Erase Facial Hair

Beauty/Skincare, Featured Article
on March 14, 2011
iStock Photo


Nothing saps your confidence more than unwanted facial hair. “Facial hair makes women feel unsexy,” says Dr. Jeanine B. Downie, a dermatologist with Image Dermatology in Montclair, NJ. That helps explain why 20 million American women go through the painful and tedious process of removing unwanted facial hair at least once a week.

Sprouting a few stray hairs here and there is a normal (although loathed) part of aging and is not usually linked to an underlying health problem. The age at which this happens and how much hair you notice depends on genetics, so if your mother or father had a good amount of facial hair, chances are you will, too. Plus, when estrogen levels begin to decline in perimenopause, an excess of the male hormone androgen can cause an additional increase in facial hair.

Want to be free of unwanted lip and chin hair? Here are your options:

Electrolysis: With this method, a strong electrical current is delivered to each individual hair follicle to destroy it and prevent re-growth. “Electrolysis tends to be less expensive — anywhere from $50 for the upper lip to $300 for the entire face — than laser treatments,” according to Downie, plus it works on any skin or hair color, unlike lasers. Just be sure you see a competent, licensed electrolysis professional (not an esthetician) with at least six months experience, as amateur work can cause permanent skin damage and scarring. Unfortunately, at-home electrolysis systems are not as strong as those used by professionals so results are not reliable.

Laser hair removal: Doctors use lasers, or sometimes pulsed light, to heat the base of hair follicles and destroy them, making it difficult — and sometimes impossible — for hairs to grow back. Laser treatments can be pricey (as much as $150 to $200 per treatment for the upper lip) and are not suitable for all skin colors or textures. You’ll also need anywhere from three to eight sessions spread out over several months or a year in order to see results, with some women needing additional maintenance visits to keep unwanted growth in check.

Waxing/threading: Both of these hair-removal methods work by pulling hair at the root level. Results can last for several weeks and each treatment costs less than an electrolysis or laser session at around $15 to $20 for areas on the face. That said, waxing and threading are not permanent solutions, so you’ll be doing them for life if you want to stay fuzz free. Both can be done at home, though, thanks to safe and effective waxing kits and the recent introduction of at-home threading systems.

Plucking/shaving: These methods of facial hair removal are by far the least expensive (as in, almost free). Too bad they’re so time consuming; you’ll have to pluck or shave several times each week to remove hairs as they tend to grow back quickly with these methods. Hairs can also look and feel coarser when they grow in, because you’re cutting or removing them at unusual angles. While shaving is traditionally considered a man’s form of hair removal, Dr. Downie says that is fine for women as well, especially for those on tight budgets. “The hairs may look and feel a bit more coarse, but shaving doesn’t actually cause them to grow back thicker,” says Downie.