZORS

Razor cuts hair at the surface of the skin. Blades can be double, triple, 4 or 5-blade shaving systems, some with a lubricating moisture strip. Pros: easy to use, disposable razors inexpensive. Cons: nick or cuts on skin, shaving leaves stubble, need to replace cartridge, which can be expensive. Results last one day to one week. Cost: $1 to $20

ELECTRIC SHAVERS Razor cuts hair at the surface of the skin. Pros: easy to use. Cons: can leave stubble, irritate skin, may miss some hairs, will need to replace outer foil and inner blades. Results last one day to one week. Cost: $15-$229.

MECHANICAL EPILATORS

Mechanical epilators pull hair out from the root. Pros: easy to use, hair grows back less coarse. Cons: painful at first, some hairs missed. A few consumers had problems with ingrown hairs. Results last 3-4 weeks. Cost: $20-$150.

DEPILATORIES

Chemicals in cream, lotion, or gel weaken hair so that it is removed when the depilatory is wiped off. Pros: easy to use. Cons: skin irritation or chemical burns left on too long. Results last about a week. Cost: $5-$10.

TWEEZING

Tweezing pulls hair out from its root. Pros: inexpensive, results long lasting. Cons: time-consuming as each hair must be removed individually. Pain, skin irritation, or inflammation can occur. Tweezers cost anywhere from $3-$20. Results last about 3-6 weeks.

WAXING

Waxing pulls sections of hair out from its root. Pros: do-it-yourself products have received positive reviews, results long lasting. Cons: could irritate, waxing can be messy, sticky, and pulls the skin. Should not be used on sensitive skin, sensitive areas, recently shaved areas, over moles, pimples, rash, or sunburn. Results last 6-8 weeks. Cost: If done at home the cost is $5-$10 for a box of strips.

SUGARING

Sugaring pulls section of hair out from its root. Unlike waxing which adheres to both the skin and hair, sugaring adheres only to the hair. Pros: can be used on sensitive areas of the skin, long lasting. Cons: could irritate, messy. Results last 6-8 weeks. Cost: if done at home $12 for a box of strips.

ELECTROLYSIS

A needle is inserted under the skin and an electric current is passed through the hair follicle to damage it. Pros: the do-it-yourself kit does not use a needle, but uses tweezers that produce an electrical current to dissolve the hair follicle. Cons: time-consuming as each hair must be removed individually. Pain, skin irritation, or inflammation can occur. Results are long lasting, but some hair may grow back. Cost for do-it-yourself kit $200; professional treatment $100 per hour.

LASER

Laser beam destroys hair follicles and impairs hair regrowth. Pros: laser hair removal is FDA approved, less pain compared to electrolysis, can be done on sensitive areas of the skin such as the face, underarms and bikini lines. Cons: expensive because a licensed professional must perform hair removal, pain, redness, swelling or skin pigment lightening may occur. Treatment works best on light-skinned dark haired individuals. Multiple treatments are necessary. Results: permanent reduction, but some hair may grow back. Cost: series of treatment necessary, i.e. legs could cost $3,600 (http://www.hairremovalforum.com/prices.htm).

PULSED LASER or PHOTOEPILATION

Photoepilation is FDA approved. This treatment uses an intense pulsed light to destroy hair follicles instead of the laser treatment´┐Żs steady beam. Pros: long lasting, less painful than electrolysis, minimal side effects compared to steady laser beam, will work on underarms, bikini lines, light and dark-skinned people. Cons: expensive because a licensed professional must perform hair removal. Results: permanent reduction, but some hairs may grow back. Cost: series of treatment necessary, i.e. legs could cost $3,000.

When using any hair removal technique follow directions carefully. To read the reviews and see product details, go to www.drugstore.com