Having unwanted body hair is a common concern for many people. While shaving, waxing, and depilatory creams provide temporary hair removal, they must be repeated frequently to maintain smooth skin. For those seeking more permanent hair removal, there are several options to consider.
Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal is one of the most effective methods for long-term hair reduction. A laser emits a beam of highly concentrated light that targets the pigment in hair follicles. The light energy heats up and damages the follicle, preventing future hair growth. With repeated treatments, laser hair removal can provide up to 90% permanent hair reduction after an average of 3-7 sessions.
There are three types of lasers commonly used:
- Alexandrite lasers: Effective for light skin with dark hair
- Nd:YAG lasers: Safe for all skin types, including darker skin
- Diode lasers: Treats a wide range of hair and skin colors
Treatment with lasers works best on coarse, thick hair that has color. It is less effective for fine, light, or white hair. Ideal candidates have fair skin and dark hair. However, advances in laser technology now allow lasers to work on a wider range of skin tones.
The biggest advantage of laser hair removal is its speed and efficacy. Each pulse only takes a fraction of a second but can disable multiple hair follicles at once. Smaller areas like the upper lip can be treated in just a few minutes, while larger areas may take up to an hour per session.
It does involve some minor discomfort during the treatment, described as a rubber band snapping against the skin. Some temporary side effects include redness, swelling, and tenderness lasting up to several days. More serious side effects are very rare when performed by a properly trained professional.
Body Areas Treatable With Lasers
Laser hair removal can be used to remove unwanted hair from nearly any part of the body, including:
- Bikini area
- Face (except around eyes)
Cost of Laser Hair Removal
The cost of laser hair removal depends on the size of the treated area and number of sessions needed. On average, the per session costs are:
|Average Cost Per Session
Packages offering discounted rates for multiple sessions upfront are commonly available. Financing options like payment plans or insurance coverage can offset the costs as well.
Electrolysis is the only truly permanent form of hair removal recognized by the FDA. It works by inserting a thin probe into each hair follicle. An electric current destroys the root so it cannot regrow. Electrolysis is effective on all skin tones and hair colors.
A major advantage of electrolysis is its precision. It allows targeting individual hairs for complete, permanent removal. Repeated treatments are required to address the hair growth cycle since not all hairs are active at once. On average, it takes 12-15 sessions spaced 4-8 weeks apart to fully treat an area.
The biggest downside is the length of time treatments take. Each session can last 15 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the area. The discomfort is described as a pinching or stinging sensation. Mild redness and swelling may follow but generally resolve within a day.
Body Areas Treatable With Electrolysis
Electrolysis can remove hair from:
- Bikini line
Cost of Electrolysis
Electrolysis costs are determined by the time required per session. Rates range from $50-100 per hour. Typical per session costs for common areas are:
|Average Cost Per Session
Packages for multiple sessions are often available at discounted rates. The total cost of treatment can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the size of the area being treated.
Comparison of Laser Hair Removal vs. Electrolysis
|Laser Hair Removal
|Light energy damages hair follicles
|Electric current destroys hair follicles
|Up to 90% permanent reduction
|100% permanent removal
|Works best on dark coarse hair, light skin
|Works on all hair and skin types
|Treats many hairs at once in seconds
|Treats hairs individually, slower process
|Number of Sessions
|Cost Per Session
|$150-$1000 depending on area size
|$50-$300 per hour
|Somewhat painful, like rubber band snaps
|Mild stinging or pinching
Drug-Based Hair Reduction
There are prescription medications that can slow the rate of hair growth over time. They work by blocking male hormones like testosterone that contribute to increased hair growth.
Eflornithine hydrochloride 13.9% cream (brand name Vaniqa) is a topical prescription medication approved to reduce unwanted facial hair in women. It inhibits an enzyme involved in hair growth, gradually decreasing the rate of growth over 6-8 weeks of treatment.
Eflornithine cream must be applied twice daily for as long as hair reduction is desired. Hair regrows within 8 weeks if treatment is discontinued. Common side effects include acne, rash, and skin irritation in the treated area.
While eflornithine cream slows hair growth, it does not permanently remove hair or destroy hair follicles. Results are modest, with typical hair growth reduction between 18-33% over 6 months. It can be used in conjunction with other hair removal methods for optimal long-term reduction.
Oral prescription drugs like finasteride, spironolactone, and dutasteride can suppress androgen hormones to treat hair growth. Finasteride and dutasteride are approved for men, while spironolactone is used off-label in women. They are primarily used for scalp hair loss but may reduce body hair as well.
These oral drugs work gradually, so can take 3-6 months to show benefit. They must be taken long-term for continued effects. Side effects can include sexual dysfunction, breast tenderness, and altered menstrual cycles.
Oral medications alone provide mild hair reduction. When combined with other treatments like laser or electrolysis, they help potentiate the results for more permanent hair removal.
Natural and DIY Methods
There are also some natural and home treatments that may inhibit hair regrowth after removal, although not proven to permanently destroy follicles.
Repeated waxing or sugaring (using a sugar paste) can damage hair follicles over time, leading to some permanent reduction. These methods mechanically pull hairs out by the root. With frequent repetitions, some follicles eventually get damaged and stop regenerating.
It takes numerous sessions, around 100 or more, to begin producing permanent effects. Waxing and sugaring work best for coarse dark hairs. Some people may experience skin irritation or ingrown hairs.
Turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin which may inhibit certain enzymes involved in hair growth. Applying a turmeric paste regularly may reduce hair regrowth slightly after removal. It is most effective on fine dark hairs.
Mix turmeric powder with water or oil to form a paste. Apply to areas of unwanted hair growth and let sit for 15-20 minutes before rinsing. Use 2-3 times per week for a few months to notice results.
Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera gel contains enzymes that can help break down hair protein chains when applied topically. It may inhibit hair growth and weaken follicles over time with regular use.
Apply pure aloe vera gel and massage into areas of unwanted hair growth. Let it soak in for an hour before rinsing away. Using daily or several times per week may provide mild hair reduction.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is thought to destroy hair follicles with its acidic pH when used repeatedly. It may also inhibit enzyme pathways involved in hair growth.
Mix apple cider vinegar in a 2:1 ratio with water. Use a cotton pad or ball to apply it to unwanted hair areas. Let it soak in for 15-20 minutes before washing off. Apply 1-2 times per week for potential mild hair reduction over time.
In summary, the most proven permanent hair removal options are laser treatments and electrolysis. For the best results, these methods should be spaced over multiple sessions to target the entire hair growth cycle. Oral prescription medications can enhance the efficacy when combined with lasers or electrolysis.
Natural alternatives like waxing, turmeric pastes, aloe vera, and apple cider vinegar may provide slight hair reduction with very diligent long-term use. However, they are less likely to permanently disable hair follicles compared to lasers and electrolysis performed by professionals.
Consult an experienced dermatologist or cosmetic provider to select the ideal permanent hair removal plan for your specific needs and goals. With today’s technologies, smoothly hair-free skin is achievable for most people if they undergo the proper treatments.