The constant battle that is… hair removal

I am lucky, in that I am not a very hairy woman. And yet the amount of time and effort I have thrown into hair removal since I was 14 years old is excessive. I’ve always felt like I want to remove as much hair from my body as possible, with the exception of the hair on my head, my eyelashes (which if anything could be longer) and my eyebrows (although I did my best to destroy those in the 90s by over-tweezing).

As a principle, I do not believe women should have to remove their hair. After all it grows where it does for a reason and I don’t believe people should have to cause themselves pain and risk injury in order to reach stupid beauty ideals.

And yet even now I have grown into these beliefs, for me personally I still want it gone. Whether this is due to socialisation, or just because I think it feels nicer is unclear – but the result is I can now share my experiences with you all. So here is a run down of all the methods I’ve tried, and ultimately failed with!

I should have listened to my mum

Teenage me was embarrassed by body hair. I remember at 14 my brother, who was also 14, was allowed to start shaving his face. I was banned from shaving my legs. I definitely overreacted at the unfairness of this.

At the time everyone else was shaving their legs. It was fairly normal to see girls in PE or in the summer with sliced up legs from using cheap blunt razors, yet I was not allowed to do the same. I was so embarrassed I remember one time during a school trip to the beach I actually wore tights and refused to take them off. Have you ever got sand in a pair of tights? Trust me it’s pretty unpleasant.

My Mum’s reasoning – once you start you can never stop. The hair will appear thicker, blacker and courser than before. I did not listen. I finally resorted to stealing my Dad’s razor which was firstly pretty gross and secondly blunted it for him and resulted in him having an almost daily bit of tissue stuck to his face to stop the bleeding.

At the time for me it was great. I usually got around 48 hours of lovely smoothness before the stubble appeared.

Of course now in hindsight I can see she was right. As I mentioned I was not a hairy person so as an adult it would be barely noticeable. And the itchiness of stubble rash is awful. Especially on the underarms and bikini. It took me 15 years to kick the habit and now I won’t go near a razor, but of course the damage is already done and there is more than one scar on my shins caused by this. Mum was right.

Hair 1 Hair removal cream 0

Perhaps one of my worst ideas was hair removal cream. A close friend swears by it for every part of the body so I thought I’d give it a go on the bikini line.

If you haven’t used hair removal cream before, a word of warning – it stinks. It smells like rotting meat as far as I am concerned. But I slathered it on and waited for the recommended time.

Then I wiped it off with the sponge that came with it. No change. Not one single hair was gone. I figured maybe I had industrial strength hair and so, against instruction, I did it again. But this time left it even longer. Still nothing changed. How was this even possible!

So yep – I did it a third time, left it longer again, and instead of using the sponge to wipe it off I found a loofer to scrape it off.

Well. This time it worked. Not on the hair – oh no that stayed exactly where it was. Instead the damn stuff had eaten through the skin instead. So no I was just as hairy as before, but had two patches on my bikini line of red raw weeping skin. It looked like third degree burns. Needless to say I didn’t attempt this one again.

home torture devices

Fed up with shaving, and terrified of the cream I next turned to the wide range of machinery you can buy to use at home to torture yourself.

It is amazing how many electrical products you can find out there for hair removal and they are not cheap (or if they are cheap it is for good reason).

I started with the home IPL machine. This thing was supposed to be around £400, but I managed to pick one up for £80 second hand but never used from eBay. I’d done some research beforehand. This type of machine works best on those with fair skin and dark hair – perfect for me.

The theory is that it sends a pulse of light down the hair follicle, which heats up the root and kills it. The dead hair is then pushed out of the skin and should not grow back for a year or so. And you can keep shaving while you do it, because it can take some months for the effects to be apparent due to the cycle of growth for each hair.

I kept this up for 6 months, doing it once every 4 weeks or so. It hurt, when the hair was heating up it kind of burned and frazzled. On more than one occasion there was smoke which smelled awful, even though I was following instructions. And all I was left with was the odd bald patch like I was suffering for alopecia. It went back on eBay.

Next up, the epilator. Now this is a thing of horrors. 30 pairs of tweezers rotating in the machine that rip the hair out one at a time but at super speed. I won’t lie. The first time I tried it I cried. Compared to waxing it is like ripping off a plaster very very slowly. I also managed to catch some armpit skin in it which got ripped off and bled everywhere. Top tip – use a lot of talc or get one of the ones you can use in the shower. It makes these types of incidents much less likely.

