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How Does Laser Treatment Compare to Other Hair Removal Methods?

hair removal methods, such as laser treatment

There are a lot of methods of hair removal, and it can be difficult to tell which is right for you based on time, budget, and how long you want the effects to last. So with so many options, how do you choose? Here’s a rundown of how some of the most popular methods work, including laser treatment and shaving the skin. By the end of the read, you will know the pros and cons of depilatory creams, shaving, laser hair removal, and more.

Disclosure: I am happy to collaborate with our sponsor, Laser by Monica, to share this information with you today!

Depilatory Creams

Depilatory creams, also known as hair removal creams, were extremely popular at one point and are still available in most chain drugstores. They work as a topical solution. To use, apply the cream to the area you want hair removed, like a lotion minus massaging it in, and let it sit for a few minutes. Once it’s had time to set, you rub it off with a damp washcloth.

Depilatory creams are easy to use, not to mention relatively inexpensive if you’re buying just one bottle or tube. One of the main drawbacks women point out with this hair removal method is the strong smell. Depilatory products remove your hair through a chemical reaction that weakens the hair at the root. Unfortunately, the combination of these chemicals releases a sulfur-like scent. Even with the addition of more pleasant-smelling scents, it’s hard to escape the cream’s powerful sulfur smell. Luckily, laser hair removal and other methods don’t have that same sulfur-like drawback.

While there’s no pain or risk of nicks with depilatory creams, some clients find their skin sensitive to the chemicals. It can make your skin feel dry, itchy, or irritated after the treatment. And, like shaving, the results only last for a couple of days before your hair begins to grow back. In other words, you’re stuck doing the whole thing all over again later in the week.

Threading

Threading is gaining popularity as a hair removal method, particularly for the eyebrows. Partly that’s because it’s relatively quick and allows for a lot of precision. Threading works by having a cotton thread twisted and rolled over unwanted hair, removing it at the follicle level in one motion. The results last about as long as waxing but not as long as laser hair removal. Also, some women use threading if they’re sensitive to waxing or don’t like the sensation of hot wax.

Threading is best for small areas, especially on the face. That’s because it would simply be too time-intensive for larger body parts. Threading is great for:

  • Eyebrows
  • Chin
  • Upper Lip

But not suitable for larger body parts, like legs or the bikini line. It’s a slower process than other methods of hair removal, but it’s perfect for precise shaping.

Waxing or Sugaring

Waxing is one of the most popular hair removal methods. Plus, it’s not difficult to find a place that provides it, whether that ends up being a budget nail salon or a high-end spa.

Sugaring or waxing involves first applying melted wax or a hot sugar mixture to the skin. Then, pull it off quickly, in the opposite direction of the hair’s natural growth. The hair gets pulled out right by the root instead of at the surface, which means results last longer than they would if you shave instead. But you’ll still be doing this again, about every 4 to 6 weeks.

One obvious reason that many women decide not to wax is the discomfort, and that’s just one of the disadvantages of waxing. There are different types of wax, soft and hard, and some practitioners say that choosing one or the other to use on certain parts of the body can lessen the discomfort. But any way you look at it, waxing is painful.

Waxing is also more expensive than shaving or depilatory cream, but it’s still only temporary, unlike laser hair removal. You won’t need waxing as often as you shave, but the cost adds up over time. You might be shocked at how much the average person spends on waxing every year!

Shaving

Shaving is cheap, easy, and the go-to hair removal methods for many women. It’s hard to deny that it’s a convenient option, especially if you’re in a hurry. But people are starting to realize that there are just as many inconveniences.

Firstly, even a high-quality razor can cause razor burn, irritation or even shaving nicks, which can leave unsightly scars. Some people are also prone to ingrown hairs, which are painful and can also scar the skin. And, though it may be quick, the results of shaving go away quickly. Many women experience smooth skin for only one or two days before the hair starts to grow back, unlike with those who undergo laser treatment.

laser treatment
Comparing laser treatment to other hair removal methods.

Laser Hair Removal Method

Specialists perform laser hair removal with a high-powered laser targeted at each hair follicle. The special laser focuses on the root and provides nearly permanent results for smooth skin.

The typical laser treatment experience is to book several treatments a few weeks apart throughout a year to get each hair at the right point in its growth cycle. This method does require a larger up-front investment, but over time it means less money spent on regular waxing or shaving skin. Furthermore, if you choose a qualified specialist to do the laser treatment, you also don’t have the same risks of ingrown hairs or cuts.

The laser hair removal method is growing in popularity as women realize they simply don’t have the time or desire to use a technique that requires constantly redoing it.

Methods of Hair Removal, Such as Laser Treatment, or None At All

Picking a hair removal method is absolutely a personal choice. Factors that affect your decision include your budget, time and the desired results. Laser hair removal, however, is the only option on this list that offers long-lasting results.

Lastly, never feel pressured to remove body hair if you don’t want to. While hair removal on legs and underarms is a norm in Western Society for women, it doesn’t mean you have to go with that. I know someone who doesn’t shave her underarms and no the world isn’t going to end. Do what feels right for you.

16 thoughts on “How Does Laser Treatment Compare to Other Hair Removal Methods?”

