You’ve concealed them for years. You’ve tweezed them to no end. You’ve even tried waxing them away. But those unwanted facial hairs continue to sprout causing what seems like an endless battle with in-grown hairs, hyperpigmentation, and dark spots. Why all the embarrassing stray hairs you ask? It all boils down to genetics and hormones.
“For most patients, it’s just a normal variant. It’s hereditary or runs in the family, says Dr. Heather Woolery Lloyd, Director of Ethnic Skin Care at the University of Miami. “But for a small percentage of women, there is a hormonal imbalance. They tend to have excess levels of male hormones which is testosterone.”
To tackle the problem, first visit an endocrinologist or gynecologist to test your hormones. If there is an imbalance, your doctor can prescribe the proper medication. After you’ve figured out the root cause, pay close attention to the way your skin reacts to your current method of removing those pesky hairs. You might be doing more harm than good. Here’s what you should know about the most popular hair removal methods:
Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal is one of the most effective methods of eliminating facial hair growth for good. Women who are not suffering from hormonal imbalances could see a reduction of about 80% after a series of 5 to 8 treatments. If you’re in your early 20s, you may need more than 8 sessions since your facial hair may increase as you age.
But when choosing this method, proceed with caution. Most lasers aren’t designed to treat women with dark complexions so the wrong one could burn your skin. When selecting a facility to perform the procedure, make sure they have the Nd: Yag laser, which is the safest for darker skin types. Do-it-yourself lasers designed for consumers to use at home are also off limits for black women.
Once you’ve found the correct laser, make sure you’ve chosen the right doctor or technician. “Even if you use the right laser, if you have someone who is not experienced and doesn’t understand lasers and darker skin you could still have side effects,” says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd.
Through Electrolysis, a technician uses a fine needle-shaped instrument to zap each hair with an electric current, ultimately destroying the hair follicle. It is the only other procedure besides laser that can lead to permanent hair removal.
But the effectiveness of electrolysis depends on how skilled the technician is. It could also be pricey since facilities normally charge per minute. “I’ll say if you have less than 20 hairs and you have a good electrologist that is very skilled, then electrolysis is a better choice,” says Dr. Woolery Lloyd.
Shaving is the most inexpensive method of removing unwanted facial hair. Electric shavers and shaving sticks are easy to come by at your local drug store, but there is a downside to this affordable option: women with dark coarse facial hair tend to struggle with in-grown hairs after shaving. It could also cause irritations and cuts.
Threading is a good temporary fix depending on your hair type. If you’re looking to remove finer hair or peach fuzz typically found on the cheeks, it might be your best bet. If you’re battling with coarser hairs threading isn’t as effective.
Waxing is unpredictable. It’s a simple method that could be done at home with smooth results depending on your skin type. But for some women it could lead to acne, brown spots, and—you guessed it—more in-grown hairs.
Plucking is likely the most common method of removal and the usually the most harmful. So go easy on the tweezing. “The biggest problem from plucking is in-growns and almost everyone gets in-growns from plucking,” says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd. “Although it’s probably for many women the first choice, for a dermatologist it would be my last choice.”
Abi Ishola is a multimedia journalist based in New York City. Visit www.aishola.com to learn more about Abi’s work. Follow her on Twitter: @aishola