Grooming 101

Beyond the Razor: Modern and Ancient Hair Removal Techniques for Every Budget
By Roshni Mulchandani

"It's hot as hell and we're hairy!" Standup comedian Russell Peters jokes about Indians—being hairy and native to a country with sweltering heat—as God’s practical joke, but being hairy in today’s “metrophile” society (metrosexual-loving society, for those unfamiliar with Latin) can be a very serious issue. Being confronted with mounds of body hair with just a simple glance in the mirror can be a haunting daily experience.

Back in the day, the true adult male level of manliness was measured by a combination of factors; hair being one of the top features that separated them from the boys. Even though a woman may love running her hands through a luscious, thick head of hair, the same fascination doesn’t really apply to hair on the rest of the male body. In fact, some women cringe at the sight or touch of excess body hair. With that being said, hair still needs to be controlled to your personal discretion, but when it comes to the ladies, they want a sexy beast, not a hairy one. To keep your body looking clean and instantly desirable (provided that you are in decent shape), we’ve given a little insight into methods that will help eliminate hair from your body—for all budgets and pain levels. Yes, even you wimps have no excuse to let your body resemble a human chia pet.

Most men cringe at the thought of waxing from stories they hear from their girlfriends and more recently, even the dudes. However, this ancient Egyptian technique has become extremely popular among men of all professions, ages, sizes and ethnicities. Quite simply, hot wax (traditionally made from honey, sugar and lemon) is spread over the area that needs to become hairless, a clean muslin cloth is then placed on top with applied pressure in the direction of hair growth, and then rapidly tugged off, taking off the wax and eliminating the root of the hair in one pull. Waxing can be used to eliminate hair on most parts of the body: eyebrows, back, chest, genital area and legs.
If walking into a salon and asking to be waxed doesn’t sound like something you’re willing to do, there are alternatives. Nowadays, estheticians are available (at a few extra bucks) that will make a house call to wax you all over. Otherwise, your local drug store has a variety of do-it-yourself kits which allow you to wax in the comfort of your own home—however, it can get messy and can be difficult to maneuver wax strips in those hard-to-reach places. Your best option is to head on down to your favorite spa or salon and get a professional to take care of it for you.
One of the most beneficial areas to wax for starters (because it’s on your face—the most visible part of the body) is the eyebrows. The method “divide and conquer” not only works as a military strategy, but applies to those fuzzy brows too. Simply put, the unibrow never has and never will be considered a fashion statement. They say that the eyes are the windows to your soul, and hiding your flutters behind all that fluff is definitely not adding to your character—it’s probably causing quite a distraction. Failure to trim down really thick eyebrows could have you looking like a homo erectus, Martin Scorsese, or the caveman dude in the Geico commercials. Take your pick.
Please note there is no need to “shape” your eyebrows. All you need to do is space them out, clean them up a bit, and make sure they are balanced and symmetrical. Just don’t go overboard making your eyebrows too thin or shapely. You could end up looking a little too feminine. A little waxing on the brows goes a long way.
Pain Factor: 8/10 – The first time may hurt, and maybe the second, but eventually you’ll get used to the sensation and feeling.
Pros: Overtime, the roots of your hair start to weaken, causing hair growth to lighten, lessen and grow back slower, allowing your waxing rituals to decrease. Waxing also exfoliates your skin, taking with it any dead skin cells with each tug. Lastly, waxing is the fastest method of hair removal available for larger areas.
Cons: Besides the obvious pain factor, if not pulled correctly, waxing can cause unsightly bruises and if too hot, the wax can burn your skin. Additionally, it’s important to find a spa that takes a keen interest in hygiene and sanitation to prevent infections and ingrown hairs. Ensure that your esthetician doesn’t “double dip” and use the same waxing stick or muslin cloths for you and the next client. Most spas should use equipment that is used and then thrown away. Lastly, if your skin is delicate, it may cause bumps and allergic reactions, which should subside after a few hours but can definitely be unpleasant.
Cost: The do-it-yourself kits come at an economic price ranging from $20-$50. If done professionally, it can range from $20 to $200 depending on the area being treated.
The verdict: Fast and economically feasible, waxing helps to get rid of hair quickly, especially if you don’t want to deal with the cost and inconvenience of more permanent methods.

