Excessive hair growth on women (and men) can be indicative of a medical disorder, referred to a hirsutism. There can be a number of medical reasons why people are experiencing an increase of hair growth, but these conditions are usually related to hormonal imbalances like the excessive production of androgens (male hormones). A common female condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (which affects 5-15% of females of reproductive age) can lead to excess hair growth. Excess hair growth due to hormonal imbalances is more common in women, and although it can also occur in men, it is more difficult to recognize because males are generally expected to be hairier than women. Hirsutism can be extremely distressing for a woman, causing psychological issues such as social anxiety and depression.
There are a number of other conditions that can increase androgens in a female, but regardless of the cause, what many women with excess hair growth have in common is the desire to remove the hair. If you think you might have symptoms of a hormonal imbalance, such as abnormal growth of hair, a doctor should be consulted to determine the underlying causes before a proactive hair removal treatment is started as someone with hormonal issues probably won’t see good results from laser hair removal until the condition has been cured.
Now let’s explore the plethora of hair removal methods.
Temporary Hair Removal: Benefits and Cost
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to remove unwanted hair, shaving, can also be one of the most irritating for the skin. Shaving can easily cause skin irritation along with cuts, nicks and bleeding. In order to minimize the type of irritation that occurs during a shaving, a high quality razor along with some type of shaving cream should be used. Slow and gentle movements with the razor are also recommended. Those who have tried shaving and found it too irritating for their skin should consider looking into alternative hair removal options.
Shaving is widely considered the cheapest form of hair removal. Though commonplace and practical for men to shave their faces, the opposite is true for women. In fact, women who have shaved their faces quickly find that the hair can grow back darker and thicker than before, and is thus not recommended.
Waxing has a clear advantage in that it’s a quick way to have hair-free skin for several weeks. But at the same time, waxing can also be very painful and cause severe skin irritation, because it pulls not only on the hair but your skin as well. Those with sensitive skin will often find that their skin is red and extra sensitive after a hair removal waxing session. Breakouts and bumps that resemble small pimples are very common, and in addition, inflammation and bruises can also result from waxing.
Waxing is described by many people as the most painful thing they have ever experienced. It is right in the moment where the wax is being ripped from the skin that hurts the most. However, the pain will usually subside after the first couple of strips because your body will release its own painkiller hormones called endorphins. Other than taking a painkiller prior to treatment, there isn’t much else one can do to ease the pain of waxing. Though the cost of one waxing session or jar of wax to use at home might seem nominal, it will most definitely add up over time.
This inexpensive method consists of using a pair of tweezers to pluck individual hairs. Though it allows for better sculpting control when doing eyebrows, it is quite time consuming to do any other part of your body, and a little painful. A pair of good tweezers can be obtained from any beauty store, with some definitely being more effective than others.
Epilators are electrical handheld tools that grasp and pull out many hairs at once. They’ve been around for several decades and are still used by many women as new and improved epilators are constantly being introduced to the market.
An epilator can be used on the face and body and, like waxing, has an advantage over shaving because it extracts hairs by the root, which leads to smoother skin. Some prefer it to waxing as there is no mess involved. However, many women feel that epilators are very painful, almost in a torturous way. The epilator needs to be moved in repetitive strokes, until all hair appears to be gone, but some people find it difficult to master the technique and are left with stubble. Others also find this hair removal method to be time consuming.
Epilators can be found for as little as $20 to as much as $200 or more. Keep in mind that most epilators will be considered a final purchase since they are a personal item which cannot be re-sold after the package has been opened. You should definitely do your research and read reviews before going out and making such a large purchase.
Threading is an ancient hair removal practice from the Middle East that is slowly gaining popularity in the Western world. It works by wrapping a cotton thread around each individual hair in a tiny lasso and pulling the hair out from the follicle.
Threading can be done at home although it is difficult to master but is best done in a threading salon. Although fairly inexpensive, the technique is much more drawn out than waxing and can feel like slow, torturous process. Most threading sessions tend to be in the $10-20 range.
Hair Removal Creams and Sprays
Hair removal sprays and creams are depilatories, meaning they contain ingredients that break the bonds of hair, which is what holds the hair up. When the bonds are broken down, the hairs will become loose and can easily be wiped away. Most of these products will remove hair fast and easy, however, if there is a lot of hair or if the hair is thick, the product might need to be left in a little longer or several applications may be needed.
There is usually no pain during the process of removing hair with any type of depilatory and that is why this type of product has become so popular. However, some people with sensitive skin might experience slight skin irritation. Most hair removal sprays can be found for around $10 dollars in major convenience stores and come under several different brands. Each individual will have a different experience, but the skin should stay smooth for about 2-3 weeks.
Vaniqa (Eflornithine) is a prescription facial cream that works by slowing the growth of facial hair. It can only be obtained through a doctor and is considerably pricey, costing anywhere between $40-100 for a month’s supply. It needs to be applied twice a day and can take weeks to months to start working. Studies of eflornithine’s effectiveness show that 81% of those treated show improvements after one year. The hair will still need to be removed by waxing, tweezing or another preferred method. Common side effects include acne and inflammation of the skin.
Permanent and Prolonged Reduction: Benefits and Cost
With electrolysis, a fine needle-shaped metal probe which carries an electrical current is inserted into the hair follicle and destroys the hair follicle at the root. Unlike most other hair removal methods, electrolysis is the only treatment recognized by the FDA as permanent hair removal, though others can also obtain permanent results. But as there are no guarantees in any hair removal, there is always a small risk that the hairs will grow back at some point, often due to changes in hormone levels. What this means is that hairs are likely to disappear for a longer period of time, for several years or decades, but touch up sessions can be needed in order to eliminate any re-growth.
While electrolysis definitely seems like the perfect solution to eliminating unwanted hair, it does have its disadvantages. Since each hair follicle needs to be treated separately, electrolysis becomes a time consuming process, with as many as 15-30 sessions at a cost of anywhere between $25-200 per session, being needed to achieve optimum results. Because of this, treating larger areas is impractical and electrolysis is mostly used to eliminate hairs on the chin, upper lip and eyebrow areas. Also, there is a small risk of skin damage such as scarring, pitting or enlarged pores. This risk becomes larger if the practitioner who will be performing the treatment is inexperienced.
Electrolysis is often explained to be somewhat painful. Numbing creams are not usually used, but it is possible to take a painkiller before treatment.
One big advantage to electrolysis is that is does not matter what the hair looks like. The hair can be thin or coarse, light or dark. In other words, electrolysis is efficient on all hair types, including ‘peach fuzz.’
Laser Hair Removal
Of all the methods, laser hair removal has the facets and thus requires the most understanding before being able to make the decision that it’s right for you. It is a safe and efficient way of getting rid of unwanted hair on nearly any part of the face and body and though several treatments are needed, most people that choose this method are very pleased with the results.
To achieve this, a laser is used to damage the hair follicle to the point where it cannot grow back. The laser is mainly attracted to dark hair, and since ‘peach fuzz’ is not dark enough the laser cannot properly treat it. Laser hair removal did not appear on the market until the ‘90s and has consistently improved in terms of effectiveness, so in medical terms it is still too early to evaluate its permanent or life-long results. However, the concept “long-term results” is a common way of describing what can be expected. Long-term results usually means that after an observation period of 10 years or more, there has not been a recurrence of hair growth.
Today’s laser devices can safely remove, or at least reduce, unwanted hair virtually anywhere. Visits can range anywhere from just a few minutes to a few hours. For instance, the lip may be a five-minute procedure, but a person’s back or legs may take considerably longer.