When it comes to body hair, it’s all about freedom of choice. Whether you love to flaunt your fuzzy pits or prefer a complete “top-to-tail” wax (à la Reagan in “New Girl”), it’s your call.
If you’re looking for something more permanent, there are options — from lasers to creams to radio wave frequencies. Here’s the DL on banishing unwanted body hair once and for all.
Unwanted hair can crop up anywhere on your body, whether it’s in between the brows or the hard-to-reach back. Other times, what you might classify as “excess” signals normal, healthy hair growth — and you’re just not a fan. That’s okay, too.
Some people have hirsutism, though, which is characterized by extreme hair growth on the face or bod.
The main causes of hirsutism remain unknown, but some may come as a result of:
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- pituitary gland, adrenal gland or thyroid disorders
- ovary tumors (which can make extra androgens)
- extreme insulin resistance
- hormone changes due to menopause
- use of anabolic steroids or corticosteroids
- use of meds to treat endometriosis
- certain other medications
When women have hirsutism, it often emerges in areas where men typically have a lot of hair but most women don’t, including:
- the upper lip
Hirsutism-affected hair also tends to be thick, dark, and often tough to get rid of through traditional methods.
In most cases, excess hair growth comes down to genes — meaning you might have your parents’ thick, luscious locks to thank for your full head (or body) full of hair.
If skimming hair off the surface of your leg, upper lip, or back just isn’t cutting it (literally), you may want to look into longer-term solutions.
The following options target the follicle’s root, which leads to deeper, longer-lasting change. While not even options marketed as “permanent” will necessarily last a lifetime, they *will* keep hair away a lot longer than your traditional shave.
Can shortwave radio frequencies really root out unwanted hair for good? According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), the answer is yes.
How long it lasts: The ADA also classifies electrolysis as a permanent hair removal solution. Keep in mind that it may take several treatments to get lasting results, though.
How it works: Electrolysis involves placing fine needles directly into your follicles and using shortwave radio frequencies to destroy the hair.
How to get it: The procedure should be done by a board certified dermatologist or board certified electrologist. Most people will need multiple follow-up appointments every 1–2 weeks.
How much it costs: $35–$100 per session for an average of 8–12 sessions.
Who should get it and where: Electrolysis works anywhere on the body for most hair and skin types. It also works on light, fine hair, which lasers can’t typically remove. It’s not recommended during pregnancy.
Potential side effects: The most common side effects post-op include pain, redness, and skin irritation. Rare but serious potential complications include scarring, infection, or keloids (scar tissue overgrowth).
2. Laser hair removal
Laser hair removal is another long-term hair removal option that uses lasers to target the hair follicle, similar to electrolysis.
How long it lasts: According to the AAD, laser hair removal is a permanent solution. (Think like Botox permanent, though.) Most of the time, it lasts for several months. Sometimes, it can last for years. So, technically, don’t count on it for your forever, ever solution.
How it works: High-heat lasers get to work attacking hair follicles to prevent new hair from growing.
How to get it: Like electrolysis, laser hair removal requires several sessions for optimal results. You may need about 4–8 treatments about 4–8 weeks apart.
How much it costs: An average of about $250 a session (for an average of 4–6 treatments).
Who should get it and where: Laser hair removal can be done anywhere on your bod, except the eye area. It tends to work best on thicker, darker hair. According to the ADA, it doesn’t work on blonde, white, gray, or red hair. If you’re bronzed up from the sun, you’ll need to wait for your tan to fade before getting the treatment. You shouldn’t get it when pregnant.
Potential side effects: Lots of peeps experience redness and skin irritation, but this typically fades away within hours. It may also cause temporary pigment changes, especially in darker skin tones. Rare side effects include blistering and scarring.
3. Prescription creams
OK, prescription creams aren’t technically permanent, but they will last you longer than shaving, tweezing, waxing, or depilatory creams — without too much effort.
The most popular option is specially formulated for facial hair, though, so talk with your doc about your options.
How long it lasts: A popular prescription hair removal brand, eflornithine (Vaniqa), lasts up to 8 weeks.
How it works: You apply eflornithine 2x a day for a month to see results. It works by inhibiting the production of enzymes that stimulate hair growth.
How to get it: Since these are prescription, you’ll need to talk with a dermatologist.
How much it costs: 1 month of treatment will cost you about $50.
Who should get it and where: Eflornithine is only formulated for facial hair and tends to work best for women.
Potential side effects: Some people experience burning, rashes, and acne breakouts due to follicle impaction.
4. Chemical depilation
Nope, chemical depilation isn’t technically permanent, either — but it’s the next best thing we have so far. And since it’s an over-the-counter (OTC) treatment, there’s no appointment required.