  1. I make light here! :D
    As one ages, one will find hair disappearing from areas of the body. Unfortunately, you will also find hair appearing in other areas of your body…. where there never was hair before.
    Example: The hair on my head gets thinner and thinner. Suddenly, I have a light moustache. It’s as though the hair on my head is growing into my scalp, and coming out above my top lip. At this rate, I’m destined for a beard in 10 years.
    I’ve always wanted to do comedy! :D :D

    1. OHHH now I am thinking of the woman with the beard in the movie The Magician ;) You’re so funny, Resa! True though that hair thins some places and gets thicker elsewhere. Oh the female body, always keeping us on our toes right :D

  2. Hair removal is a good topic to write about… but there are additional methods that are not mentioned in this article. I will also answer this question from a UK point of view, because I wonder whether the terminology over on the Western side of the Atlantic differs from in the UK.

    Firstly, with my UK-hat on, I’m afraid that I feel I have to be a little critical of (or perhaps pedantic is the word) the section written relating to Laser Hair Removal because this method does NOT target each hair follicle on an individual basis. I speak from experience of having had this treatment. The laser targets a small area of the skin (around the size of a pea) during each burst (thus several hairs in each blast are affected), and the laser will be guided by the practitioner quickly across the area being treated with many bursts in one session. I strongly advise applying pain numbing cream and/or taking paracetamol before going to one of these sessions. During the session aloe vera will typically be applied to the treated skin, and after a session you should apply vaseline to the area. The skin will usually be quite pink, and may be puffed up too, but this will likely die down within a few hours. You will typically have to have 8-10 sessions for permanent results, which are typically stated as being 80%+ effective. Do not be disheartened if the hairs seem to be fighting back and growing again after about session 4, this is the body’s defence mechanisms trying to fight the treatment… but they give up in another session or two :-) NOTE, this treatment will NOT work for blonde or grey hairs.

    A treatment not mentioned is electrolysis for hair removal, and this treatment DOES target each individual hair – a small probe is inserted into each individual follicle using heat (or sometimes chemical) energy and the hair is then pulled out. This, like laser, is also a permanent method of hair removal, but it might require a few goes at some follicles for it to work. This treatment can be used to remove blonde and grey hairs.

    Another method of hair removal involving light is IPL, or Intense Pulse Light – I have experience of this too. This treatment can be obtained from some practitioners, though there are an ever-increasing number of devices on the market that state the use of IPL (such as Philips Lumea and No-No) – I cannot comment on the effectiveness of any of these purchasable devices, but I would say that I have read extremely mixed reviews of some of them, especially the No-No ones, and some people end up disappointed after shelling out a LOT of £ / $. I received IPL from an expert, and my conclusion is that it works okay for lower density body hair but for areas with very dense and stubborn hair then IPL is unlikely to be of use. In my experience, IPL is not nearly as effective compared to laser.

    A cheaper device to buy is an epilator, such as those by Remington (of which I have one). In my experience, I would say that this device after a LOT of use will permanently remove only some hairs, while others may be less thick or dark; it is also quite painful to use. In summary, I’d recommend an epilator should only be used for limbs and regarded only as a hair visibility-reduction option.

    A final thing to mention: for some hair removal methods, primarily I am thinking laser here but this may well apply to some people for electrolysis and IPL too, a day or so after the treatment you might be prone to getting small whiteheads appearing on your skin, especially if it is oily like mine. If this happens, DO NOT pop them or try to get rid of them, as this will scar your skin. If necessary, there are creams/lotions for spot removal available – I use one by Garnier.

    I hope all this helps. Happy New Year.

    1. Hi Andrea, thank you for your thorough comment on this post. My apologies for the late response. Sharing your experiences about laser hair removal and other hair removal methods is helpful for sure as it can help other people decide what to pursue based on potential benefits and drawbacks. Regarding your note about laser hair removal, I believe there are both lasers that target individual follicles and ones that are broader. As you say, UK could have differences than North America for what’s available. Wishing you all the best always.

    1. Amy,
      Looking at your photo, you appear to have quite fair hair. If the area of your body that requires hair removal has similarly fair hair then, assuming that laser means the same thing as it does to me in UK (in other words, not electrolysis) then you may be quite disappointed with laser, and electrolysis could be more suitable for you. Either way, with both methods they should do a test patch first and that will decide how successful it is going to be.
      Regards,
      Andrea

  3. This is really well-written and informative. For me, I do some shaving on my own, and some professional waxing. For waxing, the key is to be consistent. Yes, it’s more expensive, but the salon I go to makes me feel so comfortable and at ease. Plus, the hair that is waxed grows in slower!

  4. This is so informative! But just a question: approximately how many times in a year would you have to go for the laser treatment? Because I’m assuming it’s not permanent hair removal?

    1. Grace,
      Your hair appears to be quite dark so you should see good permanent results from laser after about 9-10 sessions. However, note that permanent in the context of laser is regarded as being over 80% but not necessarily 100%. I have written a large response on this article below on hair removal, based on my experiences.
      Regards,
      Andrea

    2. Hi Grace, please see Andrea’s follow-up comments on this post for additional information. Regarding your question about frequency, it varies by person, depending on color of hair and other factors. Use a professional and they will be able to guide you best.

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