Underarm Hair Removal – Your Complete Guide
A Few Facts
Underarm hair, also termed axillary, is of a type known as terminal hair.
Terminal hair is thicker and tends to be darker than hair all over the body and develops on the face, armpits and pubic area following puberty. Head hair is also terminal hair but has a much longer life cycle which is why it grows considerably longer.
The life cycle of hair varies depending on the part of the body where it is located and is genetically determined.
Other variables include age, ethnic background, gender and hair colour.
It is for these reasons that it is not possible to be entirely accurate, but the average life cycle of underarm hair is around 5 months. Approximately 30% is in the actively growing stage at any one time.
What are the Options?
Basically, you have six options for removal of underarm hair, each of which have their merits and downsides.
Shaving is probably the easiest and quickest method, and can be done in the shower as part of your daily routine.
Using a rechargeable electric shaver is particularly convenient and, although a razor will give a closer shave, nowadays electric shavers are almost as effective.
Depilatory creams produce good results, although they can be a little time consuming and messy.
Product development over the years has lead to a reduction in the offensively overpowering scent of the original depilatories, with some actually being relatively pleasant now.
The results are a little longer lasting than shaving.
Waxing is a very effective and long-lasting method for removing underarm hair, which you can do at home or have done for you in a professional salon.
It can be a painful method, especially when you first have it done, as the armpit is a sensitive area.
Over time, with regular sessions, the skin will become more tolerant to the procedure.
We would recommend you go to a salon for the first few times, but if you are doing it at home make sure to hold the skin good and taut.
There are different types of wax, some which need heating, some that are used on pre-waxed strips and some that can be used without strips, so you may wish to experiment to see which suits you best.
Epilating is similar to waxing in that it pulls the hair out from the root.
Electric epilators have a series of anything up to 72 tiny tweezers on their rotating epilator head, to pull multiple hairs simultaneously so that they can be used for larger areas than the traditional manual tweezer.
The results will last as long as waxing and epilators are easy and convenient to use at home, some also have a shaving head attachment.
IPL/Laser removal of underarm hair can give permanent results, leaving the area with reduced, finer/lighter regrowth.
There is a difference in technology between IPL and Laser hair removal, although both use light rays to target dark pigment in the hair to permanently disable the hair follicle.
The main thing to remember with IPL/laser hair removal is that you will need to have a number of sessions over several months to see results.
This is because it is only effective on hair that is in the actively growing stage.
Electrolysis is currently the only FDA approved method for permanent hair removal, and is carried out by professional clinicians.
It involves the insertion of tiny probes into the hair follicle to produce energy which permanently disables the follicle, causing the hair to fall out and the follicle to be unable to re-grow new hair.
As with IPL hair removal, many sessions will be required over a period of time to achieve the results you want.
One of the great advantages of electrolysis, though, is that it is safe and effective for all skin and hair types.
Pros and Cons of Each Method
Pros of Shaving
- Quick and easy - can be done in the shower/bath
- Pain free
- No particular skill required and can be done anywhere - travelling etc.
- Relatively inexpensive - no costly visits to a professional salon
- Minimal regrowth - you can shave daily
Cons of Shaving
- Short lived results - you will have to shave very regularly, possibly even daily
- Regrowth can be stubbly and irritating
- There is risk of ingrown hairs and razor burn
- Ongoing cost, if using a razor then you need shaving cream/foam and to regularly replace blades
Pros of Depilatory Creams
- Easy to use at home, no skill required
- Pain free
- Can be done anywhere
- Convenient - no costly visits to a professional salon
Cons of Depilatory Creams
- Short lived results - although lasts slightly longer than shaving
- Ongoing cost of buying the creams
- Time - cream needs to be left on for anything up to 8 minutes to work
- Can be a bit messy and uses harsh chemicals
- Risk of adverse allergic reactions to chemicals - you need to carry out a patch test
Pros of Waxing
- Relatively easy to use at home with a little practice
- Covers large areas quickly
- Longer lasting results than shaving or creams
- Can be done anywhere - especially easy if you are using the pre-waxed strips
- Regrowth tends to be finer/lighter
Cons of Waxing
- Hair will grow back, so treatments are ongoing and there is an ongoing cost from buying product or attending a salon
- Painful - although you will become accustomed over time
- Some regrowth required for wax to adhere to
- Can be a bit messy
- Risk of ingrown hairs
Pros of Epilators
- Easy and quick to use at home, no skill required
- Cost effective - just a one off cost of epilator purchase
- Can be done anywhere, with the convenience of no visits to a professional salon
- Regrowth tends to be lighter/finer
- Results last longer than shaving or depilatory creams
Cons of Epilators
- Painful - although skin will become more tolerant with repeated use
- Risk of ingrown hairs
- Some regrowth required so that the tweezers have something to grab
- Hair will grow back, so ongoing use is required
Pros of IPL/Laser
- Permanent results - can achieve up to 80% permanent hair reduction
- Quick to use - covers large areas quickly, so underarms can be done in around 10 minutes each
- Can be done at home, for less expense. At home IPL machines have become more and more popular
- No unsightly regrowth necessary - you can shave between treatments
- No ingrown hairs - in fact it may well help with any that you have as the light tends to make the hairs grow straighter
Cons of IPL/Laser
- IPL is not suitable for everyone and works best for those with light skin and dark hair
- Pain - there is an element of pain involved, intensity can be adjusted and pain relief discussed with your clinician
- Can be costly, especially if attending salon treatments. Initial outlay for good home device relatively high
- Time - IPL/laser hair removal requires many treatments over months for effective results
- Side effects - make sure to follow all precautions and warnings
- Results cannot be guaranteed and vary from one individual to the next
Pros of Electrolysis
- Safe and reliable for permanent results
- Suitable for all hair colours and types
- Effective for all skin tones
- Minimal side effects
- Has become quicker with the development of multi-needle electrolysis
Cons of Electrolysis
- Salon only - you need to attend for professional treatments as this is an invasive procedure
- Cost - can be relatively high as many sessions are needed for complete hair removal
- Time - several treatments over months will be required
- Pain - there is an element of pain involved although it is much more comfortable nowadays - you can discuss this with the electrologist