Women are in a constant battle with body hair. We spend hundreds of dollars on razors, waxing appointments and other products to keep our wayward body hair under control. We look forward to colder months because it enables us to wear long pants and skip shaving — unless we’re looking to find a new partner, in which case many of us are back to the razor or the wax.
Body hair waxing has become a popular, if painful, way to reduce our body hair, but is it really as safe as the other products and methods available for hair removal?
Hair removal in history
This obsession with smooth skin isn’t a new one. Ancient Egyptians used to remove all of their body hair, including pubic hair, by buffing it off with pumice stones or shaving with sharpened pieces of flint. Ancient Greeks would tweeze all their body hair off or burn it off in places where fire wouldn’t cause too much pain or scarring.
Even back then, body hair on women was considered uncivilized. Regardless of your own take on this timeless cultural expectation, it can’t be denied that we, as women, have spent centuries perfecting the art of hair removal.
How safe are hair-removal techniques?
For most people, there are four hair-removal techniques that they’ve either used or considered — shaving, waxing, hair-removal creams like Nair or Veet and laser hair removal. According to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, shaving is the most common form of hair removal.
In spite of its common application, the study also found that the majority of women who used razors, wax or hair-removal cream to remove their pubic hair — either entirely or at the bikini line — ended up with minor medical complications. Everything from skin irritation and ingrown hairs to genital burns from hot wax has been reported.
Pros & cons of hair-removal techniques
If you’re considering ditching your razor for a waxing appointment, here are some of the pros and cons of each type of hair-removal method to help make your decision easier.
Shaving is the most common form of hair removal, mostly because it can be done easily at home. It also tends to be less expensive than the other options. It’s easy to keep your skin moisturized with the many different shaving lotions available to choose from.
On the downside, though, your hair tends to grow back quickly because you’re only cutting it off at the surface. Shaving can also lead to uncomfortable nicks and ingrown hairs. While not dangerous, they are not pleasant either.
Waxing is expensive — a visit to the salon for a waxing treatment can cost you upwards of $80. Waxing can also put you at higher risk for STIs or other infections, which can be spread or made worse by irritating the skin. Additionally, although it’s not as big of a risk if you’re going to a professional salon, there is always a chance that the wax will burn you.
Waxing can be great if you need a few weeks free of shaving — it usually takes 2 to 3 weeks for your hair to grow back after a good waxing treatment. However, it is up to you whether or not you want to take the potential health risks.
Hair-removal creams are infamous for their chemical smell, which is also paired with the pungent scent of burning hair once it’s been applied to your skin. While they can be a great tool if you don’t want to wax but want some more time between shaving, not all hair-removal creams are created equal.
It’s recommended to try one of these creams on a small portion of your body first to ensure that you won’t react to any of the chemicals before applying it to the hair you want to remove. Also, make sure you’re using the right cream for the right part of your body. Sensitive areas, such as the bikini line, will require specific formulas designed to protect your sensitive skin.
Laser hair removal
If you never want to shave again, laser hair removal is the way to go. The laser treatments are designed to effectively destroy the follicle so you no longer grow hair in the treated area.
The downsides of laser hair removal fall mainly in the cost and the treatment itself. The former can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the cost of each session, because multiple sessions are required. The latter is due to the fact that the treatment can be painful. You are literally shooting your hair follicles with lasers.
To wax or not to wax?
Should you wax or skip the wax in favor of other hair-removal methods? When it comes right down to it, it’s entirely up to you — find out what works best for your hair and skin type. Just make sure you know the risks of each type of hair removal before you get started.
Waxing is the one form of hair removal that, when applied to the pubic area, poses a risk for the contraction of sexually transmitted infections because of the level of irritation to the skin. STIs present a serious danger to your sexual and reproductive health, so it is very important that women take this into consideration before waxing.
Or you can always skip hair removal entirely and flaunt that body hair. It’s part of you, after all, and society has no right to tell women what to do with their body hair, no matter what they think. Do whatever makes you the most comfortable, but always with your health in mind.
Originally published on HelloFlo.