Friction for hair removal


Basic facts

Less common method of removing hair at skin’s surface, but some consumers find it primaritly useful for fine hair on legs.


A rough surface is used to buff away hair at the skin’s surface. The mitt usually has rough strips or a smoothing surface coated directly onto the mitt.


Inexpensive, fast, essentially painless, can be done at home, available widely, also exfoliates and smooths skin. Many types can be used wet or dry. Good for legs with fine hair. Some use it between shaving or waxing sessions.


Effect lasts a short time– anywhere from a few hours to several days. Dark-haired users may have visible “shadow” of dark hair under skin. Often requires use every two or three days. Can cause skin irritation if rubbed too hard. Do not use on face, arms, or bikini area. Do not use on irritated or damaged skin.

Clinical data:


Mitts: From $2.00 to $6.00 per mitt

Pumice stones


Background facts

Marketing terms and tactics:

Historical overview:

Government regulation:


Hair Off


Leg Smoothers by Garden Club


Silky Mitt.


Legs should be clean and dry. Slip the mitt over your hand with abrasive side facing the legs. Select an area of skin surface approximately the size of the mitt. Use small circular movements and gentle pressure to smooth the surface of your skin. Without lifting mitt off the skin surface, alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise motions until all hair is removed. Do not rub too hard or you may irritate the skin.

Wash the mitt in warm soapy water to maintain its cleanliness and effectiveness.

Surgi-Soft Mitt is made for use on legs only.

Do not use on face, arms, or bikini area. For sensitive skin, “condition” the mitt by gently rubbing on palm for a few seconds to remove the coarser grit.

Do not use on irritated or damaged skin.

If irritation occurs, discontinue use.

Do not stroke up and down or apply too much pressure.

Keep out of reach of children.

follow up with a mild lotion.

Consumer comments

Woolly Woman by Devonie Baker (

Hmm, okay, here is the REAL reason I wanted to share these stories. Today I bought a couple of those “Leg Hair Mitts” or whatever. “Buff Off Body Mitten” “Precision Buffer” it says. Hmm, Nair makes it. I read the box to make sure it wasn’t “New Cat Piss Scent!” on it and upon discovering it wasn’t scented at ALL, but was Aloe Coated, I figured what the heck? It was stamped “Dermatologist Tested” and looked like it was worth a shot. Now, I bought two brands of this “hair removal mitt” thing, the other was from Sally Hansen. I figured two reputable names at least. I have yet to try the Nair one, but I did bust out the Sally Hansen and gave it a shot here at my desk. I rubbed around in a circle both clock and counter-clockwise as instructed. I waited for something to happen. I have determined that you must rub a hole through your skin before the hair comes off. I re-read the instructions expecting to find a disclaimer that said, “Works best for people with little or no body hair at all.” Or perhaps, “This is not recommended for people who are over 8 years of age.” I read the small print looking for a clue, expecting to see, “This is best used if you are a hairless space alien with skin of tissue paper.” I found no evidence that I didn’t “qualify” as an adequately hairy candidate for this product. I figured I must have been doing something wrong though, so I tried again. This time pressing down harder and increasing my RPMs. AHH! Yes! The smell of burning flesh let me know it was working! You actually are removing the hair by FRICTION! In other words girls, you can probably get the same effect if you duct tape a square of sandpaper to your hand and go for it! Oh but be careful not to set your legs on fire. I will let you all know how the Nair product works out, if you are interested. I think I’ll pick up a small fire extinguisher before I go home and try this though just in case.

  Tips on Hair Removal By Pat Mestern

During the 2nd World War, girls from across Canada worked in a local factory. A few boarded with grandmother where they had a “common” room for relaxing after work to chat and “do their girl things.” I was VERY young and not allowed to bother them, but one day I sneaked in and before being detected and relegated to the back yard, found them all “rubbing” their legs with paper. Being only four years old I never connected legs, paper and hair removal.

When my turn came to deal with unwanted hair, I went the usual route of creams, potions, lotions, razors (electric and otherwise) & etc. As a dark-haired person there was always a nice luxurious growth to deal with, especially as my 40th birthday came along and maturity began to set in. Hair growth is directly related to estrogen levels, hormones and ancestry. Having babes can really produce a healthy crop in unwanted places. So can memopause.

One day while cruising a local pharmacy, I found a product that consisted of small strips of material that resembled fine “emery” paper and a plastic holder to use while removing hair. Also in the display as another product, a mitt for removal of leg hair. Dubiously, I bought both products and tried them. My goodness, they worked. The hair, of course, returned but as time went on it got less “heavy” and more “manageable”. I enjoyed the facial “massage” as I carefully rubbed in small circular motions as per directions. Remember though that hair roots are still alive and will grow again unless removed by electrolysis. This “rubbing” is not a permanent solution, just a better one than smelly creams, lotions, potions & etc. It has been successful for some men too.

