Everyone has body hair, but depending on the time of year or your personal preferences, you may want to remove some of it.
Contrary to many marketing claims, no hair removal treatment can get rid of hair permanently. However, there are a variety of ways to get rid of hair for weeks, months, or longer periods of time.
In this article, we break down the most common hair removal techniques, along with the benefits, side effects, and effectiveness of each one.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, body hair, on average, grows to its full length in about a month. Male hair also tends to grow faster than female hair. The hair on your head can grow about six inches in a year.
Certain factors can affect the rate of hair growth, including nutrition, medications, and genetics. The rate of growth may slow down as you get older.
Hair growth is a complex process that starts deep in the hair follicle. Hair is dependent on blood to feed it as it makes its way to the skin’s surface. The sebaceous (oil) glands also play a role by keeping the hair lubricated and healthy.
Shaving simply gets rid of hair at the surface, which is why it grows back so quickly. Tweezing removes the hair as well as its root, which helps slow down regrowth. But even with tweezing, the hair will likely grow back in a couple of weeks.
If you’re looking for longer-term hair removal solutions, it may be time to consider other hair removal techniques. The following methods are ranked by their ability to remove hair for the longest amount of time.
Electrolysis involves the use of shortwave radio frequencies distributed through fine needles placed directly into your hair follicles. The intention is to destroy the hair follicle so that it doesn’t stimulate new hair growth. This procedure needs to be done by a dermatologist or a certified electrologist.
Unlike other hair removal options, electrolysis is considered a permanent solution by the Food and Drug Administration. However, for best results, you will need multiple follow-up appointments.
Most people need follow-up sessions every week or two. Depending on the length of the session, the cost is typically around $35 to $100 per session.
Electrolysis can be done anywhere on the body, and works for most skin types. The most common side effect is pain and redness from skin irritation. Rare but serious side effects include scarring and infection from the needles, as well as keloids (an overgrowth of scar tissue).
Laser hair removal
Laser hair removal is another longer-term hair removal option. Like electrolysis, this treatment targets the hair follicle. It works by damaging the follicle with high-heat lasers to stop new hair from growing.
According to the Mayo Clinic, laser hair removal can be done anywhere on the body, with the exception of the eye area. The treatment tends to work best in people with light skin tones who have dark hair.
Like electrolysis, laser hair removal requires multiple sessions for best results. Depending on the area of hair removal, you may need about four to six treatments spaced four to eight weeks apart. It can cost up to $250 a session.
In most cases, hair removal lasts several months, and in some cases it might last for years. When hair grows back, it’s often finer and lighter in color. However, laser hair removal doesn’t guarantee permanent hair removal.
The most common side effect is skin irritation and redness, but this usually goes away after a few hours. This treatment can also cause temporary pigment changes, especially with darker skin tones. More serious side effects include blistering and scarring, but this is rare.
If you don’t like the idea or the cost of electrolysis or laser hair removal, you may want to talk to your dermatologist about prescription creams.
One type in particular is called eflornithine (Vaniqa), which you apply twice a day for one month. It works by inhibiting the production of enzymes that stimulate hair growth.
According to a study on this treatment, the results can last up to eight weeks, after which you can start the process over again. A month’s treatment costs about $50.
Eflornithine works only for facial hair, and is better suited to women. Some side effects may include burning, rashes, and acne breakouts from follicle disruption.
Professional tweezing and waxing
An option for smaller areas of your body is professional tweezing and waxing done by a certified aesthetician. 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 two to eight weeks.
This is a less expensive option than laser hair removal or electrolysis, but you may need to repeat the treatment more often.
While tweezing can be done on any area of the body, waxing shouldn’t be done around the genitals, nipples, ears, or eyelashes. You should also avoid applying wax over varicose veins, moles, or warts, or on skin that’s chapped or sunburned.
The most common side effects of both professional tweezing and waxing include mild rashes and irritation, but this is usually temporary.
This treatment consists of an over-the-counter gel or cream that you put on your skin. It works by weakening a protein in your hair called keratin. This causes the hair to fall out and be easily wiped away.
Depilation doesn’t target the hair follicle, so the results may only last for about two weeks. However, it’s an inexpensive option that you can do at home.
Make sure you use the right type of cream for the area where you want to remove hair. Some creams are formulated for the face, and others for the body or pubic area.
It’s a good idea to do a patch test on a small part of your skin before using chemical depilation on a larger area of your body. Side effects of this treatment can include chemical burns, rashes, and blisters.
Although natural solutions aren’t permanent, they may help remove hair or limit hair growth. Some options include:
If your hair continues to regrow very fast despite trying different hair removal treatments, make an appointment to see your doctor. It could be a symptom of an underlying condition, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or hyperthyroidism.
Ingrown hairs are possible with any type of hair removal. In some cases, it can lead to an infection. Follow up with your doctor if you have widespread ingrown hairs or if they’ve become infected or turned into cysts.
It’s completely normal to have body hair and removing it is optional. Take your time to think about whether you want to remove your body hair and for how long.
Despite the many claims, there are no 100 percent permanent hair removal solutions. Still, there are long-term hair removal solutions and ways to limit hair regrowth. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist about the best options for you.