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Health Risks of Hair Removal Methods

Threading, Sugaring, and Waxing: Health Risks of Hair Removal

Women go through all kinds of hoops when it comes to beauty, especially in the quest for smooth hairless skin. From waxing to sugaring, threading, and beyond, check out the health risks involved when it comes to common hair removal techniques.

Shaving — Probably the most common way to remove hair since it's fast, cheap, and easy to do yourself. With shaving, there is a risk for nicks, ingrown hairs, and the dreaded razor burn. If you forget to change out the blades, dull or rusty metal may cause irritation or infection. Shaving can also cause folliculitis, an infection in the hair follicle usually caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus (staph) or a fungus.

Waxing — A layer of wax is applied to your skin, and a strip of fabric is placed on top. Once the wax is dry, it adheres to the hairs; pulling the strips off of the skin pulls the hairs from the root. Depending on the location of your body, waxing can be extremely painful; it hurts to have your hair pulled from the root, and the wax also adheres to your skin, taking skin cells with it as it's removed. Waxing can cause irritation and inflammation, especially if you have a reaction to the chemicals in the wax, and, if the wax used is too hot, there's also a risk of burning the skin. If your skin is not held taut when pulling the wax strips off, bruising may occur. Some people also suffer from postwax breakouts or scarring if they have sensitive skin. Once the hairs begin to grow back, you may find painful raised bumps (ingrown hairs), especially under your arms or your bikini area since the hairs tend to be coarse and curly. Waxing should be avoided if you are using Retin-A, Accutane, or antibiotics. These medications make the skin thin, which means more than hair will come off during a waxing service. If you are using Renova or alphy hydroxy, check with your aesthetician before scheduling an appointment.

Read on to hear about sugaring, depilatories, threading, and more.

Sugaring — This method is similar to waxing, but a cold or lukewarm paste of sugar, water, and lemon juice is applied to the skin rather than wax. Some prefer sugaring over waxing because the paste sticks to the hair, not to the skin, which causes less redness, pain, and inflammation. Since the mixture is made of natural ingredients, there's less irritation and it washes off easily. If your skin isn't held tightly when pulling off the strips, it could result in bruising. Just like waxing, sugaring can lead to painful or infected ingrown hairs.

Depilatories — If you're scared waxing will hurt but don't want to shave every day to remove hair, using a depilatory such as Nair is an option. A gel or cream is applied to your skin, which dissolves the hair so it breaks off and can be easily wiped away. The chemicals in a depilatory may irritate the skin causing burning, redness, inflammation, blisters, peeling, or a rash, especially if the cream is left on too long. Make sure to follow directions precisely when using a depilatory.

Threading — Used mostly on the face, a thin piece of thread is twisted and rolled along your skin's surface, entwining the hairs in the thread and quickly lifting them from the root. There is no use of harmful products, just thread, so it's a natural way to get rid of unwanted hair. And unlike waxing or using depilatories, the skin is not at risk for peeling or burning. Threading is a quick process, but it's not pain-free — think of it like tweezing. Slight redness or puffiness can occur afterward, but it quickly subsides. Just like with waxing or sugaring, ingrown hairs are a possible side effect.

Epilators — These electronic devices remove hair by yanking multiple hairs from the root at one time. This is a pretty harsh method or hair removal, so it shouldn't be used on sensitive areas such as your face. Since the hairs are plucked at the root, it's painful and can lead to redness, irritation, or rashes. As the hairs grow back, you may experience ingrown hairs. Epilators may end up breaking hairs at the skin's surface instead of pulling them from the root, so you might have to pair this hair removal with another method, which could result in even more skin irritation.

Lasers — This permanent hair removal technique damages your hair follicle with heat, inhibiting future hair growth. It takes several treatments to remove all the hair from an area, and you may experience irritation or scabbing. Some people also notice darkening or lightening of their skin. It's rare, but laser hair removal could result in blistering, scarring, or other changes in the texture of your skin. This method is also super pricey, but the payoff is an almost permanent reduction in hair.

Electrolysis — The device used in electrolysis places a thin probe inside the hair follicle and destroys it with a shortwave radio frequency. This method is time-consuming, expensive, and there's a risk of infection if the needle used isn't sterile, but many describe the procedure as not being too painful. If the person doing the procedure isn't skilled, expect scarring of the skin. People looking for permanent hair removal often seek out electrolysis.

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