Wednesday, 18 March 2020 10:40

Temporary, Permanent, or Semi-Permanent? Helping Clients Choose the Right Method of Hair Removal

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What is the best method of hair removal for clients?  Expectations, body area, Fitzpatrick scale, hair type, time commitment, and financial budget all come into play. When it comes to removing hair, there are many choices for people to choose from. But one thing is for sure: most people are committing to some form of hair removal. It is a big business and adding hair removal to a treatment menu is a beneficial way to bring in revenue. Starting with a complete consultation will help a skin care professional gain insight into their client’s expectations. Recommending the best avenue for each client is essential. As professionals, understanding the various methods of hair removal is important, whether within or outside one’s scope of practice or specialty. Clients will ask questions looking to the skin care professional for answers. Educate clients on what is best for them.




For clients looking for temporary hair removal solutions, shaving and depilatory creams are an option.

Shaving is the process of removing hair with a razor. The hair is removed at the surface of the skin. This is not a professional service, but a method of hair removal clients might do at home. Yes, legs feel silky smooth – until tomorrow. Clients can count on coarse, rough regrowth within a day or two. With shaving, the client’s commitment is 15 minutes every day. Cost is minimal, but razors add up over time. Though it is inexpensive the disadvantages to reducing hair growth are little to none. Not to mention irritation and ingrown hairs can wreak havoc on the skin.

Depilatory creams are very strong chemicals applied to the skin to dissolve the hair by breaking the bonds of keratin. Some products on the market reach a pH of 12. Extreme care must be taken to the amount of time the product is left on as to not damage the skin. While it is not a professional service, this method is cost-affordable and pain is minimal. Disadvantages include toxic chemicals, a strong smell, and is not ideal for sensitive skin.



Temporary to semi-permanent hair removal options are tweezing and threading.



Tweezing is a good option for clients who have contraindications to other hair removal methods, for example, clients on Accutane.

Disadvantages include that tweezing is unable to remove fine, velous hair, hair is easily broken due to improper technique leading to ingrown hair, it is only feasible for small areas such as eyebrows, and is time consuming. When tweezing, use high-quality tweezers and proper technique to avoid hair breakage and pull with the direction of hair growth.



Threading is the process of removing one hair or a row of hair using thread that is twisted and rolled pulling the hair from the root. Threading is a custom originating in Asia and India. Watching the service being performed is fascinating – a methodical and mesmerizing practice. However, the skin care professional providing the service, may be sore when the day is done.

Threading is a bit painful for the client. For the aesthetician, the body position needed to perform the threading technique is intense, using both hands and mouth. Hair breakage could lead to folliculitis and is not ideal for larger body areas. It is mostly recommended for the eyebrows and the face. Proper training is needed. Use the correct thread for the client’s hair type. Sanitation is extremely important to avoid infection.




Waxing and sugaring are two semi-permanent methods.



Waxing is a professional service, the removal of hair from the root using depilatory wax. Strip wax or stripless wax (hard wax) are used. With at-home wax products on the rise, clients may attempt to wax themselves, only to return to the spa following the likely wax-cident. Waxing is the most popular form of hair removal in spas due to the efficiency and results. As a semi-permanent form of hair removal, waxing poses a great advantage for the aesthetician, as well, as the clients who commit to a waxing routine will book every four to six weeks. When the hair follicle is visible on the wax strip, this is a clue that the proper technique has been used.

Client commitment with waxing is 15 to 30 minutes every four to six weeks. It is affordable and pain is mild. When clients commit to waxing, discomfort is greatly reduced after the initial wax session. Waxing removes the hair from the root. Over time, the follicle will be weakened leading to positive results. After three consecutive appointments, the hair is sparser, grows in finer, and takes longer to grow back. It can be used on all areas of the body and all skin and hair types, if no contraindications are present. Following contraindication guidelines is crucial to maintain the integrity of the skin; otherwise, skin lifting is possible. Use high-quality wax, enroll in advanced education for proper technique, and use a hard stripless wax, which creates a more comfortable service for the client. Recommend clients do not shave or tweeze between appointments.



Sugaring is the process of removing hair with a sugar paste. This is typically a professional service; however, due to many DIY recipes, clients may attempt to remove their hair at home with a sugar recipe. Sugaring is typically applied in the direction of the hair growth and removed in the direction of hair growth or the opposite direction of hair growth, removing the hair from the root. For small areas like eyebrows, the sugar is sometimes removed with muslin or cloth strip like strip wax.

With sugaring, client commitment is 15 minutes to one hour every four to six weeks. Cost is affordable and pain is mild to moderate. Sugaring is good for the environment and cost effective for the business owner. It is water soluble, which means the skin can simply be wiped with water with no sticky residue. Sugaring may break the hair more easily than waxing, causing ingrown hairs. The physical exertion on the aesthetician can be intense. The sugar tends to pull the hair, which can be uncomfortable for the client. Get advanced education, as improper technique can lead to broken hair and bruised skin.




For permanent hair reduction, these options include laser hair removal, IPL, and electrolysis.


Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal is selective photothermolysis. A laser and pulse are used on targeted hair follicles without harming surrounding tissue. Lasers cause localized damage by selectively heating melanin in the hair follicle, which causes damage to the follicle while not heating the rest of the skin.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Laser hair removal is a medical procedure that uses a concentrated beam of light (laser) to remove unwanted hair. During laser hair removal, a laser emits a light that is absorbed by the pigment (melanin) in the hair. The light energy is converted to heat, which damages the tube-shaped sacs within the skin (hair follicles) that produce hairs. This damage inhibits or delays future hair growth. Although laser hair removal effectively delays hair growth for long periods, it usually does not result in permanent hair removal. Multiple laser hair removal treatments are needed for initial hair removal, and maintenance treatments might be needed as well.”

