Breaking Down the Basics: Hair Removal 101

Written by Maxie Frericks, L.E.

Hair, hair, hair is everywhere and, since the beginning of time, women have been trying to figure out how to remove it! The history of hair removal dates all the way to ancient times. Egyptians and Middle Easterners, such as Persians, were the pioneers of this movement. They invented tools such as pumice stones which were used to shave hair off the body. Beeswax and sugar were also popular methods – known today as waxing and sugaring. Thankfully, through their research, people have been able to re-invent and research many more hair removal methods that are very successful today. This article will delve into the world of hair removal, with tips on how to educate clients on the best choice for them to increase their satisfaction and the spa’s retention rate.

 

WAXING

Waxing is the most popular form of hair removal. It is cost efficient for both the client and professional. There are two types of wax that exist: hard and soft. Hard wax has a much thicker consistency than soft wax and is melted at a lower temperature. Some professionals prefer using hard wax for a person with sensitive skin or more difficult hair because they do not have to use as much pressure and the removal is usually easier with less pain. Soft wax is great for all areas, as is hard, but professionals will save much more money with soft. This is because the wax is heated at a higher temperature and the consistency is much thinner, so it can cover larger areas with less product. Removal of soft wax consists of using a muslin or pellon cloth. Both types of wax are applied in the direction of hair growth and removed in the opposite way. It is very important to cleanse the area in preparation and to use an oil to create a barrier between the skin and the wax.

 

It is important to educate clients on the preparation of the treatment. Ideally, the length of the hair should be approximately the length of a grain of rice or one-fourth an inch. Clients should thoroughly exfoliate the skin before the wax, so if any hairs are ingrown, they can be reached during the wax. It is also important to educate clients on exfoliating twice a week after a wax to prevent ingrown hairs. Every time a person gets waxed, the hair follicle gets weaker, in turn producing finer and thinner hair. If the skin is too tough, the hair cannot grow through, so it grows under – hence why exfoliation is so important. Also, the weakening of the hair follicle often leads to killing it completely. When this happens, no hair will grow back from that particular follicle.

 

It usually takes about four to six weeks for the hair to grow back after a wax. All of this is dependent on the stage of hair growth. There are three stages: anagen, catagen, and telogen. Anagen is the first stage, when the hair actually grows. This is typically the case for up to 85% of the hair. Next, in the transitional phase, also known as the catagen stage, the hair rests and renews the follicle and papilla. It is important to note that during catagen the hair must stay attached to the bulb to receive the necessary nutrients and blood supply for it to grow. Approximately 5% of body hair remains in the catagen stage. The last stage is the resting phase or telogen stage. While in telogen, the hair remains dormant for anywhere from one to four months. Once it is ready, the hair detaches and starts to shed. About 10% of body hair is in this stage at any given time. When this cycle is complete, it starts all over again with the anagen stage. While educating clients on the stages of hair growth, inform them that as there are so many cycles, it may take a few waxes for all of the hair to get on one cycle.

 

Pain is often associated with waxing. Remind clients that, yes, it may hurt the first few times they get waxed. However, over time as their follicles get weaker, the hair will not be so deeply rooted and it will not hurt as much. It is up to the aesthetician to make the wax as painless as possible. Make sure to soothe and apply good pressure after each strip.

 

For after care, reiterate the fact that it is necessary to exfoliate twice a week, no more than that for the prevention of ingrown hairs. Over-exfoliation can cause damage, as can certain scrubs. Stress the importance of staying away from scrubs, as they can cause damage to the skin. Only scrubs with perfectly spherical granules should be used.

 

Clients often wonder if waxing enough will make their hair permanently go away. The answer is no. As years go by, clients may notice there will be certain areas where hair will no longer grow, but by no means is waxing permanent. There is only one form of permanent hair removal: electrolysis – more on this later.

 

Always make sure that the client fills out an intake and release form. Be up to date on all contraindications for all treatments that are performed. Make sure the client is not on any retinol, tretinoin, or anything of that nature.

 

 

SUGARING

Sugaring is similar to waxing in many ways. The hair is taken out at the root and the same protocols are followed when educating clients on the preparation, exfoliation, side effects, and contraindications. Where it differs from waxing is that the sugar paste is applied by hand in the opposite direction of hair growth and is removed in the direction of hair growth. Essentially, the hands are the applicator. Sugaring is easily made with sugar, water, and lemon juice. This is a great choice for clients who are green and earth conscious.