As every pharmacy does not carry the product, I bought when and where I found it. I also called the company to congratulate them on an excellent product and was told – it has been around since World War 2 – thousands of units are shipped overseas where it is very popular (especially in Japan) – the product is available in one of the big box stores in the U.S.A.

One time when away on a speaking engagement, horror of horrors, I forgot to pack my hair removal strips. I was going to stand before two hundred people as the bearded lady with ape legs. The local pharmacy hadn’t heard of the product.

What to do? For some reason, when under pressure things “connect”. A bubble burst in my feeble, overworked brain. Sandpaper! Going to a hardware store (have you ever tried to find a hardware store in the middle of a large city?) I asked for the finest sandpaper in stock. It was not fine enough. The clerk suggested an automotive supply store that sold to auto body repair shops for a very fine 400-600 grit. When he asked why I needed such a fine girt, he did not blink an eye when I said “to remove body hair.” He replied that his grandmother used the technique all the time and that actor friends used sandpaper to remove unwanted hair from backs and legs for certain scenes. One friend had to have his back constantly sandpapered for a stage production of “Joseph & his Amazing Techni-coloured Dream Coat.” After finding a 12″ x 12″ sheet of very fine 600 grit paper and working CAREFULLY, an effective job of “hair gone” was accomplished.

Back home experimentation with sandpaper went into high gear – what grit worked best – how to use large sheets effectively. The professional product has a sticky back that adheres to the plastic remover aid. While talking the situation over with my ninety-year-old mother, she said. “Why the girls just used to wrap the sandpaper around a wooden block. Some pasted it down to the back of a hair brush. They used sandpaper because it was war-time and other products were not available.” Why had she not told me about sandpaper hair removal nearly forty years ago when as a young woman I needed the information?

“My dear, it was something the girls did as part of the war effort. And it was mentioned in one of those beauty books I gave you to read around age eleven.” What eleven year old read beauty books in the 1950’s?

I still buy (and like) the manufactured product but not in such great quantity. The bought product is easier to pack for holidays and for “spot jobs”. 400-600 grit paper works best for me. Cut a strip. Wrap it around a small wood cube – or rubber spatula and GENTLY (working on one small area at a time) rub in a half dozen small circles one way – then a half dozen small circles the other – until the hair is gone and the skin feels smooth. Do not scrub. Do not rub up and down. Do not attack the skin as though it was a wooden table leg. GENTLE is the key – gentle circular motions in both directions. A white “powder” will develop on legs (and maybe face). This is dead skin that has come off with the hair. Finish with a nice body lotion to moisturize the skin. Your skin will glow and feel great!

I DO NOT GUARANTEE SUCCESS. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THE PROCESS FOR EVERYONE. If it works for you – great. I have tough “Canadian” skin that has been exposed to sun, wind, cold. I have no problems. Some people try the system and love it. A few say that their skin is too sensitive and turns red after rubbing. Some have better success with the bought product when it can be found. Do not give up after the first try. DO NOT PURCHASE COARSE SANDPAPER. The time between rubbings varies with your own hair growth cycle. If you continue with the procedure, hair will be finer and less enthusiastic about growing. As home “grown” remedies are not for everyone, if you can find the professional product, do try it. It might be best for your situation, skin condition and sensitivity.

Pumice stones

No matter how much moisturizer I use in the winter, I develop itchy, excema-like dry-skin patches on my calves. Several months ago I was taking a shower and, thinking this problem must be related to circulation, decided to take a different approach to combat it. I picked up my pumice stone and lightly massaged my skin. I didn’t want to irritate my dry skin, so I was careful to apply light pressure but to rub the skin briskly, in a circular motion. (This felt great on my itchy skin.) It had been a few weeks since I shaved my legs, and after several minutes (two or three at most) of massaging with the pumice stone, I noticed little clumps of hair falling into the tub. This didn’t really phase me until I began noticing more and more clumps. Then I saw that the area I had been rubbing was almost hairless.

It occurred to me then that this would probably work anywhere on my body, but I was reluctant to rub my body with a pumice stone. I had used those hairremoval pumice mitts (SoftMitt is one brand) that look like sheets of fine-grade sandpaper, but I had to rub so hard to remove any hair that it caused a painful burn, not unlike rope burn. However, 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 hairremoval 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 hairremoval 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.)