Light or gray hair is not a good candidate for laser hair removal due to the lack of melanin. Darker skin is not advised for laser treatments; the laser will be attracted to the melanin in the skin which could result in burns. Skin types I through IV on the Fitzpatrick scale are recommended and with caution for skin type IV. Newer technology may be useful for darker skin and lighter hair. Yttrium Aluminum Garnet lasers may have more success with darker skin, being safe for skin types I through VI.

Is laser hair removal permanent? No. Laser hair removal is permanent hair reduction. Laser hair removal is a professional medical service. It is important to know that all state laws vary. Before investing in laser classes, be sure these services are within the scope of services to perform on clients.

Client commitment with laser is 15 to 45 minutes every six weeks for three to 12 treatments. Laser is expensive – $200 to $1,000 – depending on the area. Pain is moderate. Laser is a good long-term option and hair is greatly reduced by 70% to 90%.

Disadvantages with laser, often, an additional form of hair removal will be required. For example, clients will likely need to continue with their Brazilian waxing, if expecting every hair to be removed in the area. It cannot be used on the eyebrows. It is best for clients with light skin and dark hair. It is usually not successful for blonde or gray hair. It cannot be offered to someone who is pregnant and there are some risks such as hyperpigmentation. Because tweezing, waxing, or electrolysis destroy the hair follicle temporarily, avoid these methods of hair removal for at least six weeks prior. Shaving about three days prior to laser hair removal is usually recommended to increase the success rate. If the hair is too long, there is a risk the skin can be burned.

Be sure there are no contraindications before proceeding, like Fitzpatrick scale, self-tanners, sun, retinols, or other ingredients that may thin the skin.


IPL (Intense Pulsed Light)

Intense Pulsed Light is a professional treatment for hair removal. Like laser hair removal, it is important to follow the regulations and laws that apply to your license with regards to the scope of work.

Intense Pulsed Light can offer permanent hair reduction similar to laser hair removal by heating up the hair follicle to destroy it. Intense Pulsed Light uses broad-spectrum light, instead of a laser beam. Basically, lasers use light of one wavelength or color of light that is directed in one direction, while Intense Pulsed Light uses a wide range of light or colors. Both are absorbed by the melanin. Intense Pulsed Light, like laser, may not be as effective on lighter or gray hair and is not advised for darker skin. Intense Pulsed Light is only for skin types I to IV on the Fitzpatrick scale and caution should be used with skin type IV. Intense Pulsed Light can achieve 70% to 90% hair reduction. However, because the light is not as concentrated, it may take longer to see results than laser hair removal, requiring more sessions. It is also is less predictable.

The client’s commitment is six to 12 sessions, cost is moderate, and pain is mildly uncomfortable.

Advantages of Intense Pulsed Light are that it is less painful than laser and more cost effective. It also offers good results.

Disadvantages include that it is not effective on light or gray hair and it is not for darker skin. It may take many treatments and is not as predictable as laser hair removal.



Electrolysis is a professional service. It is important to follow your state laws regarding the scope of your aesthetic or cosmetology license. Performing electrolysis often requires an additional electrologist license. Electrolysis is the only method of hair removal considered to be permanent by the Federal Drug Administration. It is more permanent than laser; however, it can take years to achieve hair removal.

The process involves a very fine needle being inserted into the hair follicle. A small electrical current is sent through the needle to the hair follicle to destroy the follicle using galvanic (chemical process) or thermolysis (short wave heat process) or both. Galvanic current requires 30 seconds to more than a minute to release each hair, whereas thermolysis, or a blend, can require much less time. Repeated treatments for one to three years or longer may be needed, depending on the hair type.

Clients must commit to treatment once a week, one minute per hair, for 15 minutes to one hour or more.

Cost can be expensive, depending on the machine. 30 seconds to one minute per hair once a week at one dollar to one dollar and 50 cents per minute adds up quickly. Electrolysis is painful, but only a small area – one follicle – is treated at a time.

Advantages include that it is permanent and effective on any hair color.

Disadvantages of electrolysis are that it is only for very small areas, such as chin hair, and, it is not recommended for pregnancy. There is also a risk of swelling, hyperpigmentation, or scarring and it can be a slow and tedious process. Clients should not shave, wax, tweeze, or remove hair during the process.


To best educate clients in their hair removal choice, skin care professionals should be aware of the various hair removal methods and the length of results each can deliver.




Since graduating from Pivot Point in 1989, Cali VanAelst has been a practicing aesthetician and licensed cosmetologist. VanAelst paved her way within the industry and was named “Best Waxer” by New City Chicago Magazine, as well as being featured in many articles. VanAelst has become an expert in the waxing field and a contributing writer for many industry magazines. She has been educating aestheticians in waxing for the last 15 years. Currently the national training director for Perron Rigot, Inc., VanAelst’s passion for waxing is fueled through her hands-on education and coaching fellow aestheticians. She grew a strong successful waxing business through her Brazilian and eyebrow services. Now a highly sought-after speaker and educator, she continues to inspire new and fresh ideas in the waxing genre.

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