Our beauty routines are pretty time-consuming, so anything we can do to check tasks off the list - preferably permanently - is a huge win. And let’s be honest, our body hair is something we’d gladly give no further thought to.
If you’re wondering how to remove hair permanently, there are a couple of choices. We take you through the pros and cons of each permanent hair removal option.
#1 / Intense pulse light (IPL) hair removal
What is intense pulse light? Intense pulse light, aka IPL, is a hair removal treatment that uses multiple wavelengths of broad-spectrum high-intensity light to kill the growing cells that make hair. The light is absorbed by the pigment in hairs, which heats up and damages the hair root to reduce future hair growth.
What you can expect during your treatment: An IPL device is used over the area(s) being treated. It produces flashes of light that target hairs and destroys the follicle. In addition to getting this treatment done in a salon, there are also many at-home IPL devices you can choose from - we reviewed our favourites over here.
Is IPL painful? It feels like you’re being flicked with a rubber band, so while there is some discomfort, most people don't find it very painful.
The pros: IPL is able to treat larger areas at a time (like your legs) and is generally the most affordable option per treatment...but keep in mind that it may take more sessions than laser hair removal to get the desired results. IPL is the only permanent hair removal option that you can do yourself at-home.
The cons: IPL is a less intense and more diffused light treatment than laser hair removal, so the results are slightly inferior. Since IPL targets melanin (pigment), there is a risk that it can cause skin pigmentation if there isn’t a strong contrast between your skin and hair colour. For this reason, IPL is not suitable for light blonde, red, grey or white hairs and it is less effective and safe for dark skin tones.
Best suited for: Light skin tones with dark and/or thick hair.
Is IPL permanent? IPL is referred to as a permanent hair reduction treatment rather than a permanent hair removal treatment. Hair needs to be in the growing stage (known as anagen) for IPL to work, and since not all hairs are in the anagen phase at the same time, numerous hair removal treatments are required for a hair-free full body result.
#2 / Laser hair removal
What is laser hair removal? Laser hair removal uses a single wavelength of light that is attracted to the pigment in hair and destroys the base of hair follicles to prevent future growth. Laser hair removal tends to be the most popular form of permanent hair removal.
What you can expect during your treatment: During an in-salon treatment, a device is moved over skin, producing quick, little zaps of light as it goes. After each session, the treated hairs may continue to grow but they will fall out on their own.
Is laser hair removal painful? The level of pain felt during a laser hair removal session is similar to that experienced during IPL. If required, a topical anaesthetic cream can be applied.
The pros: Because laser uses a single wavelength, the narrow, concentrated light beam is able to precisely target hairs so there is less risk of any damage being caused to skin during the treatment. The light is able to reach deeper into the hair follicle than IPL. Laser hair removal tends to be the quickest and more efficient permanent hair removal option. Since the process is so targeted, most people with dark skin can have laser hair removal.
The cons: Laser hair removal and a tan don’t mix (find out why here), so if you like to have a year-round bronze glow, this won’t be the treatment for you. If you have particularly light or thin hair, unfortunately laser is not for you either. Laser hair removal is generally the most expensive option, however due to its efficacy, you should require less treatments.
Best suited for: Light to medium skin tones and dark, coarse hair types, although most hair colours - excluding very light and thin hair - can have this treatment done. It can be used all over the body, and is especially ideal for facial hair, bikini line and smaller areas of the body like under-arms.
Is laser hair removal permanent? While not technically permanent, laser hair removal produces long-lasting, near-permanent results.
#3 / Electrolysis
What is electrolysis? Electrolysis is a permanent hair removal treatment that uses an electric current that is transmitted through a tiny needle to destroy the hair follicles’ ability to regrow hairs.
What you can expect during your treatment: An ultra-fine needle is inserted into each hair follicle and then an electric current is released. The technician pulls out each hair that’s been treated as they go - it’s a bit like tweezing, although you shouldn’t feel the hair being tugged, it will just slide out. Each hair follicle must be treated individually.
Is laser hair removal painful? While it may sound like it would be painful, electrolysis is generally no more painful than laser hair removal (read: expect mild discomfort). You may feel heat or a tingling sensation as each hair is being treated.
The pros: Electrolysis doesn’t target pigment like laser and IPL, so it’s the most suitable hair removal option for a variety of hair and skin types, including dark skin tones with dark hairs and light skin tones with light hairs. It also delivers permanent results, unlike laser and IPL.
The cons: It’s a slow process so be prepared to invest a decent amount of money and time for this hair removal treatment. On average, only about 10 to 20 hairs are able to be treated in one session, and one session can takes up to an hour. Expect to commit to upwards of 15 sessions (depending on the number of hairs you want removed).
Best suited for: All hair colours, including those with blonde, red, white and grey hair. Electrolysis is ideal for removing stubborn and thick rogue hairs on the face and body.
Is electrolysis permanent? Yes, electrolysis is the only hair removal option that is considered permanent, although results may vary from person to person.
Do all of the above sound too painful for you? If you have a really low pain threshold, you might want to consider a semi-permanent hair removal cream (also known as a depilatory cream), which destroys the proteins in the hair so you can simply wipe them away. This is a great choice for men and women who don’t like shaving as it delivers slightly longer-lasting results (note that it doesn’t destroy the hair follicle, so your hair will grow back after about four days). Always do a patch test first, as those with sensitive skin may find the chemicals in these formulas irritating.
Is facial hair your biggest bugbear? These are your top ways to remove unwanted facial hair.
What’s your preferred method of hair removal? Have you tried any of the above permanent hair removal treatments? We’d love you to share your experiences and results with us in the comment section below!
Main image credit: Getty
Chelsea is BEAUTYcrew’s Contributing Editor. She has a sweet spot for anything that claims to make skin glow and won’t leave the house without a slick of mascara. Chelsea has 10 years of experience as a beauty editor and her words can be found on BEAUTYcrew, Women’s Health, Daily Addict, The Joye and Primped.