Hair removal might be considered a “cosmetic” issue, but managing or removing unwanted hair can go beyond being a simple “cosmetic” problem. Many cultures have an aesthetic “ideal” amount of hair for males and females. For some of us, unwanted hair that exceeds this arbitrary standard can cause real or perceived problems with social acceptance. The information I’ve compiled would fill a book, so if you’re researching a specific method, you can go right to that topic. For a more thorough review, I recommend reading the background information.
Hair removal can be achieved through depilation (removing part of the hair above the skin’s surface) or epilation (removing the entire hair). For many consumers, temporary methods at regular intervals are acceptable. Right now my focus is on devices claiming permanence, but I’ll be discussing temporary methods in the future.
Depilation lasting several hours to several days can be achieved by:
- Shaving or trimming (manually or with electric shavers)
- Depilatories (creams or “shaving powders” which chemically dissolve hair)
- Friction (rough surfaces used to buff away hair)
Epilation lasting several days to several weeks can be achieved by:
- Waxing (a hot or cold layer is applied and then removed with porous strips)
- Sugaring (similar to waxing, but with a sticky paste)
- Threading (also called fatlah or khite, in which a twisted thread catches hairs as it’s rolled across the skin)
- Rotary epilators (devices which rapidly grasp hairs and pull them out by the root)
If you’re seeking permanent hair removal, you have several imperfect options. A number of methods have been developed that use chemicals, energy of varying types, or a combination to target the areas that regulate hair growth. Permanently destroying these areas while sparing surrounding tissue is a difficult challenge. I recommend relying on a body of published, peer-reviewed scientific evidence to ensure the effectiveness of a method.
Permanent hair removal for most
Permanent hair reduction for some
Lasting hair inhibition for many (requires continuous use)
- Electric tweezers
- “Transdermal electrolysis”
- “Transcutaneous hair removal”
- Foods and Dietary supplements
- Nonprescription topical preparations (aka “hair inhibitors,” “hair retardants,” or “hair growth inhibitors”)