Methods of hair removal you wouldn’t think of in a thousand years
An ancient ‘art’. The removal of excess facial and body hair is thought to have started in ancient Egypt when ‘sugaring’ was developed. This consisted of a mixture of oil and honey slathered all over the body, then vigorously stripped, taking the hair off with it. By 3000 BC Egyptian women reportedly applied depilatory pastes made of (wait for it) arsenic trisulfide, quicklime and starch.
Ancient Roman ladies rolled a metal strigil (scraper) over oiled skin until depilatory creams were invented. These reportedly included pitch, donkey fat, she-goat gall, bat’s blood and powdered viper! (What, no hair of newt?)
In the 1500s, Queen Elizabeth I was never going bald as some may have believed. She actually plucked away her eyebrow and forehead hair to give her that ‘distinctive’ look.
Better that, however, than applying an 18th century recipe for hair removal that called for hard and dry cat dung, powdered and mixed with strong vinegar.
And how about this Middle Eastern wedding ritual? The night before the ceremony the wedding party unceremoniously removed all body hair from the bride-to-be except her eyebrow and head hair.
Threading, using a cotton thread to pluck away unwanted hair, was introduced in Turkey around 6,000 years ago. It’s the oldest and only method to have survived and thrived right up to the process we use today.
The last taboo? Excess female facial hair is typically age-related or becomes a cosmetic issue at any age. Even at 35 rogue hairs can begin to sprout from your chin, upper lip and/or cheeks at alarming speed. Medical issues, like diabetes and polycystic ovaries, also encourage hair growth, as does testosterone or a genetic disposition towards excess facial hair. It’s a common problem.
Yet, while people are happy to discuss anything from bikini lines to ‘understains’ to ’50 shades…’ unwanted facial hair remains out of bounds. It’s the ultimate beauty taboo, and because it does have this stigma, there isn’t enough information about the best ways to remove it. We’re about to try and put that right.
Best Hair Removal Products and Methods
Whether you have dark, coarse hairs or a prairie of pale peach fuzz, there are products that can make hair removal less painful and more effective – some for salon use only; many for home use too.
Tweezing. Easy, inexpensive but rather painful. This works by pulling out hairs one by one with a pair of tweezers and is good for small areas and pesky chin ‘whiskers’. Tweezers should be cleaned with rubbing alcohol between uses to stave off infection. The treatment lasts up to three weeks. Ingrown hairs could result if hair breaks inside the follicle.
Shaving. Easy to use, cheap and requires little skill. Use a razor or electric shaver to cut off the hair very close to the skin. It won’t grow back coarser as many women think; because you shave off the soft tip it just feels coarser. If you use disposable razors or blades here’s a good tip: wet your skin first, use soap or shaving cream and shave in the direction the hair grows. Make sure your razor’s sharp as a dull one can nick your skin and make it bleed. Shaving works anywhere and lasts one to three days, but can cause skin irritation. Also, beware ingrown hairs, which appear to be common.
Waxing. A method more usually applied on the body than the face, other than across the upper lip, waxing’s 98% effective. A good tip is to let your hair grow at least ¼” long to ensure the wax will grab it, then spread sticky wax on your skin, cover it with cloth strips (you could omit the strips) and wait till it dries. Quickly pull it off. It’s a big ouch, but new waxing options – including chocolate and mango waxing, are comparatively painless. The effect lasts up to six weeks but frequently causes allergies. These produce itching, bumps and redness, acne and occasionally infection. Done often, waxing can also make skin saggy.
Laser. If you’re not happy with shaving, tweezing, or waxing to remove unwanted hair, laser hair removal may be an option worth considering. It beams highly concentrated light into the hair follicles. Pigment in the follicles absorb the light, destroying the hair. Lasers are useful for removing unwanted hair from the face and other areas of the body. You may need an average of three to seven sessions to have permanent hair loss.
Electrolysis. A method of removing individual hairs from the face or body. The device destroys the growth centre of the hair with chemical or heat energy. After a very fine probe is inserted into the hair follicle, the hair is removed with tweezers. Most areas of the body can be treated with electrolysis, including eyebrows, face, abdomen, thighs, breasts and legs.
Over-the-counter creams. You can buy inexpensive depilatory lotions or creams which dissolve the proteins that make up body hair. Only choose special formulae that are specifically designed for facial use (not always effective on coarse hair though). The products work by dissolving your hairs, but be warned, they may also dissolve your skin. Don’t leave them on too long or use them if your skin is sensitive. ALWAYS follow directions carefully.
Prescription creams. Rubbed on daily, not to remove hairs, but to slow down growth and make hairs grow back softer and finer. It’s generally used along with shaving or laser techniques to extend the time between treatments.
Sugaring. Removes your hair for the short term, it is quick and accessible. Simply apply a sticky solution to the skin surface on the unwanted hair. Then using strips of cloth, place them over the treated area and quickly pull the cloth off the skin, pulling the hair out of the skin by the root. Like waxing, sugaring is successful if done by a professional practitioner for removing unwanted hair temporarily. It is more difficult to do either of these methods yourself.
Threading. Threading facial hair is used for shaping eyebrows, but can also be used to remove unwanted body hair on jaw, cheeks, upper lip, neck, stomach and toes. It’s a simple method involving two pieces of cotton thread twisted together, lasso-like. It’s one of the safest, quickest, most precise and thorough forms of hair removal available today. It can target even the downiest hairs without faster or denser regrowth, is 100% eco-friendly, inexpensive, long-lasting, causes little facial trauma, quick to do, very precise and embraces an ancient cultural tradition. True, threading can sometimes be painful, redden and puff up the skin a little or produce skin pigment changes. Infection is possible but rare. If used on acne- affected skin the acne could rupture.
Epicare®. Of all threading options, this is far and away the best, the safest, most efficient and cost-effective method of removing facial hair on the market today. Though not appropriate for eyebrows, if you’re looking for a convenient way to remove unwanted facial hair from lips, chin, hairline or cheeks at home in a safe and easy manner, with no lasers or creams, this is the product for you. Read more.
Bleaching. This camouflages hairs so they’re less obvious, especially if you match the hair colour to your skin tone. Not so good for women with thick hair growth. It’s easy to do at home and the effect lasts for a few weeks. Going out into bright sunlight within an hour can produce irritation and, with regular use, the chemicals can cause skin damage