Ancient history of hair removal
In early history hair was removed for cleanliness and fashion reasons. If the hair was cut and shaven it meant one was high class. In Ancient Egypt, hair removal was not just a fashion statement; it also served as a treatment for louse infestation, which was a prevalent issue in the region. Commonly, they would replace the removed hair with wigs, which were seen as easier to maintain and also fashionable. They would remove their hair using two methods: waxing and shaving. If they chose to wax they would use caramelized sugar, and if they wanted to shave, they would use an early form of the straight razor.
In Ancient Persia they used vadjebi, which you can compare to our modern chemical depilatory method today.
So why do we remove our body hair today? Is it still for cleanliness and fashion reasons? Well hair removal can depend on many different resons such as medical, cultural, religious and sexual as well as some sports require hair removal.
As time went on new techniques were found to remove hair.
Forms of hair removal
Depilation is the removal of the part of the hair above the surface of the skin. The most common form of depilation is shaving or trimming. Another option is the use of chemical depilatories, which work by breaking the disulfide bonds that link the protein chains that give hair its strength.
Epilation is the removal of the entire hair, including the part below the skin. Methods include waxing, sugaring, epilation devices, lasers, threading, intensed pulse light or electrology. Hair is also sometimes removed by plucking with tweezers.
Hair removal methods
Many products in the market have proven fraudulent. Many other products exaggerate the results or ease of use.
“Depilation”, or temporary removal of hair to the level of the skin lasts several hours to several days and can be achieved by
- Shaving or trimming (manually or with electric shavers)
- Depilatories (creams or “shaving powders” which chemically dissolve hair)
- Friction (rough surfaces used to buff away hair)
“Epilation”, or removal of the entire hair from the root, lasts several days to several weeks and may be achieved by
- Tweezing (hairs are tweezed, or pulled out, with tweezers or with fingers)
- Waxing (a hot or cold layer is applied and then removed with porous strips)
- Sugaring (hair is removed by applying a sticky paste to the skin in the direction of hair growth and then peeling off with a porous strip)
- Threading (also called fatlah or khite in Arabic, or band in Persian) in which a twisted thread catches hairs as it is rolled across the skin.
- Epilators (mechanical devices that rapidly grasp hairs and pull them out).
- Drugs that directly attack hair growth or inhibit the development of new hair cells. Hair growth will become less and less until it finally stops; normal depilation/epilation will be performed until that time. Hair growth will return to normal if use of product is discontinued.
Advantages and disadvantages
There are several disadvantages to many of these hair removal methods.
Hair removal can cause some issues: skin inflammation, minor burns, lesions, scarring, ingrown hairs, bumps, and infected hair follicles.
Some removal methods are not permanent, can cause medical problems and permanent damage, or have very high costs. Some of these methods are still in the testing phase and have not been clinically proven.