The weather’s warming up in many parts of the country, and that means people will soon be heading to the beach and spending sunny days at spring training games.
If you’re like many women and men, it’s at about this point in the year — as you are contemplating your bikini or board shorts — that you remember the hair that has been hidden under pants and sweaters all winter long. The challenge is to get rid of that unwanted hair — whether on legs, backs or bikini areas — without breaking the bank or suffering too much discomfort.
We’ve spoken to some salon experts about how to get that desirable smooth-skinned look.
“People are spending a lot of time outdoors,” says Mercie Loftus, owner of Beautif-EYE Studios in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona. “It’s really becoming a well-maintained society. It starts from your face all the way down to your toes.”
If you don’t want to use a razor or tweezers at home, you can visit a salon to try waxing, laser hair removal, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) or threading. Prices and pain levels vary, depending on what kind of service you get.
To begin, a sticky liquid is applied to the unwanted hair. It’s either a soft wax applied with a strip or a hard wax placed directly on the skin. The hair is pulled out by the root when the wax or strip is removed in a quick motion.
Waxing removes unwanted hair on many body parts including eyebrows, backs, ears, bikini areas, legs, underarms and even toes. The hair must be at least a quarter of an inch long for it to work.
The benefit of waxing over shaving or cutting hair is that the hair stays off longer, says Bidisha Ray, co-owner of Shona Salon & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona. When the hair grows back, it’s “sparser and thinner,” she adds.
A Brazilian wax takes off all of the hair in the front and back areas of the body that are covered by a bikini bottom. A bikini wax generally just removes hair outside of the panty line.
Waxing can make skin red and irritated. Ray’s salon uses a soy-based, anti-bacterial wax that she says is great for sensitive skin.
Many people find waxing a little painful, especially in the bikini area, but it’s over quickly. Experts recommend people come back about once every three to five weeks to get waxed again as the hair starts to grow back.
Insiders say one drawback to waxing is it stretches the skin, causing it over time to lose its elasticity.
The average costs in major cities for waxing are about $25 to $35 for a bikini wax, $45 to $80 for a Brazilian wax, $40 to $55 for a full back wax and $10 to $20 for eyebrows, according to salon owners and CostHelper.com.
Those who want to try waxing at home can find many kits available at drugstores or online. Some have beeswax and paraffin that can be heated up, and others have pre-coated wax strips. Sally Hansen offers an eyebrow, face and lip wax product for less than $8 on Amazon.com, and the hair removal line Nad’s has a Brazilian & Bikini Wax kit for $13.50.
Fair warning on doing your own bikini or Brazilian wax: Shape.com reported on research out of the University of California, San Francisco showing that:
[I]njuries from botched lady-scaping have grown exponentially over the past few years. The researchers add that their numbers are likely vastly underestimated because many women don’t seek treatment or are too embarrassed to say what really happened to them.
Among the tips offered by the Shape article for those who choose to do a DIY bikini or Brazilian wax:
- Make sure your body and your tools are clean before you start.
- Avoid hot showers and activities that may cause you to overheat immediately afterwards.
- Use aloe vera to sooth irritated skin afterwards.
- Watch for signs of ingrown hairs and other infections, and be sure to contact a doctor if you develop a painful bump or rash.
2. Laser hair removal
A specific laser wavelength is used by professionals to damage the hair follicle and restrict new hair growth.
“This kills hair inside the root,” says Dr. Jennifer Mundt, medical director at Delete –Tattoo Removal & Laser Salon in Phoenix, Arizona. “I’ve done the top of toes, underarms, regular arms, legs, bikini, (and) ears on men.”
Mundt adds that after several treatments, 95 to 99 percent of all hair growth is removed in some areas of the body. However, women’s hormones can sometimes can trigger hair to grow back around the lips, chins and underarms despite repeated treatments.
Lasers work best for removing dark hair on fair skin. Generally speaking, experts say lasers won’t remove blond, red or white hair as it’s too light for the device to see.
Laser hair removal can cause temporary redness, swelling or irritation on the skin. Mundt says the laser treatment feels like a cat tongue scratching you, but her device blows cold air to reduce pain.
Mundt and BeautyPros.org say the average cost for laser hair removal for the underarm area is $150 and for the bikini area is also $150. A full-leg or whole-back hair removal averages $250 to $300.
3. Intense pulsed light
Called IPL, this is a method in which devices generate light pulses, and the light energy is converted to heat energy that removes hair.
Marianna Ali, owner of Marianna’s L’Esthetique Medi Spa in Boulder, Colorado, says it’s a very effective way of removing hair but it works best on dark hair.
Some experts warn that IPL can cause skin pigmentation problems and an uncomfortable, burning feeling during the treatment.
The prices for IPL treatments at Marianna’s medi-spa range from $75 to $350, depending on the area of the body treated.
With this ancient method of hair removal, strands of thread are doubled, then twisted and rolled over the unwanted hair. With a twisting motion, rows of hairs are removed.
One benefit of threading is that chemicals are not needed so it’s easier on the skin, Loftus says. It’s also very sanitary because the thread is thrown out right after being used. Loftus says it’s like a “fast tweezing” that’s very precise.
Prices for threading around the country are on average $10 per eyebrow and $30 to remove all the unwanted hair on a face.
Men can even get their beards threaded, to maintain a tidy look. Here’s what the blog A Bearded Gentleman, told his readers about the process:
First off, it hurts like nothing else. It won’t be something I do often, I just wanted to see the process and how it works/feels. This process will weaken the follicle and prevent the hair growing as dense in the future in that area, so this is particularly good for your cheeks and neck with any hairs you are constantly trimming. You will still have to trim your beard and look after it with your normal methods.
Men: The caveman era is over
Whether it’s by waxing, threading or laser treatment, women aren’t the only ones getting rid of unwanted body hair.
Loftus says many men come to her salon to get their backs waxed.
“We’re able to keep it where they look masculine, but just a little cleaned up,” Loftus says. “I don’t think the burly man is coming back in style any time soon.”
Ali also says many men get their eyebrows shaped at her medi-spa. Some get unwanted hair removed from their fingers, toes and shoulders in addition to their backs. Ali and others in the beauty industry say men can get hair removed in a way that shapes and cleans up their eyebrows and other body areas without making them appear too feminine.
“My advice to all men is, do what feels good for you,” Ali says.
Do you have tips or tricks for looking great at the beach? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.