People in many cultures have been trying to get rid of hair for thousands of years, but during the 20th century, as styles changed and an omnipresent media imparted clear sexual expectations, hair removal has turned into a grooming necessity. The increased demand has fostered a variety of methods and inventions in this field, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on your hair color, skin type, whether your hair is fine or coarse as well as how much money and time you are willing to invest. The area—whether you are trying to get rid of arm and leg hair, facial hair, chest hair, or pubic hair—should also factor into your hair removal choices.
Below you'll find the most popular and effective ways to get rid of hair. Each has its proponents and detractors, but choosing a means to get rid of hair is about finding what works for you. It should be noted that all women develop hair in undesired places at some point in their lives (it's not just your little secret—it's everyone's); however, if the hair growth is rapid or accompanied by other physical changes, it is time to consult a physician.
The Types of Hair Removal
Electrolysis is a great way to get rid of hair on almost any part of your body, and it is the gold standard in unwanted hair removal. During this procedure, a fine needle is inserted into the hair follicle, and the growth center is destroyed chemically (galvanic electrolysis) or with heat (thermal electrolysis). This is the only FDA- and AMA-approved treatment to get rid of hair permanently. That being said, the results are only as good as the ability level of the electrologist, and not all states regulate this practice very well. Receive treatment from someone who is highly trained and comes recommended. Do not buy a home electrolysis kit--they don't work and can be dangerous. The reports of this procedure being painful are overblown, but it is very expensive and must be repeated several times.
Laser hair removal procedures get rid of hair by targeting melanin in the hair follicle and destroying it. This procedure is semi-permanent, and it works best on light-skinned, dark-haired individuals. Laser hair removal has a few things in common with electrolysis: it is very expensive, it can get rid of hair nearly anywhere on the body, and it should be done by a highly qualified doctor or technician, not at home or at a beauty salon. Several sessions will be needed depending on how much hair you're removing, and you'll have to be patient to see the results. Hair may start growing back but will later fall out. Talk with your doctor before starting treatment to make sure this is the right avenue for you.
Bleaching creams are another way to get rid of hair . . . well, at least the appearance of hair. Many women never have to deal with their facial hair or arm hair, as it is light and nearly impossible to see, and these products strive to replicate that hair-to-skin relationship. The bleaching method is primarily used to get rid of facial hair, leg hair, and arm hair. It is very inexpensive (between $5 and $10) and far less time consuming and uncomfortable than laser hair removal and electrolysis, but it doesn't work for everyone. Courser, dark hair can be resistant to this method. Whatever product you choose, be sure to test it on a small patch of skin to avoid adverse or allergic reactions.
Shaving with blades or electric razors is a cheap, effective way to get rid of hair on the face, legs, underarms, and arms. Contrary to popular belief, research shows that shaving does not make hair grow back thick and man-ish, but you will have stubble if you don't repeat the process every few days. Be sure to moisturize before and after shaving, and remember to shave with the hair growth, not against the grain. Improper technique can lead to cuts or razor burn/bumps, and not all regions of the body relish your razor; the pubic region is especially prone to ingrown hairs. Avoid complications by taking your time and using sharp, quality razors and blades.
Waxing is a popular method to get rid of hair on virtually any part of the body. As with the aforementioned hair removal techniques, waxing has improved over the years. New, soy-based waxes stick to the hair and not the skin, which makes for much less painful, even scream-free, hair removal. It is best to go to a reputable salon for this procedure, but if you're going to do it at home, wax in a sterile environment and use an antibacterial lotion or cream when the job is finished. The void left by the uprooted hair can cause a nasty skin infection if you don't take precautions.
Prescription Treatments that Get Rid of Hair
Eflornithine—more popularly known as Vaniqa—is a topical prescription hair removal cream that slows the growth of facial hair in women. Vaniqa is FDA approved to inhibit hair growth by interfering with the enzyme that fosters hair development. Because Vaniqa does not actually get rid of facial hair, but rather slows it down, it is best used in tandem with another hair removal method. Not all women report great results while others testify that hair growth nearly stopped after several months. If you stop applying Vaniqa, expect hair growth to resume in a matter of months.
A prescription medication, including oral contraceptives or antiandrogens, may be prescribed to get rid of hair if growth is related to a hormonal imbalance. The bearded lady may seem like a circus side show, but up to 12% percent of women experience some form of "hirsutism"—a disorder characterized by an excess of male hormones. To get rid of hair caused by hirsutism, expect to use other hair removal treatments beyond antiandrogens and perhaps birth control.