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What Are the Different Methods of Cosmetic Hair Removal?

By Drue Tibbits
Updated: May 17, 2024

There are several methods of removing hair for cosmetic purposes. Some methods, such as shaving and depilatory creams, are inexpensive and can be performed at home. Other cosmetic hair removal methods, such as electrolysis, laser hair removal and intense pulsed light hair removal, are expensive and must be performed by a dermatologist. In many cases, a combination of hair removal methods can be used to remove or reduce unsightly or unwanted hair.

Shaving and depilatory creams are both methods of cosmetic hair removal that can be performed at home. Both methods remove hair at or just below the surface of the skin. They are both inexpensive methods that can be done quickly, but they will need to be repeated often. Shaving and depilatory creams can remove hair from large areas, but these methods can be irritating to the skin and might result in ingrown hairs.

Waxing is a cosmetic hair removal method that can be performed at home or in a salon. Softened wax is spread over the hair and left to cool and harden. The wax is then pulled off, removing hair that is trapped in the wax. This method removes the hair from the roots and is repeated less often than shaving or depilatory creams. Waxing can be a painful procedure, although the pain lessens with successive waxings, because the hair follicles are weakened.

Electrolysis can permanently remove unwanted hair. A tiny probe with an electrical current is inserted into a hair follicle. The electrical current destroys the hair follicle, eliminating the hair and preventing regrowth. This method is performed by a trained technician and requires several sessions.

Laser hair removal uses a concentrated beam of light to vaporize hair and weaken hair follicles. This cosmetic hair removal method is effective only on hairs that are in the growing phase. The treatment is performed by a dermatologist and requires several treatments to achieve the desired results. Laser hair removal involves risks such as infection, scarring and unexpected results.

Intense pulsed light hair removal uses light tuned to the specific colored hair, vaporizing the hair with minimal irritation to surrounding skin. This method is more effective than laser hair removal for people who have dark hair and dark skin. It also is more effective than lasers in removing large areas of hair. The treatment requires several sessions and must be performed by a dermatologist. Intense pulsed light hair removal involves many of the same risks as laser hair removal.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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