 

 

THREADING

Threading is a wonderful option for clients with sensitive skin. The origins of threading are also rooted in the Middle East from hundreds of years ago. This service did not become popular until the 20th Century. To thread, one uses a cotton or polyester thread, doubling it so it resembles an “X” and twists the thread against the hair, grabbing it at the root for removal. It is commonly believed that threading is for the face only – this is not true – the whole body can be threaded. This is not necessarily recommended, but it is doable. The benefits of threading are amazing. It is very precise and the pain is more tolerable than waxing. It is more time consuming than waxing or sugaring.

 

As for contraindications, the biggest are open sores or pustular acne. If a professional was to thread over those areas, the bacteria could spread. The rules for the hair cycle and preparation for after care are also very similar to waxing.

 

 

ELECTROLYSIS

Electrolysis requires the use of electrical equipment, along with specialized training and certification beyond an aesthetics license. It is important to note that one can become a certified electrologist without being an aesthetician.

 

For this procedure, a small needle conducts a short-wave electric current when it is inserted at an angle into the hair follicle. The electrical current destroys the papilla. Electrolysis is the only permanent form of hair removal and it usually requires a series of eight to 12 treatments for full results.

 

There are three types of electrolysis: galvanic, thermolysis, and a blend of both methods. Galvanic is used with multiple wire needles (12 to 14) inserted into the hair follicle. The current is low-level and destroys the papilla through a chemical reaction. Thermolysis is a high-level current that uses a single needle inserted into the hair follicle for less than a second (whereas a galvanic current runs anywhere from 30 seconds to two and a half minutes). Thermolysis coagulates cells which destroys the papilla. A blend of both methods is great for clients with excessive hair growth.

 

Electrolysis cannot be performed on clients with pacemakers or heart problems; once again, be aware of all contraindications.

 

 

LASER HAIR REMOVAL

Laser hair removal uses a pulsating, concentrated beam of light that is aimed directly into the hair follicle. Its purpose is to destroy the follicle to stop hair growth. Pigment in the hair follicle absorbs the light, in turn destroying the hair. There is a lot of confusion surrounding laser. Laser is a semi-permanent hair removal method. The only permanent removal method is electrolysis. Many laser clients eventually have to get waxed again because some of the hair has grown back. As with being an electrologist, a laser technician does not have to be an aesthetician to be certified as one, but an aesthetician does haev to get a separate certification if they choose to administer this procedure. 

 

This treatment is best for people with a light skin tone and medium to dark hair, so that it can be easily detected by the laser. Sessions are usually over quickly, as the laser can cover areas very efficiently, lasting anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the area. The pulse sent by the laser takes less than a second to be delivered.

 

Often, to prepare for the treatment, the client will have to shave the day of or day before the treatment. They will get a patch test on their skin to see the reaction and if they are a good candidate.

 

It is so important to prepare clients for this treatment because of the many contraindications and side effects. People with fair skin and fair hair cannot get laser done because they have no pigmentation and those that have a higher melanin content are at risk for hyperpigmentation. Side effects and contraindications are numerous for laser, so stay up to date and educated for this treatment.

 

There are many forms of hair removal and this article only covered a few of them. Educate clients on all forms and never shame them. For homecare, let them know that there are many options. Shaving is not bad – not everyone can afford treatments all the time. Shaving is definitely the most temporary, as the hair starts growing back within 24 hours. The pro of shaving is that it is a great exfoliation method. Most men look incredibly young thanks to shaving (also comparable to dermaplaning).

 

Tweezing works for small areas, since the hair is being pulled from the root and will stay gone for about two to four weeks.

 

Depilatories that dissolve hair at the skin level are usually available in a cream. Advise clients who use this method to follow the manufacturer’s directions, as it can involve a skin reaction, and encourage that they do a test patch, as well.

 

Educating clients on homecare will only help, and not hinder, the professional, as it builds trust.

 

To be the best aesthetician, stay educated and relevant. Be honest and humble when dealing with clients. Stay professional and have a good sense of self-worth. All of these things will help when directing clients to the right choice regarding hair removal.

 

Maxie FrericksMaxie Frericks has been a licensed aesthetician for over 13 years. She owns a waxing studio, Maxie’s House of Wax, located in Littleton, Colorado. She is a writer for DERMASCOPE and other industry magazines. Frericks also teaches waxing workshops. She is an educator for Face and Body, along with an ASCP Skincare Webinar-Ageless Edition. Specializing in waxing, Frericks is a trainer for LYCON Wax and teaches waxing workshops nationally. She was also a judge at the 2019 Skin Games. maxielfrericks.contently.com or maxieshouseofwax.wix.com/waxie

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