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Image of a woman with dark hair representing  facial hair and how to get rid of it

Facial hair – how to get rid of it for good

Written by
Chloë James

Love it or hate it, we all have facial hair. It might be more noticeable for some people than others, but it’s something we all experience from the peach fuzz days of infancy – and it changes constantly as we age.

More hair is a welcome development for some, and a real pain for others. Plucking, waxing, and shaving all provide temporary relief… but the key word is temporary. Repeating the process is impractical, not to mention annoying, and the expenses can soon tally up over the years. That’s what makes permanent solutions so appealing. But how do you know which one is right for you and your facial hair?

Why do we have facial hair?

If you want to get rid of facial hair, it’s a good idea to know why we have it in the first place. The thing is nobody really knows. Unlike hair found on the rest of the body, facial hair doesn’t serve any specific physiological function. It doesn’t keep us warm, it doesn’t protect us from anything – as far as scientists can tell, it’s purely ornamental.

At least from an evolutionary perspective. Biologically, there’s a bit more going on. When hair grows on the face, it’s because the follicles have been stimulated by a hormone called DHT – which itself is produced from testosterone (AKA male sex hormones). That’s why men tend to have more facial hair, and why women experience more when suffering from hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome.

It’s also why facial hair kicks in during our teenage years. Extra hair makes itself known as soon as hormones go haywire – so, basically, puberty. This applies to perimenopause, too, when oestrogen levels plummet. Others may even find that things get hairy when they start hormonally disruptive medications, such as birth control.

Why would I remove my facial hair?

Where facial hair grows – and what it looks like – differs from person to person, and every possible combination of thick, thin, dark, or light is perfectly fine. But so are your reasons for wanting to get rid.

Most of the time, it’s personal preference. Body hair has grown increasingly normalised in recent years, but for women there’s still some stigma attached to dark, coarse hairs in areas such as the upper lip or chin. And for men and women alike, it’s personal preference – and convenience – that makes the idea of de-fuzzing spots including the cheeks or between the eyebrows so appealing.

Sometimes, however, we’re swayed by trends. This in itself is technically personal preference, but it should also give you cause to hesitate before you jump straight to permanent(ish) hair removal. Think eyebrows. The thin, sharp look of the noughties was supplanted by today’s thick, fluffy brows, leaving those who overplucked scrambling for alternatives. And while thinning your beard may be ideal now, it’s worth considering your preferences in ten years’ time before you immediately start destroying your hair follicles.

How do I remove facial hair?

Good news: if you’re set on removing your facial hair, you have multiple solid options. The only real question is which one is right for you.

Laser

Zapping away unwanted hair sounds too good to be true. In reality, it’s more than possible – with a little bit of patience.

Laser hair removal uses a laser device to specifically target the pigment in your hair follicles. The energy heats it up, destroys it, and gradually slows down growth until it’s thinner, sparser, and reduced by up to 90 per cent.

Just don’t expect to go hairless overnight. You’ll need multiple sessions, and the exact number depends on the thickness and colour of your facial hair, as well as your skin tone. Those with fairer skin tones and darker, coarser hair have the easiest ride, as it’s easier for the laser to target the hair.

Thinner, lighter hairs — or peach fuzz — is slightly trickier to tackle, but not impossible if a Q-switched Nd:YAG laser is used. The same goes for those with darker skin tones, who will find their best results with diode or Nd:YAG lasers.

Is it right for me?

As laser doesn’t target specific hairs, it’s great for larger areas such as the cheeks or neck. Despite laser developments, it’s still much more effective on dark, thick hairs, such as those commonly found on the chin or upper lip.

IPL

Think of IPL as laser’s less intense younger sibling. Instead of heat, it uses light to damage the follicles. This makes the treatment itself less uncomfortable than laser – but also weaker, taking more sessions to get the results you want.

Otherwise, it works very similarly to laser. The hair absorbs the light, eventually reducing growth after multiple sessions.

Is it right for me?

IPL is more indiscriminate than laser, making it even more ideal for large facial areas. The fact that it’s typically also less uncomfortable might also be another reason to choose IPL for hairier spots like the hairline, sideburns, or chin.

It’s important to note that darker skin tones and lighter hair generally aren’t considered appropriate candidates. Darker skin contains more melanin, making it more susceptible to burns, while lighter hair doesn’t have enough.

Electrolysis

This is the closest you can come to permanent hair removal. With the aid of a thin metal probe, electrolysis targets each hair follicle with a low-level electrical current to kill the cells generating growth.

It’s extremely precise – and for that reason, also slow. Sessions tend to be notably longer than laser or IPL. But on the plus side, you can expect extremely long-lasting results as the follicle is totally destroyed.

Is it right for me?

This precision makes electrolysis perfect for areas requiring close attention to detail, such as the brows, hairline, or beard neckline.

Unlike laser and IPL, your suitability doesn’t depend on your hair colour or skin tone. However, it is worth considering the time required to tackle larger areas of the face.

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