Hair grows all over the body, including the face, arms, and legs. Although hair growth is normal for both males and females, some people may wish to remove hair permanently for cosmetic reasons.
Areas of the body on which people commonly undergo long-term hair removal procedures include the:
Although some methods of hair removal provide results that last for months or years, few methods are truly permanent.
In this article, we look at treatments that people can try for long-term results and at-home methods of hair removal.
There are a few long-term hair removal options for people looking to get rid of unwanted hair. The only treatment that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describe as permanent is electrolysis.
Another method of hair removal that provides long lasting results is laser hair removal. However, some people need touch-up sessions to maintain the results. These tend to be necessary, for instance, for females who undergo laser hair removal on the face.
A technician will perform electrolysis by using needles to apply short wave radio frequencies to the hair follicles to destroy them. They will then remove the hair with tweezers.
A technician can perform electrolysis on nearly any part of the body. Electrolysis also works on any type of hair, including light-colored hair.
Due to the growth cycle of hair, a person typically requires multiple sessions of electrolysis to achieve the desired effects. The number of sessions can vary depending on the area of the body, the sensitivity of the person, and the amount of hair present.
However, once the technician has removed all of the hair from the specified area, a person will not require any additional appointments.
After electrolysis sessions, a person may experience stinging, redness, or irritation at the site of the hair removal. They may also develop an infection or excessive scar tissue around the site, but this is rare.
Some at-home electrolysis kits are available. However, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommend that an experienced technician perform electrolysis for the best results.
The cost of electrolysis varies depending on the number of sessions, as well as several other factors, such as the skill level of the technician and how much hair needs removing.
Laser hair removal involves the use of a high-heat laser to destroy the hair follicle. A technician can use laser hair removal anywhere on the body, except for the area around the eyes.
According to the AAD, a person can expect to see a 10–25% reduction in hair after the first session. When the hairs do grow back, they tend to be a lighter color and less thick. Once the hair has stopped growing, it may not return for months or years.
Laser hair removal works best on hair that is dark and coarse. It is not effective for light, gray, or red hair.
Laser hair removal usually requires a course of multiple sessions to remove all of the hair from a specific area of the body. These sessions will take place 4–6 weeks apart.
Laser hair removal does have some risks, especially if an inexperienced or poorly trained technician performs it. The laser can cause some minor pain and discomfort during the procedure.
Following the treatment, a person’s skin may become red or irritated for a few days. Rarely, blisters or scarring may occur at the site of the hair removal.
Laser hair removal makes the skin temporarily more sensitive to sunlight. It is important that people undergoing laser hair removal protect their skin from the sun during their course of treatment. They can do this by:
- avoiding direct sunlight exposure
- refraining from using tanning beds
- wearing sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF)
Each session of laser hair removal costs $285, on average. As with electrolysis, the price will vary depending on the technician, geographic location, size of the treatment area, and number of sessions necessary.
Prescription-strength creams are available for hair removal. They may be a better option for people who wish to avoid the higher costs of laser hair removal or electrolysis.
A hair removal cream called eflornithine (Vaniqa) can suppress hair growth when a person uses it regularly. The FDA reported in 2000 that Vaniqa is generally safe to use for the removal of unwanted facial hair.
To use eflornithine, a person should follow the advice of their doctor. In general, they will need to apply the cream twice a day.
Following the application, a person should not wash the treated areas for about 4 hours to give the cream time to take effect.
Although eflornithine is generally safe, a person may react to the cream. Pregnant women should talk to their doctor before using the cream. If a reaction does occur, a person should discontinue use and talk to their doctor as soon as possible.
There is no way to remove hair permanently at home. However, it may be possible to permanently or semipermanently reduce hair growth.
Some inexpensive but short-term methods of hair removal include:
- Shaving: This method cuts the visible hair off at the skin’s surface. However, the results are short-term, and the hair will grow back within a few days.
- Waxing: Waxing involves the use of hot wax or wax strips to stick to body hair and pull it out. A person can perform waxing at home using waxing kits.
- Tweezing: Using tweezers to pull hairs out of the skin can be painful, but this technique provides slightly longer lasting results than shaving.
- Creams or ointments: Some over-the-counter creams or ointments can remove hair temporarily, but they can cause skin reactions in some people.
Similarly to professional treatments, each at-home hair removal solution has associated risks. These include:
- irritation at the site of hair removal
- razor burn
- chemical burns
- allergic reactions
- ingrown hairs
- rash or redness
A person should talk to their doctor if hair removal leads to side effects, such as:
- signs of an infection, which may include swelling or pus
- excessive scar tissue
- a skin rash that does not go away
A person should also talk to a dermatologist if they want to try a longer lasting solution to hair removal.
Permanent hair removal is possible, but it is often expensive. Electrolysis provides permanent results. In contrast, the results of laser hair removal are long lasting but not always permanent.
Health insurance does not typically cover the cost of these procedures. Some cheaper options, such as at-home IPL kits and prescription-strength creams, provide semipermanent hair removal without as much expense.
If a person does want to remove hair permanently, it is important that they seek the advice and expertise of an experienced dermatologist or technician.