I have never shaved my legs before, but the soft, curly red hair that prompted my family to start calling me hobbit-legs, helped me want to shave. So I decided to learn about the different methods of hair removal.
I planned to first compare the various methods based on pain, cost, and effectiveness (how long the hair stayed gone). Then, I would research each independently, and finally, I would speak to the people who do the different procedures at salons and clinics.
However, I was so surprised by the interest that my friends showed in the article that I decided to actually try each of the methods.
Hair Removal Options
I decided to try seven different methods:
- Cold wax at home
- Warm wax at home
- Hot wax at a salon
- Laser hair reduction
- Hair removal cream (such as Nair)
I figured this would give me a first-hand experience of the pain and cost, as well as allow me to compare how long it took for hair removed with each method to grow back.
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To start my process, I called a salon, a laser treatment facility, and an electrologist. I waited about a day after leaving a message and received no response. Deciding it must have been the words I used in the message, I left a second message at each place.
I spoke to someone at a laser treatment place and someone at a salon, left my phone number and then waited about a week for a return call, but I never received one. Not one person called me back, which made me a little sad. I may be a teenager, but can't they take me seriously?
Disappointed, I went through the yellow pages again, and found other places to call – including the Berman Skin Institute on Welch Road that specializes in laser hair reduction; Cindy Greene, an electrologist; and another waxing place. I left a message at each office.
The first to call me back was Cindy Greene, and I set up an appointment with her for the upcoming Friday afternoon. The next to call me back was the Berman Skin Institute. I also set up a time to do a consult with them.
The salon also called me back. However, they would not do the section of my leg reserved for the hot salon wax because they only treated whole legs. Two days later, we went to Longs and bought cold wax strips, hot wax, Nair, shaving cream, and a razor (my mom loves these experiments).
I got to the Berman Skin Institute at 10:15 a.m. and was given some paperwork to fill out. After, I was taken to a room with a round table. I spoke with a nurse named Annabel and asked her some questions about laser hair reduction.
She said that it was called reduction because the laser targets the dark pigments found in hair follicles, but doesn't completely get rid of it. Even if the majority of the hair doesn't come back, some new hair does grow, and so at least five treatments are necessary.
She said that she didn't recommend laser hair reduction for anyone under 16; however, they had done the treatment on 14- and 15-year-olds teens before. Annabel also said that when you come in for laser treatments, you should have shaved the area you are treating because otherwise, the hair burns and could damage the skin.
They use two lasers: one for people with lighter skin and one for people with darker skin. Because the laser can hurt, they use a cream that numbs the skin. Even so, there can still be burning and possibly blistering. She treated a small portion of my leg (near my ankle). It felt a little like a rubber band was snapping against my skin every once in a while, it was not that painful overall.
Next, I went to the electrologist's office, but I had to reschedule for another day, which I did. My mom and I stopped by another salon called NTT Skin (on Cambridge Avenue), and the lady there, Nellie, did a hot wax strip on my leg. It didn't really hurt much, but I was shocked when she pulled the wax off because I didn't expect it.
When I got home, my mom, little sister and I completed the different at-home processes to remove the hair on my legs. First we did the cold wax strips, which made me jump with every strip causing my little sister to laugh gleefully each time.
The strips also missed some hairs, so we had to redo several spots. It was pretty cheap, about $7, but you would need about 12 boxes to do both of your legs completely. Also, in the days that followed, I had ingrown hairs on this section of my leg. Ingrown hairs are little zit-like bumps that hurt.
The Nair is applied as foam from the can. I left the foam on my leg for about ten minutes and then wiped it off with a washcloth. The process is a little stinky, but effective. My leg was hairless. All of the hair had been removed from it, leaving the leg clean and smooth. Nair was painless, fairly easy to use, and inexpensive.
Then I shaved a part of my leg. Because my leg hair was long, the process took a long time. But when I finished, my legs were smooth. Because I used shaving cream and was careful, I didn't cut my leg or get razor burn.
Razors and shaving cream can be either cheap or expensive, depending on what brand you use and where you purchase the items. In addition, shaving doesn't last long, a few days at most, so if you want your legs to be smooth all the time, you would have to shave every day.
