Obsidian razors used in 30,000 B.C.; bronze, copper, and gold razors used around 3,000 B.C. and straight razors made from steel changed little until 1895 when King Camp Gillette developed the first disposable razor blades made of stamped steel.
Women did not begin using razors for body hair removal until the early 20th century as fashion began to design more revealing clothing. In 1928, the first electric razor was developed and sold by Jason Schick as an alternative to the straight razor and safety razor with its disposable blade. As one of the cheapest and easiest home remedies for hair removal, the basic straight razor; the disposable blade razor; and the electric razor are all still widely used today.
Depilatories which remove the hair at the skin's surface have been in use since 3,000 B.C. The first chemical versions used a mixture of quick lime, arsenic, and starch. Today they are largely made with calcium thioglycolate which breaks down the disulfide bonds in keratin and weakens the hair so it can be easily wiped off as it emerges from the follicle. The advantage of these products to the consumer is that they are inexpensive, fast, can be done at home, and are available over-the-counter. The disadvantages are that they can cause skin irritation; effects are short lived and products can be smelly and messy.
Epiliation is the removal of the entire hair, including the part below the skin. Sugaring and waxing date far back in our history as well. Sugaring combines simple home ingredients like sugar or honey which are blended with lemon juice and water, then it is heated to create a wax-like substance that may or may not be removed with strips. Some spas and salons use sugaring but it is also a method that can be done at home.
Waxing is one of the most popular spa services today. Waxes can be made from a variety of products but mainly fall into two categories, soft or strip wax and hard wax. Soft or strip wax is heated to a high temperature and uses muslin or nonwoven strips to remove the wax and hair. It is best for large area waxing like legs and backs although it is used for all areas of the body. Hard wax performs at a lower temperature, hardens as it "shrink wraps" around the hair shaft and requires no strip to remove it from the skin. It is best for smaller areas on the body. The new hybrid wax, called film wax combines the low temp and ease of use of hard wax with the thinner application for larger area waxing of strip wax. Unfortunately, waxing has a reputation of being painful but that is often the fault of the technician and not the product or procedure. It is always best for the client to consult a professional technician and not attempt to use these products at home.
In 1869, Dr. Charles Michel used the first electrolysis machine to remove ingrown hairs. The machine went through significant design changes from the 1920s to 1948 when the blend of high frequency and galvanic current was developed to create the only method of permanent hair removal recognized by the FDA.
Electrolysis today involves a trained electrolygist inserting a fine, solid, pre-sterilized needle into the hair follicle and then applying a small amount of electrical current, permanently eliminating the regenerative ability of the hair follicle. Several visits over the course of a year or more are required for best results. Each state varies in the requirements for electrolygists, so consult your state's law before performing this service.
The newest method of hair removal is the laser. Developed in the 1960s and constantly evolving even today, this method uses light to heat the hair shaft causing inflammation of the follicle sending it into a dormant stage. While not permanent, this method offers long term hair removal. Several visits are required for best results and some hair colors are resistant to this method of hair removal. There are many different styles of laser devices and modalities so it is vital to be knowledgeable about the specific unit your facility employs. Many states require special licensing for laser hair removal specialists, so it is important to know what specific state requirements are needed to offer this service.
Nadine Toriello is the owner of the All About You Day Spa, a 3,000 square foot facility, in Key West, Fla. She is a licensed and practicing aesthetician, licensed body wrap specialist, aesthetics educator for Monroe County Adult Education Program, owner/educator of Keys To Esthetics, a CEU provider in Florida, and is a biofeedback therapist. As a hair removal specialist in Florida, she averages almost 800 Brazilian waxes and over 2,000 brow waxes a year along with the other services she provides.