Why is hair removal painful?

Nerve photo (Schuster, 1992)

Ever wonder why hair removal hurts so much? Here’s why! Look at all those nerves in this microscopic photo of a hair root!

The reason tweezing, waxing, laser, and electrolysis are sometimes painful is because each hair has a bundle of nerves surrounding the lower follicle. Plucking a hair tears the tissue near the root, which can set off pain sensation in these nerves. The energy required to remove hairs with laser and electrolysis can also cause these nerves to register pain.

The reason so-called "painless" methods such as electric tweezers and "transdermal" methods do not usually hurt as much is because they do not deliver enough energy into the follicle to cause lasting damage, or even to stimulate the nerves in the area.

For more on hair removal pain and ways to deal with it, check out my section on hair removal pain management.

Slide courtesy of James Schuster, M.D. Reprinted with permission. Dr. Schuster is a Wisconsin dermatologist who has prepared several videos and slide presentations on hair removal. Dr. Schuster performed several controlled electric tweezer studies to demonstrate that the devices cannot perform as claimed.