Our concepts of beauty are deeply shaped by history and culture. The ancient Greeks and Romans still affect our Western standard of beauty by their portrayals of gods, goddesses, emperors and nymphs, in eternally smooth, firm substances: marble and bronze. We aspire to this perfection today, and keeping facial and body hair to a minimum is in line with the aristocratic ideal of beauty passed down to us from classical times. Depilation technique and technology have never been more sophisticated, but obtaining optimum results still require some study.
I received my license a few months ago and recently accepted a position at a Miami salon where the emphasis is on waxing. So far, I am getting mixed results. My technique is always consistent, yet the clients' results are not consistent. Some get regrowth immediately, some have a much slower regrowth. What causes this?
~ Adelita, Miami
You've discovered something, which may not have been covered in enough depth in your pre-licensing studies, namely that there are three stages of the hair growth cycle. Anagen is the growth phase, Catagen is the transition phase, and Telogen is the resting phase. In this way, a hair is much like a perennial plant, such as a daffodil or iris bulb. After a period of growth and flowering, the bulb-or hair-goes dormant.
You'll get best results if you wax during the Anagen phase, as interrupting the growth cycle actually prolongs the length of time required for outgrowth. But there may be other factors at play.
Hormones, including cortisol, the so-called "stress" hormone, affect hair growth. Entering puberty causes a young woman's eyebrows to thicken and body hair to appear. Likewise, menopause may bring increases in androgens (male hormones), which may then trigger coarse hair growth on the upper lip and chin, while body hair begins to disappear!
And as we have learned fairly recently, stress brings with it a hormonal "weather system" of its own. Increased adrenal activity as the result of stress may make hair growth more aggressive in women. Does competing in a formerly man's world bring out masculine characteristics in women? That's a matter of conjecture, but the physical effects are real. Work with your clients to determine their stress levels, menstrual cycle, and other factors, which will influence hair growth activity in order to decide the optimal time to wax for best results.
A client has come to me with a dilemma, and I am not sure how to proceed. As she began discovering a few dark chin hairs several years ago, she began tweezing, then shaving. Now, much to her horror, she has a bristly patch of perhaps 40-50 dark, stiff hairs across her chin. She's embarrassed by the need for a daily shave, and is understandably reluctant to allow two weeks' growth to accumulate in order to wax. What do you recommend?
~ Scotti, San Diego
First let me say that the stigma about a woman using a razor on her face is somewhat culturally induced. For instance, traditionally geisha have shaved the entire face, including the eyebrows, daily-and they have been considered the paragon of femininity for centuries.
Still, there is a drawback-miss a day, and you have nasty stubble. Also, as your client has learned, shaving can stimulate the metamorphosis from softer, finer vellus hairs to darker, thicker hair growth, unlike methods, which uproot the hair bulb. These latter methods, such as tweezing, eventually will result in root death and often finally cause the hair not to ever grow back. This is often a problem with teens that over-tweeze their brows! Just a comment about shaving: when shaving any area, and this goes for men as well, I recommend staying away from alkaline foams, which upset skin's pH balance and may cause irritation. Whether legs or lip, use an acid-balanced, botanical blend with silicones for a smooth, safe, close shave.
Back to your client - One solution is to allow her hair to grow out, and to bleach it weekly as it grows-this may allow her to feel less conspicuous as she prepares for a wax or other more lasting depilation. Ultimately, she may be happiest with laser hair removal or electrolysis, where regrowth is vastly reduced.
Our salon does an excellent facial waxing business, but some of our clients do experience post-waxing breakouts. A few clients have become very upset, challenging our shop's level of hygiene. We all pitched in and did a massive purge, replacing everything we could in terms of equipment, supplies, etc., and we have always sterilized everything scrupulously- we're all really good about it. And still the post-facial waxing breakouts continue. What do you think is happening?
~ Candy, Brooklyn, NY
Hygiene is the most important aspect of your practice, and it really is to your credit that you took the issue so seriously-it speaks to your deep commitment to your clients. But most likely, your supplies were not contaminated, nor were there any issue with cleanliness. Waxing may introduce the client's own normal bacterial flora into a newly exposed follicle. This is essentially introducing bacteria, as well as sebum disturbed by the process, into the follicle area, resulting in irritation and inflammation. While this does not reflect on the integrity of your hygienic standards, it must be addressed.
After waxing, as well as sugaring, threading or any other depilation, the skin should be treated with an antibacterial product to reduce bacterial activity. This product may be a solution, such as those applied following extractions, or a masque developed for acneic skin. Ingredients to look for are naturally antiseptic botanicals like Tea Tree Oil, Centipeda Cunninghamii (not a bug, in spite of its name!!), Green Tea and Licorice Extracts, essential oils of Rosemary, Sage, and Orange as well as Salicylic Acid and Triclosan.
This letter may surprise you! I am a manicurist, but I am inspired to write to you with a question that concerns skin. Our shop is proud to serve a clientele which is almost exclusively African-American, and almost exclusively male. Many of my clients complain about "razor bumps"-ingrown hairs in their beard. It really is quite a problem for these men. I can see that they have inflamed areas, and areas which are permanently darkened from hairs that have become infected (almost like acne). What advice can you share?
~ Barb W., Detroit
You draw attention to a condition, which may visit anyone with strong, curly hair-pseudofolliculitis barbae, as it's known clinically. I have encountered women who could not shave their legs because the rapid regrowth of their stiff, curly leg hair would result in painful pustules which indeed can leave a scar, especially in skin of color (i.e., non-Northern European skin). In some extreme cases, an M.D. must treat these abscesses, so prevention is of course desirable.
Exfoliation before and after helps. If your shop has a professional skin therapist on board, and it should, I encourage you to discuss facial exfoliation techniques for your clients. We find that exfoliation 24 hours preceding and following any hair removal service very helpful. Also, applying a non-comedogenic moisturizer to the beard area (or any area to be shaved) each evening may make that morning shave smoother and less bumpy!
As a February Valentine's Day special to draw men into your skin care center, encourage your female clients to purchase gift certificates for the men in their lives as a way of introducing them to professional skin care services.
Many men don't think they need facial services (although they often do!), or simply think that facial care is "girly", and thus may initially prefer to focus on their upper body. For this reason, a back-treatment Valentine's Day special called "We've Got Your Back" or "Back at Ya!" is a fun, non-threatening way to get him into the book. Offer back-waxing for the hirsute, and deep cleansing/purifying and extractions for those men simply desiring a blemish-free rear-view. They'll be "back" for more, I guarantee!