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Fuzz-busting

Ever since Cleopatra’s day, some women have been fighting Mother Nature in pursuit of smooth, baby-soft, hair-free skin. If you’re happy with your body hair, lucky you. In Sikh circles, for instance, hair is regarded as a sacred gift, and depilation qualifies as a sin.

Look up and down the sun-loungers on any Mediterranean beach and you’ll see rows of furry armpits, aimed nonchalantly at the sun. Even Madonna apparently goes through phases of leaving her armpits fuzzy. But if you prefer smoother, fuzz-free skin, you’ll find answers here.

 

SHAVING

Where  At home

Best for  Legs and underarms

Pros  Quick, cheap (unless you use an electric razor), easily portable

Cons  Occasional nicks, stubble, ingrown hairs, razor burn (on sensitive skins)

Pain factor  Zero, unless you cut yourself

Growth factor You’ll have to do it daily if you want totally smooth skin

TIPS  Wait two to three minutes after getting into the shower or bath before shaving, to soften hairs. Apply steady, light pressure and change the blade every five to six shaves. Use water or oil rather than soap, which leaves skin unpleasantly dry and taut.

 

DEPILATORIES

Where  At home

Best for  Legs, underarm, bikini area, facial hair (with specifically targeted products only)

Pros  Inexpensive, long-lasting, no stubble; after you’ve used depilatories for a few months, hair grows back more slowly and sparsely

Cons  Messy, sometimes smelly, time-consuming – usually takes ten minutes or more

Pain factor  None

Growth factor  Between five to 20 days, depending on re-growth rate (but two weeks is about average)

TIPS  Always do a patch test first to make sure your skin isn’t sensitive to the product; rinse off with cold water and avoid sunscreen, body lotions or self-tanners for at least two hours to prevent irritation.

 

BLEACHING

Where  At home/in a salon

Best for  Facial hair, dark hair on forearms, or shins if you’re lucky enough never to have been seduced by shaving or other ways of hair removal!

Pros  No stubble or ingrown hairs

Cons  Time-consuming, messy, impractical for large areas

Pain factor  None – unless you have sensitive skin, or make the mistake of leaving the bleach on for too long

Growth factor  Usually needs re-bleaching after two to four weeks

TIPS  Always do a patch test first, and carefully time application.

 

WAXING (hot or cold)

Where  At home/in a salon

Best for  Legs, bikini area, upper lip, underarms

Pros  Stubble-free, long-lasting, hair becomes finer with repeated use

Cons  Expensive, messy, time-consuming – and painful! And you have to wait until there’s a quarter to half an inch re-growth

Pain factor  Can be off the top of the pain-o-meter, depending on how high your threshold is (and the skill of the beautician)

Growth factor  Fine hairs reappear in around two weeks; thicker growth in four to six weeks

TIPS  Hold skin taut before the wax is pulled (you can also do this in a salon, clapping your palm on the area immediately to soothe); allow a few days between waxing and sun exposure, as newly exposed areas are more sensitive; if hair is long, trim it with scissors so waxing is faster and gentler. One expert we found told us to breathe in, then, on the out-breath, she pulled. Result: no pain at all.

 

ELECTROLYSIS

Where  Salon only

Best for  Small areas (upper lip, brows, chin, nipples)

Pros  Almost the only (almost) permanent method of hair removal

Cons  Expensive and time-consuming as only a few follicles can be treated per session – and it hurts

Pain factor  High – especially where skin is thin

Growth factor  Some hairs need a few sessions before they disappear forever

 

GALVANIC TWEEZER HAIR REMOVAL

Where  Salon only

Best for  Face, arms, bikini area (like electrolysis)

Pros Considered by some to be a more permanent hair removal system as the root is destroyed (by a current, transmitted from the machine, which follows a gel electrode solution down to the follicle)

Cons  Time-consuming and you have to make regular appointments because hair can only be ‘zapped’ at a precise time in its growth cycle; if you miss appointments, some of the hairs will be too late in their cycle to be removed, and you’ll have to wait till the process repeats itself for the therapist to have another go

Growth factor  Provided a hair is removed at the right time in the growth cycle, there will be no regrowth

 

LASER HAIR REMOVAL  

 

Where At a reputable and dedicated cosmetic surgery clinic with a trained physician

Best for Legs and bikini line.  Previously only dark hair could be lasered but advances mean that any colour hair can now be removed.

Pros No lasers will totally and permanently remove all hair, but the optimum methods will achieve up to 70 or 80 per cent in a lot of patients, which can be supported with a prescription cream called Vaniqa.  Also useful for ingrowing hair.

Cons Very occasionally, hair growth may be stimulated instead of reduced.  This can usually be overcome by switching to a different laser system (another big argument for going to a properly trained and experienced practitioner, rather than a beauty therapist).

Pain factor May cause twinges of discomfort like a rubber band snapping against your skin

Growth factor As above: in the best case scenario the results are virtually permanent, in the worst the hair grows back

TIPS  Look for clinics that use the cooling method, which helps protect tanned, Asian or black skin from losing pigment.

 

SUGARING

Where  At home/in a salon

This 2,000-year-old Middle Eastern technique is similar to waxing, but because the paste sticks to the hair, rather than the skin, users say it’s a less painful and more effective method of removal. Regrowth time is the same as for waxing.

 

TIPS FROM THE TOP

  • Actress Heather Locklear says: ‘I can’t live without waxing. I do it myself. Actually, I only wax my bikini area. I do it just for fun! You have to let the hairs grow to a certain length, and after you get those, two days later there are other ones that have grown long enough. You have to keep doing it until it evens out.’
  • At the Aida Thibiant salon in Beverly Hills, clients include supermodel Rachel Hunter, they teach women to avoid ingrowing hairs by gently massaging the area daily with a loofah or flannel, to keep pores open and prevent build-up of cellular debris.
  • Newly waxed skin is sensitive, but applying lotion straight away, even though it feels soothing, can block pores and encourage ingrowing hairs. Alternatively, shake on baby powder instead.
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