The at-home hot wax really hurt when I peeled it off, and a lot of the wax was left over. There was a lot of hair left behind and my legs were sticky. The wax was tough to get off and the process was a little painful. After we waxed my leg with the hot wax, it was red and hurt a lot. There were also a lot of red bumps that annoyed me.
The kit was about $10 and would have done both of my lower legs. Waxing is supposed to last a long time, so it might be worth it, but I couldn't do it again because it really hurt. Also, in the places where my skin rubbed against other skin, I got ingrown hairs.
Finally, I went to Cindy Greene, an electrologist, and had roughly a circular inch on my leg done with two different methods: thermolysis and blend.
Thermolysis (short wave), is used on fine or blonde hair. Blend, which uses a combination of two currents and requires the person to be grounded or holding onto something, is good for dark, course body hair.
There is a third method, multineedle, which is an older method that is no longer common. Blend is a chemical reaction that destroys the hair and Thermolysis is a heat reaction that does the same.
The number of treatments you have to get depends on how long your session is, how big the area being treated is, and many other variables. Also, the length of time in between treatments varies. If you are doing the same area, you might need to stick to weekly treatments, but if you are doing different areas, you can have daily treatments.
Some of the most common areas done with electrolysis include the upper lip, chin, chest, stomach, and bikini line. Cindy said that most of her patients are women, although men are beginning to use her services more frequently.
A topical anesthetic cream can be used to reduce the pain. She noted that the upper lip is the most common area the cream is used. Electrolysis lasts forever, so you never have to come back for retreatment for a specific hair follicle.
However, due to the stages of growth that hair goes through, there may be new hair that begins to grow after you have had a specific area treated. Also, a drawback to electrolysis is that after you have the area done, you have to avoid direct sunlight on that area for about two days. A person must be at least 14 years of age to receive electrolysis treatments.
When I had the electrolysis, it hurt like there was heat under my skin and there were painless red bumps for a little while afterwards.
Prices for sessions vary depending on the area and the electrologist, but Cindy Greene's prices are:
15 minutes = $48
30 minutes = $60
45 minutes = $70
1 hour = $80
If you use an electrologist, he or she should be California licensed and have a framed certificate on the wall. In addition, he or she should use disposable probes. Whether or not the probes are gold does matter unless you are allergic or have a special preference.
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Monitoring Hair Regrowth
Day 1 – Shaving and Nair have a small amount of stubble, although it is barely noticeable. The waxing sections are still red, but hair free. The laser reduction and electrolysis sections show no change.
Day 2 – Shaving and Nair have more stubble. No hair in waxing sections, although I have little ingrown hairs in the at-home sections. No change in the laser hair reduction or electrolysis sections.
Day 3 – Nair and shaving have light-colored stubble. No new hair in waxing area, but bumps continue. No change in laser or electrolysis sections.
Day 4 – There is visible hair in the Nair and shaving sections. The hair missed by the wax that I did at home is making it hard to judge if there is new hair, but I have concluded that there is no new hair growth yet.
Day 5 – There is now stubble where I did the at-home cold wax on my leg. The Nair and shaving sections have longer hair that is not clearly visible unless looked at very closely. Neither hot wax area has stubble or any hair growth yet.
Day 6 – Shaving and Nair hair still growing, along with cold wax. Laser and hot wax (at-home and salon) have no changes that I can see yet.
Day 7 – There is no hair or markings in my laser, electrolysis and hot wax sections. Nair, cold wax, and shaving are all growing hair as usual.
Day 15 – Hair is growing back in all of the sections except for the electrolysis area. There is also some new hair growth in the laser area but hair has been reduced overall.
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I have summarized what I learned in the following charts and I hope that the information in Charts 1 and 2 will help you make a decision that is right for you.
Nair, shaving, and laser were the least painful and the least expensive per treatment. However, Nair and shaving were also the least effective. The most effective methods are electrolysis and laser, followed by hot wax done at a salon.
In order to compare the cost more realistically, since some methods are permanent and some are not, I estimated the cost for 35 years using the per treatment cost and figuring out how often most people would have to use each method, assuming they start shaving at about age 15 and slow down at about age 50, because hair decreases over time.
Chart 2 may be surprising because laser hair reduction is actually one of the most inexpensive methods along with shaving and Nair. Electrolysis could not be included in this estimate because the electrologist said the cost was just too individual for her to make an estimate.
Good luck and happy hair reduction!
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