Should you shave your face and other hair removal questions, answered

Hair removal is a necessary evil that we have come to terms with. You may argue that society has conditioned us to believe that hairless skin is beautiful and body hair should be celebrated. All that’s good and pure and you’re a gem of a human being who deserves a special place in the court of Beyoncé, but there are plenty of reasons to get rid of unwanted hair other than vanity. Whether you’re doing it to maintain hygiene or just to survive an Indian summer, it’s important to know how best to attempt it.

Like any beauty treatment, this comes with its own set of myths and ominous warnings of rough skin and rougher hair growing back. Allow us to help you sort myth from fact.

Hair removal by: waxing

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Even though it’s the most preferred method in India, waxing can be a daunting thought for people with extra-sensitive skin. Dermatologist Kiran Lohia of Lumiere Dermatalogy wants you to know that despite the slight discomfort, waxing is actually good for you. It has no real side effects and does not cause any long-term damage to skin.

On the flip side, waxing your face can cause acne. “People who wax their faces regularly tend to get break out more frequently,” says Dr Lohia. It can also cause ingrown hairs and can worsen or precipitate Keratosis Pilaris (KP), a condition that causes rough patches and acne-like bumps across the skin. Waxing is also operator dependent; an inexperienced operator can cause burns or may pull the hair in the wrong direction causing ingrowth.

Hair removal by: shaving

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Shaving is a good way to remove hair if you’re in a hurry. It’s safer and gentler than waxing and since you’re not pulling hair from the roots, the likelihood of ingrown hairs is lowered. The common misconception that shaving causes hair to grow back thicker and darker prevents most people from picking up a razor. “The direction in which you’re shaving is very important,” Lohia says, “Your hair is usually pointed. When you shave it at a wrong angle, it becomes blunt and starts to look coarser.” The right way to do it is to shave in the direction of hair growth.

Another benefit of shaving is that it helps in exfoliating the skin better than any scrub. This is why Dermaplaning, or shaving facial hair, has become a huge trend lately. Apparently Marylin Monroe used to do it too. Dermaplaning has people shaving their faces to remove dead skin cells and facial hair. But Lohia warns that it should be done by a professional or at least after you’ve had some experience with shaving in the right grain. Shaving your face in the wrong direction can cause bluntness in the hair ends and subsequently, rougher and darker hair growth.

Hair removal by: hair removal creams

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Once you get past the pungent smell, hair removal creams are a pretty effective method. Most hair removal creams are gentle and offer options for people with sensitive skin.

A strike against hair removal creams is that they’re chemical-based and the possibility of developing rashes and allergic reactions are high. And while Shraddha Kapoor might shame her friends into giving up razors in favour of hair removal creams (have you really forgotten the ‘pokey pokey‘ nightmare jingle?), these creams cannot be used on sensitive areas like the face and bikini line unlike other hair removal methods. 

Hair removal by: threading/tweezing

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Despite the pain and frequency with which you have to get it redone, tweezing and threading are the best form of removal for facial hair. Just beware that the possibility of developing folliculitis, infection of hair follicles, is high with this method, with people getting acne-like bumps over the threaded area. You also need to be careful of hygiene, as this method is perfect for the transfer of warts.

Hair removal by: Laser treatments

People who hate the hassle of frequent hair removal should opt for laser treatments. With the advancement in technology, it’s increasingly painless and safe. According to Lohia, it’s the only known cure for KP and ingrown hairs. Going for a long-term solution like this also prevents micro trauma to the skin caused by other methods like waxing and shaving.

Cons: if you have sensitive skin, you can get minor burns. Sometimes the treatment is not effective, depending on your skin type. Even though it’s very rare, there is a condition called Paradoxical Hypertrichosis (PH) that causes hair growth on exposure to laser. Your doctor should inform you of this beforehand and take proper precautions in case you’re susceptible to this condition. To figure out if you have PH, especially if it’s your first time, ask your doctor should do a patch test.

A common misconception associated with laser treatment is that it affects your fertility. Lohia debunks that myth adding, “All lasers are targeted to the hair follicles; it doesn’t get into the skin.”

What should people with PCOD and other hormonal disorders do?

People with Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) and other hormonal imbalance issues might experience excessive hair growth. PCOD is a condition where a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels are out of balance causing menstrual irregularity, excess hair growth, acne and obesity. For them, regular methods of hair removal (waxing, shaving and threading) are not prescribed. Most experts suggest going in for a more permanent solution, like laser treatment, to remove hair. “Waxing and shaving are not recommended as you’d have to do it almost daily. To avoid trauma to the skin, it’s best to go in for laser hair removal,” says Lohia. For people suffering from PCOD, their hair is thicker and coarser than usual and grows back faster too. “Laser can help reduce the frequency of hair growth, density and roughness of hair,” says dermat Dr. Chiranjiv  Chhabra, Skin Alive Clinics. Before going in for a treatment, your dermatologist needs to identify the problem first. Once the hormone imbalance is corrected, you can start the treatment.

The laser treatment you opt for needs to be specialized. You will need extra sessions and the results need to be monitored carefully. You also need to have the option for high end lasers. It’s best to ask your doctor for a referral to a place that would best suit your needs.

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