By Margarita Dominguez, In Los Angeles
They don’t teach you about hair removal in school. What works best in each area of the human body? For the sake of all women and men, we attempt to find out.
From the tops of our heads to the tops of our toes, we are literally covered with hair follicles. A lot of men wish that the follicles on top of their heads were a little more active, but for the most part, our ancestral link to early man produces body hair that we regard as unwanted.
But hair removal is complicated. What works in one area of the body can be a terrible thing to do to another part of the body. Some methods are very painful, some are very expensive, some have side effects, and some are permanent. Why didnt we get instructions with our bodies?
There are differing opinions out there regarding the method of choice for the area in question, but we hope that this article will guide some readers away from mistakes, and towards the right path to smoothness.
But before we get into hair removal, lets examine one strange alternative, bleaching. Some women use special bleach to make their facial or body hair lighter, so that it stands out less. They somehow convince themselves that if their mustaches and beards change from brunette to platinum blond, no one will see the hair. While they are performing this operation, they are looking at the hair in the mirror. When its over, they admire their handiwork in the same mirror. Somehow they dont realize that if they can observe the result, so can everyone else in their world who isnt blind. Bleach ladies take note; you have little white beards and mustaches! We can see them! When you get a tan you look like Santa Claus. You really need to read this article. Dont bleach ever again, okay?
Some people would prefer not to remove their body hair. This is quite socially acceptable for men. Even Gorilla like men can look pretty macho when naturally hairy. Bodybuilders, however, often choose to remove all of their body hair so that it is possible to see the definition that they have worked so hard for. Whats the point of having six-pack abs if all you can see is the same hairy tummy carpet as before you began training?
Even some women prefer not to shave their underarms or legs. However, whether we like it or not, world beauty standards dictate that we should admire a smooth, hairless female body more than a natural hairy one. Therefore, the hair removal industry exists.
In ancient times, women would get thread and roll it up their legs and over their chin and upper lip. The twine would catch their hair and pluck it out. This natural approach, known as threading, is still offered by some modern beauty salons, and its very effective for older people with very loose skin, but science has provided the rest of us with many superior alternatives.
There is hot waxing, cold or Persian waxing (also called Sugaring), shaving, clipping, tweezing, electrolysis, laser treatment, depilatory creaming, and hormone inhibiting. Even the threading has electric versions featuring rubber wheels, (remember Epilady in the Eighties?)
We will address each area of the female and male bodies, starting at the eyebrows and ending at the toes. But first, lets take a brief look at each method of hair removal.
Hot wax could be done at home, but it really should be left to the professionals. If its a little too hot it can burn you, and if its too thick, it can pull off too many layers of skin and cause serious injury that way. Its safe enough in the hands of a beautician though. Basically, the lady in the white coat spreads a thin layer of wax over the area and immediately presses a strip of cotton cloth onto the wax, then pulls it off. The hair comes out at the root and the area is left smooth. There is always a little redness and irritation and there is a chance that hair on the next growth cycle, which is below the skin surface, will become ingrown.
Some beauticians will prepare the area with a mild topical anesthetic, but most wont bother. Usually a sprinkling of talc is enough to degrease the skin and prepare the hairs for maximum wax adhesion. The cotton strips are pressed on in the general direction of hair growth and pulled off in the other direction. Some areas of the body, for example the shins, are fairly tolerant to this kind of pain. Other areas are not, as we shall see when we discuss bikini waxing.
Persian Wax, so-called because Persian women have been doing it for years, is a variation of waxing that involves no heat. Instead of melted wax, the solution is a sticky mixture of sugar, lemon juice and water. In fact the process is now more widely known as Sugaring. The solution can be made in a saucepan for pennies, and you can eat it. Most professionals feel that it fails to remove all of the hair in an area and repetition is required. Its also a little messy and youd better make sure there are no ants around.
Shaving costs the price of a razor and a little soap and it doesn’t hurt at all. It has to be done regularly unless you are weird enough to find dark, sharp stubble beautiful. The ends of the shaved hairs are sharp enough to pierce fabric. Certain areas of the body should never be shaved. If a man with thick curly hair on his chest shaves his chest, the thick, curly sharp-ended re-growth will irritate his chest in an unbearable manner, and he will have to keep it shaved bald to avoid the nasty ensuing rash. The only way out of the loop is to tolerate one painful re-growth and then get a chest wax. Hair clippers will cause the same problem.
Tweezers painfully pluck out one hair at a time from the root. A beautician will often use tweezers to pluck out a few stray hairs that were missed by the wax. Tweezers are most often used for eyebrow shaping, but eyebrows can be quickly waxed or sugared into shape also.
Electrolysis should be done professionally, even though some home kits of questionable quality are available. When an electric current is sent through a body hair, the root is destroyed and the hair can then be removed. The pain level varies from person to person and as with all methods, it hurts more in places of the body where there are more nerve endings. Sometimes the results can be permanent or close to permanent.
Laser technology is used for all kinds of things these days. Instead of an electrolysis needle in your follicle you can have a zap of laser light with the same result. Its not painless, there is an after burn, its expensive, and sometimes the hair will just grow back.
