hair; shaving; waxing; plucking; depilatories; electrolysis; laser; puberty; beard; eyebrow; razor; shaver; shave;
Hair removal can be a big hassle. It can also be very confusing. What sort of products should I use? When do I need to start doing it? Do I need to do it at all?
When you go though puberty, all sorts of new hairs can start to pop up. Guys will probably want to start shaving their faces; girls might want to start shaving their legs and armpits. This is of course up to each person to decide, and some people choose not to remove their hair at all. Hair’s all natural when you think about it.
Sometimes people can be made to feel like they have unwanted hair when the hair they have is perfectly normal. Everyone is different, and some people will have more or less hair than others their age.
Don't let peer pressure cause you to get hair removed or to go ahead with any sort of cosmetic procedure. Talking to a trusted adult is the best thing to do before making any decisions.
Shaving is the removal of hair by a blade that cuts the tip of the hair off, and it is the most common method of hair removal for both men and women. Some shavers have a naked blade, like disposable plastic razors, which scrape some of the top layer of skin cells off with the hair. Some have a shielded blade, like electric shavers, and do not scrape the skin.
- Exposed razor blades give a closer shave, but can cause irritation for people with sensitive skin.
- When you use a razor, your skin should never be dry. Using a razor on dry skin can produce razor burn, cuts, lumps and ingrown hairs (where the hair curls and starts growing back into the skin). To avoid this, it is best to use warm water and shaving cream or gel, and allow it to soften the hair for a time before shaving.
- Make sure you use a fairly new razor – don't keep using an old blunt one.
- Don’t press hard.
- Find the best way to shave by changing the angle of the blade.
- Take your time with the razor. If you are in a rush, slow down – your skin is too important.
When shaving your face:
- Start going with the grain. This is down the face and up the neck. If you like you can then go against the grain for a closer shave, but be very careful…this can lead to razor nicks.
When shaving your legs:
- Start above the ankle and shave up the leg. The skin around the shin bone is very tight and it is easy to cut your leg here, so be careful. When you are cold there is a greater chance you will cut yourself because you will have raised goosebumps. Get yourself warm before beginning - how about shaving in a warm bath or shower?
The best way to learn
- The best way to learn how to shave, especially your face, is to get someone to show you. An older person will usually be more than willing to pass on some tips.
- Don’t just struggle on by yourself in the bathroom – you will probably end up with a bad rash and lots of nicks.
- Contrary to what many people believe, shaving does not change the texture, colour or rate for growth of hair. It just looks and feels coarser because it has a flat, recently cut, end.
Waxing and plucking
Using this method, hair is pulled out from the roots – ouch! – so the hair doesn't grow back as quickly as when it's shaved. It's okay to use tweezers or waxing on facial hair (eyebrows, upper lip) as well as body hair, but men should not use it for beard hair.
With waxing, either hot or cold wax is applied to the area and a strip of cloth is placed over the top. The cloth is then ripped off taking the hair with it. Always follow the instructions if you are doing it yourself.
Because the hair is pulled out, waxing and plucking can be very painful. There can also be irritation of the skin. Some people should avoid waxing altogether:
- People with diabetes should not wax. They have a greater chance of getting infections.
- Some medication can make skin more sensitive – for example, acne medications. Check the manufacturer's warnings on your medication or check with your doctor if you are unsure.
- Don't use wax over moles.
- If you have a skin irritation or sunburn, you shouldn't wax until the skin is fully healed.
Depilatories are creams or liquids that remove hair. They make the hairs dissolve so they can be wiped away. They are mainly for body hair, but there are some that can be used for light facial hair, not coarse hair like a beard.
- Never use depilatories on eyebrows or around the eyes (they can damage eyes very badly), and don't use them on skin that is already sore or damaged.
- Always read the instructions carefully before you use them, and chose the type of depilatory cream you need (there are different strengths for hair on different parts of the body).
- Some people can have a strong reaction to depilatories, so people with sensitive skin should avoid them. Always do a skin test patch first – have a look at the instructions in the packaging on how to do this.
The hair follicle is killed permanently by inserting a needle into the follicle and destroying it using an electric current. You need to have several appointments with a professional and it can take many hours to get every hair.
This form of hair removal is very expensive so is usually only used on small areas like the eyebrows or upper lip and other unwanted facial hairs for women. It can also be painful and cause irritation.
Laser hair removal
A light treatment called laser treatment is used to stop the hair growing. It is not permanent, but lasts many months and is relatively quick – but also expensive.
Laser treatment may cause irritation and scarring, and after treatment:
- light skin can become darker,
- and dark skin lighter.
This treatment tends to work best on light-skinned people with dark hair as the hair absorbs more of the laser. For this reason it is recommended that you avoid tanning before treatment.
Which of these hair removal methods will best suit you depends on a few factors:
- how sensitive your skin is;
- what sort of medication you are on;
- if you want the hair removed permanently;
- how much money and time you can afford.
Remember - have a chat with a trusted adult before you decide on any method, or to decide if you need to remove any hair at all.
"Different cultures have different ideas about hair and where it should or should not be.
Fashion has a big effect on us too. You need a lot of confidence to go against the trend, so most young people in Australia would be into shaving or waxing.
It's a good idea to go to a professional if you are doing any hair removal on your face, apart from shaving a beard that is. You can end up looking really strange if you get carried away plucking eyebrows".
Resources in South Australia
Nemours Foundation. 'Hair removal'. KidsHealth.org - TeensHealth.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).