People may wish to remove hair from various parts of the body for aesthetic purposes. There are many ways to remove body hair. Some methods people can try at home include shaving, epilation, and using hair removal creams.
The human body is almost completely covered in hair.
In the first
Vellus hairs are short and fine and grow on parts of the body that can appear to be hairless.
During puberty, terminal hair replaces the vellus hair under the arms, in the pubic area, and on the face. People may also notice terminal hair around the nipples or on the toes.
This article covers some common methods of hair removal and possible side effects. It also provides tips and discusses how a person can choose the best method for them.
Shaving involves using a standard or electric razor to cut the hairs at the surface of the skin.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) notes that a person can use a razor to shave any part of the body.
The results of shaving do not last very long, and to maintain them, a person may need to shave every few days.
Although shaving is painless, side effects can include:
- injuries, such as cuts and razor burn
- skin irritation
- ingrown hairs
The AAD offers the following tips on shaving with a standard razor:
- Shave after a shower, when the hair is soft, and the skin is free of any excess oil or dead skin cells that may clog the blade.
- Always use a shaving gel or cream to protect the skin.
- To help prevent razor burn, shave in the direction the hair grows.
- Rinse the razor after every swipe to avoid irritation.
Learn more about shaving aftercare:
Depilatories are creams, lotions, and gels that dissolve hair. The results will last longer than with shaving.
To use depilatories, individuals should follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, a person applies the cream, lotion, or gel and waits for the recommended amount of time before rinsing the product from the skin.
Depilatories are painless to use, but they can irritate the skin. To avoid this, the AAD suggests that people do the following:
- Apply a quarter-sized amount of the product on an area of the skin.
- Follow the instructions on the packet.
- Wait for 24 hours.
Anyone who experiences skin inflammation, pain, burning, or itching afterward should not use the product elsewhere on the body.
Other tips include:
- never using depilatories on irritated or broken skin
- rinsing the skin with lukewarm water and patting dry after removing the product
- avoiding exposing the skin to the sun for at least 24 hours afterward
Individuals may wish to use depilatories that manufacturers specifically design for sensitive areas, such as the bikini line or the face.
Epilation involves pulling the hair out from the root. The results are long lasting, because this method removes the whole hair, including the follicle.
Possible side effects include:
- folliculitis, or hair follicle infection
- post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), which is a change in the color of the skin in the epilated area
- ingrown hairs or razor bumps
Common methods of epilation include:
- Mechanical epilation: A mechanical epilator resembles an electric razor. A person can use this device on larger areas of the body, such as the legs and arms.
- Plucking: Plucking involves pulling out individual or very small groups of hairs with tweezers. People typically use tweezers to remove hairs from the eyebrows, chin, or nipples.
- Threading: This involves rolling and twisting a long piece of cotton across the skin and then pulling out the hair caught between the thread. People tend to use threading to shape the eyebrows and to remove hair from the upper lip, chin, and other facial areas. The results can last for 4–5 weeks.
- Waxing: Waxing involves applying wax strips or hot wax to the skin and then removing it. The wax sticks to the hairs and pulls them out from the roots as the person pulls the wax away. People can wax any part of the body. The results will usually last a few weeks or longer.
Individuals can also try sugar waxing, which works in the same way as waxing but uses sugar, lemon juice, and water.
Learn more about the difference between sugar wax and waxing here.
If people opt for threading, they may wish to visit a salon, as it can take a long time to learn how to do this properly. Without experience, a person may cause uneven eyebrows or develop ingrown hairs.
The AAD does not recommend waxing for people who are using medications that can thin the skin. These include:
- acne medication called isotretinoin
- tretinoin, or retinoic acid
Intense pulsed light (IPL) is a form of light therapy. It applies gentle light pulses to the root of the hair, causing the hair to fall out. People can use it on any part of the body.
A person will require four–six sessions over 4–6 weeks. They may need to receive additional maintenance treatments every 6–12 months, as the vellus hair may grow back.
Potential side effects of IPL include:
- pain during treatment
This method may also cause PIH, which can be
Electrolysis uses electrical currents to damage the follicle and stop hair from growing. This can be a permanent method of hair removal, but people will need several sessions of treatment.
Electrolysis works on all hair types and colors but can be painful.
People with dark skin may develop a keloid, which is a thick scar that raises from the skin.
As part of this method, dermatologists beam lasers into the hair follicles, where the pigment absorbs the light and destroys the hair. Dermatologists consider this method to be a permanent form of hair removal.
Laser hair removal is not a suitable option for those with blonde, gray, white, or red hair. This is because the laser is unable to target light-colored hair.
Possible side effects include:
- swelling around the follicles
- PIH, particularly in those with dark skin
- skin inflammation
- blistering, crusting, or scarring, which is temporary
A person can also purchase laser hair removal devices to use at home.
Learn about 7 of the best home laser hair removal devices here.
The AAD states that this method is suitable for all skin tones. However, a person with dark skin may wish to find a dermatologist who has experience performing laser hair removal on dark skin tones.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons advises that anyone who has used a spray tan or tanning booth wait until the tan has faded, as it can make the treatment less effective.
Learn more about how laser hair removal and electrolysis differ, here.
Some females experience excessive hair growth or coarse, dark hair on the face, stomach, and back. Health experts call this hirsutism.
Doctors may recommend prescription treatments, such as eflornithine. People usually apply the cream twice per day to the affected areas on the face and chin. Although this medication does not remove the hair, it slows its growth.
Possible side effects may include:
- stinging, burning, or tingling of the skin
- ingrown hairs
Some hair removal methods may not suit everyone. The Skin of Color Society notes that methods such as plucking, threading, waxing, and shaving can lead to pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB).
PFB occurs more commonly in People of Color, as their hair tends to be more tightly curved. PFB can also occur in those with curly or coarse hair.
Shaving too close to the skin can lead to the curved hair retracting below the surface, piercing the follicle wall. The hair can then grow back in a curve and pierce the skin from the outside.
The location of the body hair can also affect which method a person uses. Sensitive areas, such as the anus and pubic area, may require additional care.
It is advisable for a person to consult a dermatologist to find the best hair removal method for them.
There are many ways to remove hair from the body, including shaving, epilation, IPL, and electrolysis.
Choosing the right method depends on a variety of factors. These include the location of the hair on the body, a person’s skin tone, and how long they would like the results to last.