Hair removal—and whether or not to remove hair at all—is a very personal choice. And when it comes to hair on your face, it’s a pretty sensitive one, too. We mean that literally. The skin on your face is more delicate than the skin on your legs, say, so it’s important to be thoughtful and careful about the hair removal methods you choose.
While removing hair on most parts of your body is no biggie, removing it from your face takes extra TLC. As Shay Moinuddin, R.N., aesthetic nurse specialist and practice manager of the Few Institute, tells SELF, scars from waxing, electrolysis or lasers can happen very easily when things go wrong during a treatment and they are much harder to camouflage on the face versus the body. And some methods are better for certain types of hair growth than others.
No matter the type of hair removal you’re considering, it’s important that you pay attention to your skin. “If you are noticing bumps, ingrown hairs or sensitivity, then your hair removal method might not be the right fit for your skin,” says Dendy Engelman, M.D., a dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York. She recommends always starting with well moisturized skin, as the more pliable the skin, the less likely it will be inflamed or irritated with the pressure of the tool. Exfoliating once or twice a week to remove any dead skin cells on the surface will help prevent ingrown hairs, and finishing with lotion or oil will keep skin hydrated and protected.
Here’s what experts recommend for removing every type of facial hair.
The inside-the-nose region is not super accessible, Tyler Hollmig, M.D., director of laser and aesthetic dermatology at Stanford Health Care, points out, so trimming or plucking tends to be the way to go here. That said, since plucking removes the hair follicle fully, which creates an opportunity for swelling and infection, trimming is usually preferable. A simple, battery operated trimmer from Panasonic or Philips offers quick, easy, and irritation-less hair removal, says Dr. Engelman. One will set you back around $10 to $15 and is pain free and safer than sticking a pair of scissors up your nose (ouch!).
How to get rid of hair in this above-the-lip region is a very personal decision, says Dr. Engelman. She likes the Luminess Silk & Smooth Hair Remover, $30, which cuts the hair on the surface of the skin and leads to less irritation since it is not pulling hair from the follicle.
For individuals with darker facial hair and lighter skin, laser hair removal is a good option. “Since the laser picks up darker pigment, it renders the best results,” she says. “Lighter hair, which has less pigment, can be much less effective.” Hair loss can be seen after as little as three sessions and full results may be achieved in up to six or eight sessions. “Caution should be taken when having laser hair removal on the face because of the proximity of the treatment to the eyes,” Moinuddin adds. “Proper goggles designed for the specific laser being used must be worn during treatment to protect the eyes from permanent damage.”
Derms don’t recommend waxing the upper lip, as that commonly leads to ingrown hairs.
For frustrating little whiskers on your chin or cheeks, Moinuddin recommends permanent hair removal with lasers. However, she points out that this method is only ideal for dark hair, as gray, white or very light blond may not be picked up by the laser. And there are only certain lasers that are safe for dark skin—be sure to go to a licensed technician who is equipped to treat patients of color. “Patients who have laser hair removal in these areas can expect to permanently remove approximately 80-90 percent of their hair,” she adds. “The remaining hair is often time much thinner than it was during the onset of treatment.”
As dermatologist Rosemarie Ingleton, M.D., previously told SELF, it can be tough to get rid of the fine vellus hairs known as peach fuzz with typical hair-removal methods like waxing and threading. The best way to remove peach fuzz is with dermaplaning, which is when a dermatologist or aesthetician uses a surgical scalpel to gently scrape unwanted peach fuzz and dead skin from the face. The result is soft, hair-free, exfoliated skin. Sounds nice, right? Unlike laser hair removal, however, the results from dermaplaning are temporary, and must be repeated every four weeks. “Care should be used when seeking out a provider for dermaplaning as treatment in unskilled hands could result in serious cuts and injury,” warns Moinuddin.
The tried-and-true methods of eyebrow hair removal are threading and waxing, and of course, tweezing. All of these methods are, of course, temporary, although overgrooming can lead to permanent hair loss. Too much tweezing or waxing earlier in life can traumatize and eventually kill hair follicles, resulting in a permanent thinning of the eyebrows, board-certified dermatologist Judith Hellman, M.D., previously told SELF. If permanent is your goal, you can treat your brows with laser, but Lance H. Brown, M.D., surgical and cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs micrographic skin cancer surgeon based in Manhattan and East Hampton, reminds you that should you want thicker eyebrows at some point (brow trends change!), you may not be able to grow them back in. But for that very reason, laser can be good for nixing a unibrow.
If you’re looking to get rid of your sideburns for good, laser hair removal is a perfectly safe and effective solution, according to Dr. Brown. For those looking to keep some sideburn and merely groom the region, shaving may be your best bet, as this gives you full control over how much or how little hair is left. Just like any other part of your body that you shave, Dr. Engelman recommends exfoliating at least two times a week and moisturizing often to soften the hair and follicle. Also, resist the urge to shave against hair growth—yes, it gives you a closer shave, but the hairs can grow back into the skin rather than up and out.