More men and, of course, women, are looking to eliminate most or all of their body hair. This month’s column is about the best way to achieve a smooth appearance.
The most high-tech hair removal methods use laser light or intense pulsed light treatment (IPL). Lasers use an intense, focused beam of light to attack the cells that grow hair. A wand is moved over the area being treated and the client may feel a little discomfort (it’s been likened to the feeling you get when a rubber band is snapped against your skin). Compared to lasers, IPL uses a broader spectrum of light. A xenon flash lamp treats a larger area of the skin with intense pulses of light that attack the cells and cause minor discomfort.
For either treatment, the sessions may last 15 to 30 minutes or longer—depending on the area being treated. Both treatments only work on dark, pigmented hair. People with white, gray, or pale blonde hair will not be affected. The recommended frequency is five to seven treatments spaced over every three months. Prices vary, but IPL treatments are usually less expensive. IPL prices can range from $75 to $125 for an upper lip to $600 or $700 for legs.
But there is more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak. Here are some other hair removal methods that are in use today.
- Electrolysis. This is the only treatment that is permitted by law to be termed “permanent.” A thin needle is inserted into the hair follicle parallel to the hair shaft and a small amount of high-frequency electrical current is applied to the hair. Heat is generated to destroy the hair which is then removed with sterile forceps.
- Waxing. A wax mixture is melted and applied to the skin. When the wax solidifies, it is pulled off along with the hair. This method can be painful and may cause irritation. Wax even has applications as a nose hair remover. Last year, Nad’s introduced nose wax for men and women.
- Shaving. Does not affect the root or follicle so the hair grows back in a few days.
- Tweezing. Pulls hair out at the root but follicle is still present so regrowth can be fast. It is usually painful for many people.
- Vaniqa. This topical prescription cream is also known as eflornithine hydrochloride 13.9%. It works by blocking an enzyme that stimulates hair growth. It may take up to six months to work by itself, so it is best to use with laser treatments. It will also remove white hair that does not respond to lasers.
- Depilatories. They are based on alkaline reducing agents that swell the hair and break the disulfide bonds. When formulating depilatories, the reducing agent can be formed in situ by reacting thioglycolic acid with an excess of calcium hydroxide to form calcium thioglycolate. The concentration of the thioglycolic acid is usually between 2.5 and 4%. The high pH is usually 12-12.5.
- Hair regrowth with depilatories appears to take longer than shaving but weekly treatments may be necessary.
- Threading. This technique involves a thin (cotton or polyester) thread that is doubled, twisted and rolled over areas of unwanted hair—such as eyebrows.
Regardless of the method, a hairless look is becoming popular.
Harvey M. Fishman
Harvey Fishman has a consulting firm in Wanaque, NJ, specializing in cosmetic formulations and new product ideas, offering tested finished products. He has more than 30 years of experience and has been director of research at Bonat, Nestlé LeMur and Turner Hall. He welcomes descriptive literature from suppliers and bench chemists and others in the field.