Depilatories such as Nair have been around for years, and these days they dont smell quite as bad as they used to. These creams dissolve the hair chemically so they can be gently wiped away with a wet cloth. Course hair is very resistant to the formula, and many areas of the body react to these creams with a red rash and even welts. Use with care in a well-ventilated bathroom, and remember, whatever chemicals touch your skin will be absorbed by your blood stream. Be nice to your organs and steer clear of harsh chemicals.
Hormonal growth inhibitors are liquids that are sprayed onto the skin. They mimic the effect of baldness to cause hair to cease to grow. Some people find they work, others dont. They have not yet become a commonly used option, partly because there is no instant gratification. You have to wait and see if the hair will stop growing. Usually, when a person wants the hair off, they want it gone as soon as possible.
The male or female human body.
Working down towards the center of the earth we will discuss options for eyebrows, nostrils, upper lip, chin, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, back, underarms, chest or breasts, tummy, pubis, genitals (male and female), perineum, anus, buttocks, bikini area, legs, feet and toes.
Waxing or sugaring by a professional is good. It hurts for an instant.
Tweezers hurt and its a long job.
Electrolysis and laser treatment can be permanent. It hurts, its pricey and if you remove too much, its gone forever.
Short round-ended scissors are safe unless you are in a moving vehicle or in danger of being shoved around in your bathroom!
Battery powered nasal hair-trimmers are excellent.
Upper Lip or Mustache
Men: shave daily with a razor or a shaver.
Ladies: wax or sugar or endure the laser or electrolysis. Never bleach (as discussed earlier.)
Chin or beard
Same as above.
Neck (back of)
Men: Use clippers every three weeks or when your hair is cut. Sharp ends are okay here.
Women: Get it waxed. Dont forget your ear lobes.
Never shave your shoulders. The hair is course and curly and the re-growth will irritate the skin.
Use wax, sugar, laser or electrolysis.
Arms and hands
The entire arms, hands and fingers are best dealt with using wax or sugar.
Did you know that your back was in back of you? Have someone else do it for you! No shaving here, get waxed.
Shaving is safe here but youll grow stubble, which looks awful. Be brave and strong during that waxing. Keep the depilatory away from this sensitive skin or your armpits may suffer chemical burns.
Chest or breasts
See above for the horrible consequences of chest shaving. Have your chest waxed or sugared. Be careful around those sensitive nipples.
Its like your chest, only lower, and hopefully flatter.
Fans of amateur porn might like a big scary bush. Pubic hair probably evolved to trap pheromones, but these days we bathe those away. Men should shape their pubic hair just like the ladies do. A landing strip is a desirable shape. Also, if the hair is long, take it between two fingers and cut it down with scissors. Women can experiment with a bald look, because it grows back soon enough. A bikini wax will deal with the perimeter of this area. Women who dont have at least a bikini wax will get some negative responses when first observed without their panties.
Imagine you are wearing the bottom half of a very brief bikini and there is thick black hair sticking out of the sides! A bikini wax addresses the issue of hair outside of that garment. If you plan on being seen naked, see Brazilian Wax below for the solution!
Men who have hair on the shaft of the penis can carefully shave it. Testicles can be carefully shaved. Hot wax is not recommended for your balls, guys. Shaving the inch just above the point where the penis meets the body will give you a longer look. Clippers will cut you, a new wet razor probably wont.
The dancers in the nude strip clubs have no hair at all down there. Shaving will result in stubble and youll need to do it every day. Razor bumps will be unpleasant, and using a loofah to prevent bumps would really hurt!
See Brazilian Wax below for the solution!
Perineum and anus
The anus is a mucous membrane. Depilatory cream here will injure you. Shaving stubble will cause irritation as one side of your butt touches the other. Ingrown hairs will be a pain in the butt too. See Brazilian Wax below for the solution!
Legs, feet and toes
Most women deal with leg hair by shaving. Waxing gets a better result and the re-growth is fine and un-stubble like. However, youll need almost a quarter of an inch of that baby-fine hair before the next wax, and many women dont want to be seen with that hair, so they shave every other day instead. You cant win! The tops of the legs are more sensitive, but youll survive. Sugaring may be more effective on shorter re-growth than waxing.
The table above seems to favor waxing in many instances, but waxing is unbearable for many people. By all means experiment, but heed the warnings above.
This has been alluded to throughout this article, and for the uninitiated, it deserves its own paragraph. Certain salons offer this service, but many refuse to do it for fear of unhygienic consequences. Suffice to say, a beautician will ask you to lie down and remove your panties and then raise your legs. She will sprinkle talc all over your butt, perineum and vagina, including the anus and within the labia. Hot wax will be spread over these areas and cotton strips will rip out your hair down to the roots. You will experience intense pain and the pain will continue afterwards. However, the result looks amazingly beautiful and feels even better. If youre a nude dancer, you will get bigger tips.
Removing hair from the root by waxing or plucking eventually causes re-growth to slow down or even stop entirely. Shaving never does. If the growth inhibitors become more established, they may eventually replace all of this torture, but until then, be brave, be smooth and dont cuss and swear when you scream.
Margarita Dominguez is writing a screenplay about road rage in modern America. She maintains a hairless body and owns eight saxophones.