The only things more miserable than repeatedly having to shave unwanted hairs on a daily or weekly basis are the inevitable nicks and scratches that accompany the dreaded "beauty" routine.
Since the 1920s, hair removal methods, from dangerous X-rays to electric tweezers, have offered much frustration with few results. Thankfully, modern technology has afforded a handful of solutions, shaving aside, with a predictable range of results.
After pain and discomfort, cost is often a primary deterrent for professional hair removal. However, compare the hassle of shaving or using over-the-counter products on an ongoing basis. Biting the bullet and spending several months having unwanted hairs permanently destroyed might be a viable option.
Costs for any hair removal technique vary based on amount of hair and body part from which it is being removed.
Upper lip, $5-$10
Bikini, $20 for "traditional" to $50-plus for a Brazilian
Legs, $65 and up
Considered the most permanent, electrolysis costs between $45 and $120 per hour, with various body areas taking a specific amount of time to treat. Upper lips take the least amount of time and the bikini area takes the most.
Costs for laser depend on the area being treated, but generally average around $150 to $250 for 15 to 20-minute sessions that can take up to a year. Specific areas can cost between a few hundred dollars to just over $1,000. Most facilities offer "package deals," for example, charging $1,500 for a year-long treatment to lower legs.
While the very nature of hair removal is far from a pain-free concept, a handful of options offer longer hair-free time and even some near permanent solutions. Most common after basic shaving, the tweezing-and-waxing combination is the least expensive of professional hair removal techniques.
Usually done in a salon or spa, professional waxing involves applying a warm to hot wax-like substance; some salons use wax, some use an alternative covering with strips of soft, muslin-like material. After briefly waiting, the material is quickly yanked away to remove unwanted hairs.
While skin is still "tingling," a pair of tweezers and a dab with a cold compress finishes the job.
"Waxing is basically the cheaper alternative to hair removal," says Image Makers technician Tami Wold. "It lasts longer than shaving (about a month) and it's less painful than electrolysis, but it's not a permanent method of hair removal."
Safety-wise, the majority of the body can withstand waxing, except eyelids! As an added bonus, regular waxing can impact hair follicles enough that hairs grow back thinner and softer.
While home waxing kits offer bargain-priced hair removal, results vary. Besides, a licensed professional is up-to-date on modern techniques and pain management.
Considered permanent, and around in some fashion or another for the past century, electrolysis utilizes a hair-thin metal probe slid into a hair follicle to deliver a small dose of electricity which kills the hair follicle, resulting in minimal to no grow-back. However, electrolysis is often noted for being the more painful method of hair removal.
The newest technology, laser hair removal, uses light at a specified wavelength, delivered from a hand piece into the skin where it targets the hair follicle. One requirement for laser — hair being removed must be darker than surrounding skin. Individuals who spend time in tanning booths, for example, would not get optimal results.
"Laser is obviously the most expensive up front," says Medford doctor Julie King of Meridian MediSpa. "But if you look at all the other products you purchase over your lifetime, it really pays off if you want something where you don't have to shave again."
With electrolysis and laser, results depend much on hair texture and color. While electrolysis is more painful "during" and takes up to a half dozen treatments per area, sensitivity to treated areas is more prevalent with laser in the days following treatment.
For laser, expect to need between 5 to 12 up-front treatments, followed by routine "maintenance" sessions. Based on hair growth cycles, hair follicles must be destroyed at a specific point of growth. After initial treatments, follicles not growing at the time of treatment may sprout up.
Choosing a technique for hair removal, whichever body area, is purely a matter of preference.
"Out of all the options out there, obviously everybody's going to have a different desire, and different results, but if you don't want to shave and use all those over-the-counter products, considering a more permanent method of hair removal is kind of the latest-greatest thing to do," King says.
"And they're constantly coming up with newer, better ways to target the hair follicles and make them easier to get rid of in unwanted places."