Facial hair removal is considered extremely common for both younger and older women – with genetics, hormones, and age playing a role in the development of facial hair growth.
While not all women will have a need for facial hair removal, most women develop coarser hairs around puberty and some later in their twenties, while others start to develop facial hair after having children, and then again around menopause.
But with so many products and procedures for women’s facial hair removal on the market today, what are the best options?
We’ve interviewed several professionals on this topic, including a board certified dermatologist, licensed esthetician and board certified plastic surgeon, who offer their take on the most effective options for women’s facial hair removal.
We’ll start this guide by discussing the typical causes for facial hair growth for women. Then, we’ll explore the best treatment for women’s facial hair removal, with laser therapy at the top of the list. We’ll also look at other methods such as waxing, threading, and creams – as well as shaving.
Causes for Facial Hair Growth for Women Include Age, Genetics, Hormones
Genetics, hormonal imbalances, and age are all key factors in the development of facial hair growth, according to Dr. Kally Papantoniou, a board certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic, laser and surgical dermatology in New York City, Queens and Eastern Long Island.
“Not all women will have a need for hair removal in their lives,” Dr. Papantoniou said. “But unfortunately most women develop coarser hairs around puberty, some later in their twenties. It often occurs after having children, and then again around menopause.”
Facial hair growth becomes more common as women grow older, agreed Dr. Yuly Gorodisky, owner of the West Coast Plastic Surgery Center in Southern California who is board-certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery.
“Some women get hair growth when they are younger, usually related to a hormonal imbalance or due to polycystic ovary syndrome,” Dr. Gorodisky noted. “Many women get hair as they get older when their female hormone levels start to decrease.”
Some females start to develop facial hair as early as their teenage years, mainly on the lip area, according to Lupe Guthrie, a board-certified clinical esthetician with a practice in Southern California.
“The most common cause in women after their 60s is Hirsutism,” Guthrie added. “Having this disorder means that you may have a genetic tendency toward facial hair growth.”
Now that we’ve addressed some of the causes of facial hair growth for women, let’s take a look at several options for facial hair removal, including costs and side effects. According to our experts, laser hair removal is considered the best option, which we explore in the next section.
Keep in mind that this article is not intended to provide medical advice. Therefore, it’s important to consult with your medical professional, especially before undergoing any clinical treatment for facial hair removal.
Best Options for Facial Hair Removal for Women: Pros & Cons, Costs, Side Effects
A few facial hairs that are plucked with routine care are rarely a major concern, Dr. Gorodisky said.
“But many have excess hair on the upper lip, chin, or sideburns which is usually waxed or threaded or plucked,” Dr. Gorodisky noted. “Women may want to avoid doing those treatments on a regular basis and present for more definitive treatments.”
In Dr. Gorodisky’s practice, laser hair removal is a common and effective option for women. Laser uses energy from a specific wavelength of light that is picked up by the pigment in the hair follicle. The follicle gets heated, which ultimately kills the root of the hair, causing the hair to stop growing.
“Hair grows in cycles and only the hairs that are actively growing are affected by the laser,” explained Dr. Gorodisky, who further noted that dormant hairs are not eliminated until they enter the growth phase.
“That is why several treatments are necessary for hair reduction,” Dr. Gorodisky said. “A successful laser hair removal treatment eliminates 70% of hair growth. Sometimes additional treatments may be necessary in the future as new follicles get activated.”
The pricing is based on the size of the area and the length of treatment, and can range from $69 to $500 per session.
“Usually, four to six sessions are needed to get 70% reduction of hair growth,” Dr. Gorodisky said.
Guthrie agreed that laser hair removal is a very popular procedure for areas including the upper lip, sideburns, and chin. In her practice, a 30-minute session costs between $99 and $199.
“Each time you go for a 30-minute session, not only will the hair grow back thinner and lighter, but fewer will grow back over time,” Guthrie said. “Doctors recommend touch-ups every four to 10 weeks, depending on the area and number of times it’s been treated.”
It takes numerous sessions because the lasers only work on hairs that are in the growth phase, which is around 20%, Dr. Papantoniou said.
Dr. Gorodisky recommends shaving with a razor before laser hair removal because the laser needs to “see” the stubble to deliver the energy to the hair follicle.
“If the hair is plucked or waxed, the laser will not work,” Dr. Gorodisky said.
Dr. Papantoniou agreed that it’s best to have the areas shaved that are going to be treated with the laser for top results.