Threading is another ancient hair removal technique, this one coming from India. Threading involves using thin thread which is twisted around the “threaders” fingers and spun quickly on the surface your skin, removing and plucking hair from the follicle without any pulling or tugging. Unlike plucking, threading removes a line of hair instead of one strand at a time. This practice is mostly used to groom or remove eyebrows and facial hair. Most South Asian salons specialize in threading, and it’s increasingly becoming popular among men. In Arab countries, threading is commonly used to get rid of hair on and around the earlobes.
Pain Factor: 6/10
Pros: Because threading doesn’t involve the use of hot wax, it doesn’t cause any redness or burns to the skin. Additionally, threading is a more delicate option and is good for sensitive or acne-prone skin. With continual use, hair starts to grow slower and thinner, and even the minutest hair can easily be removed. Results usually last from two to four weeks making it a cost-effective option.
Cons: Threading is usually limited to the face and smaller areas of the body, and cannot be used everywhere. If not done by a professional, it can cause folliculitis, which is the accumulation of bacteria in the hair follicle, causing pain and uneven skin pigmentation over time. It also takes a steady hand to perform this art, and even the slightest extra movement can cause a bloody cut or an extra arch in your eyebrow.
Cost: Economical; prices starting at $8 for eyebrows and $20 for a full face.
The Verdict: Threading is definitely less painful and messy, more economical and is complete in minutes, making it the perfect solution for stubborn facial hair.

3)Depilatory cream
Depilatory creams are one of the more popular ways to eliminate hair from the face and body. It’s easily available OTC and works rather gently, which is ideal for people who have a lower pain threshold. Depilatory creams use a combination of keratin (a variation of a protein found in toenails and fingernails) and chemicals that break the hair shaft at the base of the skin’s surface, leaving your skin soft and hair free. Within ten minutes the hair is removed and a damp cloth is used to wipe the skin clean.
Depilatory creams are usually applied by hand or a special tool that comes in the box. More recently, the addition of gels, lotions, aerosols and roll-ons have made it to the market to keep this method mess-free and easy to use. Most of them cater to eliminating hair on the face, arms, back, chest, buttocks, genital area and underarms. Caution: never use a depilatory on a part of the body that is not written on the label, as it may lead to irritation, especially on the face, which is more sensitive to harsh chemicals. For those of you with dry or sensitive skin, creams with moisturizers, aloe and skin-softening formulas are recommended to avoid excess irritation.
Pain Factor: 2/10 – most users experience slight tingling and some stinging.
Pros: Do-it-yourself kits are easy, cheap and convenient to use. It is easy to apply and allows you to get into areas that shaving will not allow you touch without getting nicks and cuts. Depilatory creams also work as skin exfoliators, (just like waxing) ridding your skin of dead skin cells and leaving you hair-free for three to seven days. This alternative works well over shaving if you have curly and coarse hair, and won’t give you bumps and unsightly ingrown hair.
Cons: Depending on the sensitivity of your skin, depilatory creams can cause some skin irritation and allergic reactions. Because of the harsh chemical ingredients, it also can leave strong lingering odors and cause the skin to lighten if used too frequently.
Cost: Available everywhere, from $7 for a can to $35 for a kit.
The Verdict: Depilatory creams are becoming increasingly popular since they do the trick without nicks, pain or taking a trip to the salon. This solution is made for wimps.

4)Laser and Electrolysis
Both of these methods involve time and extra money but do the trick of semi-permanently eliminating hair for up to 20 years. Electrolysis uses a needle which is inserted into the surface of the hair follicle with heat energy and destroys the hair individually. Laser, however, uses a beam which zaps and kills the hair follicle. This method works best for those who generally have lighter skin and darker hair, since the laser actually zaps the dark pigment, but technology is steadily evolving and there are several different types of lasers currently available. Both require a series of sessions, need to be conducted by professionals and are definitely pricier alternatives (although it could eventually equal the amount of money spent on the numerous waxing sessions over time); however, if you’re looking for semi-permanency, this is your best bet. Both of them are best used on facial hair, the back, nape of neck and chest.
Pain Factor: Between 6-7/10 (electrolysis being the more painful treatment because of the sharp poking needle)
Pros: This is definitely the grand master of all of the above methods and semi-permanency is the biggest obvious advantage.
Cons: The price of these treatments is steep, and they require at least four treatments before seeing a dramatic effect.
Cost: Fluctuates and depending on the part being treated, ranges from $75 to $200 a pop.
The Verdict: Laser treatment and electrolysis, although substantial investments, are definitely worth every penny in the long run.

If none of these options appeal to you, there’s always the omnipresent razor. Just remember that the thick stubble that appears on your face 24-hours post-shave will inevitably appear on your back or anywhere else on your body that you shave. And if your girl digs sandpaper for a back, knock yourself out.

Edited by Maya Champaneri

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