Silky Smooth Skin by Summer

Hair removal is done for several reasons, including: cultural reasons, to satisfy job requirements and probably most commonly for personal cosmetic reasons. There are many modalities that can be selected based on the convenience of time, comfort and price. Some of the more common methods are as follows:

Shaving is a common method of hair removal for both males and females. It is quick, and usually harmless if done with care. The major drawback is the development of razor bumps due to only removing the surface hairs.

A chemical depilatory is a topical used to remove hair. The chemical breaks down bonds in keratin, a protein found in hair, allowing for the hair on the surface of the skin to be wiped away. The epidermis of the skin has an abundance of keratin, as well, therefore, these products often cause irritation to the skin. Furthermore, like shaving, depilatory use can cause razor bumps. Thus, it is more commonly used under the arms and legs, rather than the face.

Waxing is another method used for hair removal. Waxing can be done on any area of the body. It removes hair from the root, thus, hair will not grow back on average for 4-6 weeks, depending on the timing of the hair growth cycle. There are two common processes of waxing. One is strip waxing, or soft wax, where wax is spread over the desired area, and a strip is applied and then quickly pulled against the direction of hair growth. Strip-less wax, or hard wax is where a generous amount of wax is applied to the treatment area, and when it cools, the wax is removed without a strip or cloth. This method is thought to be more beneficial for sensitive skin. The benefits of waxing include:

  • Removal of large amounts of hair at one time
  • Hair regrowth takes several weeks

The disadvantages of waxing are:

  • The need to stop the use of certain topical products or certain procedures before the treatment
  • Waxing, of course, can be painful
  • Ingrown hairs and bumps can occur (but often less prominently than with shaving and using depilatories)

Electrolysis is a procedure where individual hairs are removed from the face or body. The growth center of the hair is destroyed with chemical or heat energy. A probe is inserted into the hair follicle, and the hair is removed with tweezers. Electrolysis is thought to be a permanent method of hair removal. The pain and time it takes to do the procedure were often limiting factors for selecting this method. Like most technologies, electrolysis has improved such that it is often not as uncomfortable as it used to be.

Vaniqa is an FDA-approved prescription topical medication used to slow the growth rate of unwanted facial hair. The usual hair removal processes continue until the effects of the cream take place. Since the hair removal is not permanent, the purpose of the medication is to be able to decrease the frequency of routine hair removal methods.

Laser hair removal Per the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), in 2015, laser hair removal was the third most commonly performed non-surgical procedure, behind botulinum toxin injections and hyaluronic acid fillers.

Laser hair removal uses energy to target the pigment in hair follicles. It can be used on any body part. It imparts a lasting effect, but multiple sessions are standard, and touch-ups are often needed many months to a year later. There is minimal discomfort, and it often aids in making the skin smoother and more even-toned. While the procedure is straightforward, caution must be given to skin of color, as the energy that is targeting the pigment in the hair follicle could also affect pigmented skin. Therefore, the wavelength of the laser unit should be selected appropriately. Moreover, white, gray, or blonde hair may show minimal to no response to laser due to the mechanism of action. Thus, while laser hair removal is often sought, there is still a place for the other modalities of hair removal.


Dr. Dwana Shabazz received her undergraduate degree at Xavier University of Louisiana and both her medical degree and masters of public health degree at George Washington University. She remained at George Washington University for her internship in Internal Medicine. She then moved to Los Angeles for her Dermatology Residency at King Drew Medical Center/Harbor-UCLA. Dr. Shabazz has been in private practice in the Northern Virginia area since 2006. She opened her own practice, Renascance Dermatology, in 2013. Dr. Shabazz is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, a Diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology, and a member of the Women’s Dermatologic Society.