I persevered. Doing it once a week on my legs and underarms, and after a while it became bearable, and I was really pleased that I could just do it once a week and be hair free. The hair that grows back is also soft and fine so not noticeable at all, doesn’t itch like shaving does and for the underarms you don’t have 12 O’clock shadows all the time.

There are two caveats to this. Unless you are a complete masochist – do not attempt on the bikini line. It’s truly horrific. It you have had a tattoo I would say it is a similar feeling. Except most people don’t get tattoos on their vagina once a week. Secondly, if you break the routine – as I did one winter when I got lazy – or quickly shave the area because you don’t have time, you will regret it. You immediately go back to step one where the pain is awful.

For gods sake just rip it off

So now I’m an epilator convert, there is one final area to deal with- the bikini line. As far as I was concerned I had tried every method going except waxing. Part of the reason I could not epilate the area was because it is slow going and you have to bear the pain for a long time. Surely waxing would give me the same result but in half the time? Then I wouldn’t wimp out half way through.

First up – wax strips. Less mess, quick and easy. So on it went. Now I’m not sure what I did wrong as I followed the instructions to the letter. It certainly felt like I had waxed – yet only one miserable hair came out. So that was a bust.

Next hot wax with strips. This was a nightmare. Not only did the wax go everywhere and my hands stuck to everything, but my cat somehow got in the room and got a used strip stuck to her. Getting it off without waxing her involved a lot of coconut oil and two scratched up arms. It was also horrifically painful and I just couldn’t bring myself to pull the damn thing off the more sensitive areas. It was time to admit defeat on home depilation.

Call in the professionals

Time to hit the salon. I chose a place which was very lovely, if a little expensive but they also used a type of wax that doesn’t require strips called Lycon. It goes on like wax but hardens quickly and doesn’t bond with the skin at all.

In I went and asked for a Brazilian (if I was paying for this I wanted as much hair gone as possible to get my money’s worth and a landing strip seemed a good option). Let me tell you, in Spain a Brazilian is NOT a landing strip. They take everything off. Front and back. In the UK this would be called a Hollywood so I was a bit shocked.

That first visit also took almost an hour as the poor woman tackled the hair that up till then had been regularly shaved. It is also pretty ungainly to be led on a bed with your legs spread like you are going for a smear test. At one point she was literally pinning me down because I kept moving up the bed away from her.

But the results were fantastic. And the regrowth not problem at all. After about a week I had some hair coming back through that looked like they would be ingrown but in the end it was fine.

I now go every three weeks religiously and couldn’t be happier. It is still a little painful but I’m pretty much used to it by now.

Professional Lasering

So now I’m happy with my epilator/waxing schedule, there is one type of hair removal I have yet to try. A good friend is trying to persuade me to do laser removal but I’m resisting because of the price. But I did ask her to review how it was for her, and she may yet convince me. Sara says

“Laser depilation is so far the best decision I’ve done in my beauty life!
After eight sessions, there is almost no hair and the one that is still there you can’t see it with the naked eye! (spoiler: you need nine sessions usually to finish the treatment.)

It has to be said that it has not been a bed of roses and prepare for a lot of jumping around when on the stretcher. So the pro’s

1. You start to see the results so fast! Especially if your hair is dark. In my case, it’s been two years of treatment (I had six months off in the middle) and since the second session I started to see the results.

2. Each session is every three-four months, so you have some time to prepare for the next session.

3. Your skin starts to be so soft, no cactus skewers anymore!”

And the cons

1. You can not expose yourself to the sun 5 days before and after, if not you risk getting burned and scarring your skin. It can be tricky, especially if you’re doing facial lasering.

2. It also affects your clothes, in summer you need to cover all the zones where you want to do the laser. Not that easy.

3. The pain!! It hurts, but you’ll forget it and come back after 3 months. What you feel changes every time, and it will depend on the power of the machine. The important thing is to make sure that your skin is not burning.

4. Your skin needs to be hydrated, to reduce burn risk. I usually put a lot of body milk the week before I have the session. But if you forget, do not have the fantastic idea to cover yourself in cream just before going to the beauty centre, your skin needs to be clean, and they will realise straight away!

We will see if I take her advice. It seems like a lot of effort to go for 9 sessions, so I’m not sure yet. But she is not my only friend who swears by this method so maybe I am missing a trick here. And those salon visits every three weeks are starting to add up!

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