“The laser itself feels like a mild rubber band snap, and we often use numbing creams to make the experience more comfortable,” Dr. Papantoniou added. “The area is mildly pink after, but this goes away in around 10 to 15 minutes. No sun bathing or tanning of any kind is recommended two to four weeks before or after laser treatments, and sunscreen should be applied.”
Marilyn Stotts, a nurse practitioner at Dermatique Medical Center for Advanced Skincare in Southern California, uses a Syneron DSL laser to damage the hair follicles where hair is formed and grown.
“Most damaged hair follicles do not grow hair,” said Stotts, who has been performing laser hair removal since 2001. “My patients especially enjoy a reduction of ingrown hairs, shaving injuries, razor burn, and other side effects associated with older modalities for hair removal.”
Some patients experience discomfort with laser hair removal, so Stotts applies a customized compound topical anesthetic cream minutes prior to a treatment at no charge.
“This cream numbs the treatment area and allows a more comfortable hair removal experience,” Stotts explained.
Laser therapy may not be the best option for the hairline, Guthrie said.
“For the majority of people, laser hair removal on the forehead is not possible because the baby hairs are too thin and lack sufficient pigment to respond to lasers," Guthrie said. "Blindness is a risk, especially in this area. That’s why you’ll be asked to wear special goggles when you get this treatment.”
Patients who are darker skinned are more difficult to treat because the hair color competes with the skin color for laser energy, and there is more potential for side effects, Dr. Gorodisky said.
“The side effects may involve swelling, pain from the treatment, or skin blisters or burns due to laser energy being absorbed into the skin,” Dr. Gorodisky explained.
While the laser option works on darker hair, it cannot remove blond or gray hair, Dr. Gorodisky noted.
“The blond or gray hairs cannot absorb the laser energy and cannot be eliminated with a laser,” he said.
Dr. Papantoniou added that laser hair removal rarely causes discoloration, blisters or scars.
“These are rare occurrences that should not happen with an expert in laser hair removal,” Dr. Papantoniou said. “It is important to be educated about where you are getting your hair removal treatments.”
In Stotts’ experience, possible side effects from laser hair removal include discomfort during the procedure, transient redness in the treatment area, some charring of hair, occasionally swelling in the treatment area – and on a rare occasion, a burn.
“These side effects are usually brief and are easily treated,” Stotts said.
Stotts added that patients should not be tan prior to laser hair removal treatments.
“Tan skin increases the likelihood of side effects from the laser treatment,” Stotts explained. “Patients are advised to use sunscreen before, during, and after treatment to reduce the likelihood of side effects.”
Electrolysis has been approved by the FDA to permanently remove unwanted facial hair and can be applied to most facial parts, according to the American Electrology Association.
This treatment is administered by a professional electrologist, who inserts a fine needle into the opening of the hair follicle. Electrolysis involves the use of a small amount of electrical current, which ultimately destroys the hair growth cells.
The cost depends on factors including how much hair needs to be removed, the size of the area being treated, and where you obtain your services. For example, a large city is going to have higher rates than a small town.
The number of treatments necessary varies with each person. For instance, a client might schedule five minutes for annoying hairs on their chin, or they might schedule longer appointments to treat heavy facial growth.
Potential side effects from electrolysis include infection from an unsterile needle and scarring from improper technique, according to the FDA.
However, “electrolysis is considered a permanent hair removal method since it destroys the hair follicle,” the FDA noted. “It requires a series of appointments over a period of time.”
Shaving is another option for women who want to remove their facial hair, according to Guthrie.
Keep in mind, however, that a razor doesn't pull hair from the root.
“When you shave, it's just at skin level,” Guthrie explained. “Shaving also exfoliates your skin, which can hurt it. If you have to shave every few days, it's a constant irritation to the skin. Shaving is effective when you’re in a bind, but not ideal as your go-to for facial hair removal method.”
Shaving should be avoided on the face, Dr. Papantoniou advised.
“I have seen worsening of facial hair from shaving,” Dr. Papantoniou said. “I believe laser or electrolysis are much better choices.”
If you still plan to shave, Dr. Papantoniou recommends not using multiple blade razors, because the closer the shave, the higher the risk for developing ingrown hairs.
“Shaving with razors, in my experience, can lead to coarse hairs,” Dr. Papantoniou said. “But if shaving will be done, it is better to shave with the grain to prevent ingrown hairs.”
Related: Which Women’s Shave Club Is Best?
Waxing is another effective option for removing hair from any area of the face. In Guthrie’s practice, Therapeutic Skin Care, waxing costs range from $15 to $65, depending on the spots being treated.
“You can count on hair-free skin for four to eight weeks,” Guthrie said.
It’s important to prep your skin properly prior to waxing, as well as take care of your skin afterwards.
