From a reader:
A regular, three-dollar pumice stone (I bought mine in a natural-foods store, but I don’t think there’s anything special about it*) is much courser (and more durable) than a pumice mitt, so it’s easier to acheive the effect of rubbing the hair briskly without actually grinding into the skin, and I believe it more effectively pulverizes hairs. *(Possibly, some pumice stones are better for hair removal than others—I used one that crumbled a bit, and I was careful to rinse well when I was finished so that little particles of pumice didn’t stick to my skin and cause itching later. My favorite pumice stone doesn’t crumble; it has a nail brush attached to its flip side, which makes it convenient, too.) The more I thought about it, the less convinced I was that this method would damage my skin, as long as I took precautions. After all, I’ve used loofahs, scrubbing granules, and even buffing gloves—along with all those other hair-removal methods, which can’t be easy on the skin. As long as I didn’t rub hard—as opposed to briskly—I didn’t think it could be too abrasive.
The next day I decided to test my “discovery.” I started gradually. I first rubbed the pumice stone with a thick layer of unscented white Dove soap for lubrication. Without applying much pressure, I started on my forearm, again rubbing briskly in a circular motion, clockwise then counterclockwise, and repeated this several times. To my amazement, hair fell off in more clumps. More stubborn hair, I reasoned, might require a few days of treatment.
Note: This is a gradual process. It took about two weeks for me to see really satisfactory results. In my case, patience paid off. Please see the section on drugs for information about the medications I take which might have influenced my results using the pumice stone. For the first week or so I alternated days to give my skin a rest. After showering, I applied unscented baby oil to my wet skin then patted dry with a towel; I followed that by using unscented generic-label moisturizer (most drugstores sell their own generic brand of Lubriderm; about $5 for a large bottle). I make sure to follow this procedure every day; this prevents dry skin from the pumice stone, especially during the first few treatments. I have found that my skin becomes less sensitive the more I use this method, and any irritation—on the first day I experienced a mild rash, which was alleviated by moisturizer (again, I only use unscented moisturizer formulated for sensitive skin)—was nothing compared to what I’ve endured from other hair-removal methods.
I now do this procedure daily, on nearly every part of my body (except my pubic hair)—even hard-to-reach places, and even on my face (I am very cautious about using this method on my face, and I still tweeze the few stray hairs that get through). It’s least effective on my legs. I believe that’s because after shaving my legs for years, the hairs are more resistant. However, I have made some progress, and the remaining hairs are much finer. The areas I treat are essentially now hairless (remaining hairs are soft and barely noticeable). I can wear sleeveless shirts without feeling that people are staring at my hairy arms. If I wanted to, I could wear clothes that expose my stomach without feeling like a freak. I can sit at a table with someone without hiding my hands (I even use this method on the my hands and fingers, and even my toes). I can be intimate with a partner without feeling repulsive.
Aside from costing practically nothing (pumice stones last a long time—I’ve used the same one for four months now, and it shows no signs of expiring), this method doesn’t take any extra time out of my day. I scrub my body when I shower anyway, and I’ve always had to moisturize. There’s no offensive odor, no heating up wax or cleaning it off my skin or the sink afterward, and very little stubbly “regrowth.” (Any regrowth is soft, probably because the end of the hair shaft has been “thinned.”) But regrowth isn’t an issue, since I can do this every day, anywhere I can take a shower. No one would know what I was doing. In addition, the ingrown hairs (and resulting folliculitis) I used to get from waxing or shaving have been eliminated, and my skin is smooth—no more dry patches on my legs. After thirty years, hirsutism is no longer an obsession for me. (But if and when the price of laser hair removal goes down—way down—I’ll probably be first in line.)