Remember those ”who wears short shorts” commercials? Yeah, Nair is still v. much a thing. This stuff has been around for a minute, but it’s still a tried-and-true option.
How long it lasts: Depilation doesn’t penetrate the hair follicle, which means results will prob only last for a couple weeks. Still, it’s longer-lasting than shaving and doesn’t take long to repeat.
How it works: Apply some OTC gel or cream (Nair, Veet, Gigi, BikiniZone — you name it) on your skin, wait a bit, and wipe away. The chemicals in the cream cause the hair to fall out by weakening keratin in your hair, an essential protein.
How to get it: Pick some up at your local drugstore or online.
How much it costs: Typically $10–$30 a bottle.
Who should get it and where: Depilatories can work anywhere from your chin to your calves — just make sure you use as directed. Some are specially formulated for your face, while others are meant for the pubic area.
Potential side effects: Chemical burns, rashes and blisters may occur. Since these creams can be loaded with some pretty potent chemicals, it’s smart to do a patch test on a small area of your skin before you try a bigger area.
5. Professional tweezing and waxing
When done by a certified pro, tweezing and waxing can last up to 2 months. So, at the very least, it’s better than that 5 o’clock shadow.
How long it lasts: When hair is removed this way, it’s pulled directly out of the root. Depending on how fast your hair grows, results may last from 2 to 8 weeks.
How it works: The hair is stripped directly from the root. (And many have cried out during waxing to prove it.)
How to get it: Visit a certified aesthetician. (Pro tip: Don’t have your BFF try to do it for you in the bathtub.)
How much it costs: Depending on the area, it may cost anywhere from $15 (let’s say your armpits) to over $100 (for a Brazilian).
Who should get it and where: Tweezing can be done anywhere on the bod, but waxing shouldn’t be done on the ears, nipples, or eyelashes. Wax shouldn’t go over varicose veins, moles, warts, or sunburned or chapped skin, either.
Potential side effects: Mild rashes and irritation may occur from either waxing or tweezing, but these are usually temporary.
Though the term “natural” is relative these days, you may want to opt for a hair removal technique that doesn’t involve harsh chemicals (like depilatories), lasers, or electric currents.
Though these options aren’t permanent, many are more effective than shaving. They’re also A+ options for those with sensitive skin.
- Sugaring. Sugaring is kind of like waxing, but involves a sugar-based paste and extracting hair with the grain, which is said to be less painful and more effective. It’s kind of a big deal these days, and maybe for good reason.
- Honey instead of wax. If traditional hair removal wax irritates your skin, honey can be a suitable alternative. You may want to visit a natural hair bar to try it yourself.
- Spearmint tea. Some women with PCOS or hirsutism swear by drinking mint tea twice a day to reduce excess hair growth. There’s not a ton of research on this so far, but studies from 2010 and 2007 demonstrated that regular mint tea intake reduced androgen levels (including testosterone) in women with PCOS/hirsutism.
- Dermaplaning. Dermaplaning is kind of like shaving, only way more precise and with a super sharp blade that can leave skin *extra* smooth. Since the blade’s so sharp, visiting a licensed aesthetician is recommended, but you can also pick up dermaplaning tools (including electric ones) at Sephora and other beauty outlets.
- Epilators. Epilators are electronic devices with a rotating tweezer head. Essentially, it plucks out a bunch of hair from your bod at once. (Why yes, it does hurt.)
- Threading. Threading involves pulling hair from the follicle with a cotton thread. It tends to be ideal for sensitive skin and is perfect for areas like the brows.
DIY is great sometimes — other times, it’s a recipe for a rashy face or scalded leg. Most of the time, it’s best to visit a pro for treatments like laser hair removal, electrolysis, and waxing.
But hey, we’re not your mom. If you *do* decide to go for an at-home waxing or laser hair removal kit, just be sure to scope out reviews, take your time, and follow instructions to a T. If you have any allergic reactions, head to the doc, stat.
Involving medical expertise
If your hair keeps growing back super-fast despite trying various hair removal treatments, it may be time to visit your doc. Since excess hair growth can indicate an underlying condition like PCOS or hyperthyroidism, it’s a good idea to get a complete assessment.
It’s possible your doc may prescribe any of the following to address your condition:
- birth control pills, which can reduce androgen production (including testosterone)
- anti-androgen meds like Proscar (finasteride) or Aldactone (spironolactone)
While body hair is totally normal, it can get a little annoying, and removing it is a choice. Options like electrolysis, laser hair removal, and prescription creams may remove hair for months to years, but they don’t technically last a lifetime.
Since excessive hair growth can signal underlying health conditions, talk with your doc about what’s right for you. Otherwise, take care with any DIY methods for removing any unwanted hair.