“We use organic jojoba oil before and after a wax,” Guthrie noted. “After the treatment, we recommend no harsh chemicals or exfoliating products and lots of sunscreen because you lose part of the top protective layer of skin.”
Guthrie further advised choosing a wax that's formulated for sensitive skin.
“For those sensitive areas, it's important to use an all-natural elastic wax applied on the skin at body temperature," Guthrie said. “This makes for a more comfortable experience.”
Waxing hair on the face can provide temporary relief, but often causes ingrown hairs, and can cause hairs that were finer to grow in thicker and coarse, Dr. Papantoniou noted.
“At home wax strips can be bought, or heated wax may be used, and others will have waxing done professionally,” Dr. Papantoniou said. “For those who do not know how to wax or are not able to do it, it is best to have someone help with this.”
Waxing has to be done carefully, Dr. Gorodisky added.
“I have seen women who cause burns and discoloration of their skin due to waxing,” he warned.
In salons and spas, tweezing is used primarily for touch-ups on facial hair.
“We’ll wax side burns and if there’s a hair or two left, we’ll hand-tweeze instead of re-waxing,” Guthrie said. “Tweezing is essential, however, for at-home maintenance. For example, if you have a stray hair on the cheek or chin.”
Tweezing is comparably priced to waxing, Guthrie noted, and the results should last you the same amount of time as waxing because tweezers grab the hair at the root.
Threading is similar to waxing in that it pulls hair from the root for long-lasting results.
Generally, threading involves the use of a thin thread that is doubled, then twisted. This thread is rolled over areas of unwanted hair, plucking the hair at the follicle. Unlike tweezing in which a single hair is pulled one at a time, threading can remove short rows of hair.
“If you have a really good threading specialist, they can get all of the unwanted hair and even the fuzzies,” Guthrie said. “The treatment has similar results to waxing, but it may be less painful since it doesn't take the top layer of skin off.”
If you’ve ever experienced sensitivity to waxing, you may want to try the threading option, Guthrie advised.
“People who have had a bad experience with wax tend to try threading,” Guthrie said. “Results last for four to eight weeks, and a session will put you back anywhere from $20 to $60.”
Over-the-counter depilatory creams such as Nair are used to remove the surface facial hairs by chemically destructing the hairs, Dr. Papantoniou said.
However, “these creams can be irritating to sensitive skin, and can still lead to in-grown hair, and potentially cause the hair to become thicker,” Dr. Papantoniou warned.
She recommends Vaniqa, a prescription cream that’s applied to the affected areas on the face and causes the hairs to miniaturize and become fine facial hairs. Vaniqa can be purchased at places including Walmart, Target, and Costco, and prices start around $175 for 1.59 ounces.
“This works very well, but can take several weeks to work, and must be continued in order to maintain results,” Dr. Papantoniou advised.
Egg Whites and Spearmint Tea
Regarding natural methods that can potentially remove unwanted facial hair, Dr. Papantoniou noted two possible options: egg whites and spearmint tea.
“Using an egg white mask with sugar at home is a way of making an at home peel that can remove unwanted facial hairs,” Dr. Papantoniou said. However, “this can still lead to ingrown hairs, and is not a permanent solution.”
There have been studies that show drinking spearmint tea twice daily can help reduce facial hair, Dr. Papantoniou added.
“For excess facial hair it is wise to have a medical workup to rule out a possible hormone imbalance such as polycystic ovarian syndrome,” she said.
The Bottom Line on the Best Options Women’s Facial Hair Removal
According to Stotts, women sometimes use painful, expensive and time-consuming treatments that include threading, plucking and waxing to remove their unwanted facial hair.
“Side effects from these treatments include pain, burns, skin irritation, redness, allergic reactions, and skin discoloration,” Stotts said. Therefore, “most women will benefit from laser hair removal.”
Dr. Gorodisky said it’s important for women to evaluate the side effects and benefits of hair removal before using any product or undergoing any procedure.
“Also consult with a professional to see if permanent hair reduction is feasible based on medical and skin conditions, hair color and skin type,” Dr. Gorodisky advised.
Although laser hair removal may seem expensive, the benefits far outweigh the cost and waste of time involved in shaving and waxing, Dr. Papantoniou said.
“It is an investment that will provide years of being hair free, and will prevent ingrown hairs, and potential scarring and discoloration,” Dr. Papantoniou advised.
“The bottom line is so many women have to struggle with facial hair,” Dr. Papantoniou added. “See an expert, make sure the hormones are in a healthy range and consider laser hair removal as the best option for long term relief.”
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