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Hair Removal for Sensitive Skin

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Trying to remove hair with sensitive skin can be a daunting task. We cover the different methods, from what to stay away from to how to get rid of the hair with less chance of irritation and other side effects.

Sugaring

Photo © ALETRIS, Scottsdale, AZ

Sweet on Skin

If I had to recommend one hair removal method for sensitive skin it would be sugaring.

Here's why: It's removed from the root so it you can be hair-free for weeks on the face or body. Made from all natural ingredients, there's less chance of skin irritation that artificial ingredients in wax often cause. The method using the paste (there's also sugaring gel) can remove hair as short as 1/16" (see gel vs. paste). You don't have to wait to the 1/4" hair length like with waxing, and because the paste removes in the direction of hair growth, it leads to minimal pulling on skin, therefore less pain.

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Shaving

Image Doran / IStockPhoto

Give it Another Try

Using the razor can create nasty side effects, but it definitely doesn't have to end in disaster. I wouldn't give up on shaving because it doesn't pull hair out from the root so it's not as a traumatic or painful experience to the skin as many other ways.

Often the problem with shaving, isn't method itself, but the wrong products and tools being used. Other times a skin allergy or poor shaving techniques can be the culprit. Finding the cause is key. Learn more in: Shaving with Sensitive Skin.

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Waxing

Image Jo Unruh / IStock Photo

Product and Skill Make a World of Difference

There are circumstances when you shouldn't wax at all or avoid a certain area (see: Waxing Precautions and Warnings) as it could lead to extreme redness, peeling and scabbing. Many times being overly red, having alot of pain or bruised skin is because of choosing the wrong type of wax for the hair or area, using a poor quality wax, not prepping the skin correctly or removing it the wrong way.

Waxing at home? Learn more: How to Wax. If going to the pros, choose a waxing salon or someone that's experienced, skilled and recommended.

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Threading

Image © 2008 Facial Threading

May be Gentle to Skin but Can Hurt

This method is quite unique in that it pulls hair out from the root...with a string. It doesn't use any chemicals or heat so there's no need to worry about product allergies or burns. Generally it's gentle to the skin with a good tech. And while people sometimes get bumps and redness, it often doesn't last that long. However, I can't lie-- it can be painful! (See what others say about threading.)

Looking for something to do at home? While they don't use a string, coil hair removers like Lindo and Epicare look like little slinkies and manually remove the hair without the use of chemicals. They can only be used on the face, except for the eyebrows. More:

Laser / IPL Hair Removal

Image Todd Keith / IStock Photo

If a Little Heat & Snap Doesn't Bother You

They use pulsed light to disable the follicle by targeting the pigment. Generally you will feel some heat and a snapping against the skin.

Sensitive skin (even in the safe tone range) will get overly red or swell sometimes. It's important to do a patch test to see how skin reacts. Most professional clinics apply a gel to protect the skin during treatment, which also helps cool it. Gels or calming products to be used during and/or after treatments are often sold by those that make home devices like Tria Laser 4X, Lumi Evoderm and the Silk'n family of products.

Worried about pain? All home devices have at least three settings that can be adjusted. While level one may be the most comfortable, the higher the level used often provides more effective hair reducing results.

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Electrolysis

Yanik Chauvin / IStock Photo

You'd Like it Gone...Forever

The only method FDA approved for permanent hair removal as it has the best track record. It uses an electric current and it's a match for all tones of skin and hair colors.

There are three different modalities used in electrolysis (read more). The discomfort, potential side effects and results have a lot to do with which modality is used as well as the skill of the electrologist. It can be a bit painful, which is why Emla, a topical anesthetic is often recommended.

For those who often have side effects from temporary hair removal methods, getting rid of all or most of the hair can bring great relief.

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Depilatories (Hair Removal Creams)

Pass on These

This is one of the harshest hair removal methods because it uses strong chemicals to break down the hair so that it can be wiped off. It has been known to make skin burn, turn red, peel and scab- even for people that don't consider themselves as having touchy skin.

It doesn't usually create a sharp tip like shaving does, but it lasts just about as long (a day or two). If skincare products generally upset your skin, you're likely to experience problems with a depilatory, whatever the brand, including those marketed for sensitive skin.

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