A client reached out to us on the Priscilla’s Services website. They were interested in getting some help with their hair removal issues. I wrote an extensive response, which I believe may be if help to some other people. I am therefore reproducing it (with some editing) here. This is a compilation of my thoughts on hair removal that have been written about here before as well as some new thoughts. So please do not be upset if there is some repetition of previous posts, but hopefully there is enough new stuff to keep you interested.
As I am sure you are all aware trying different products and techniques gets expensive. If you want to help me bring you more and better reviews, product trials and endorsements please feel free to donate some small change to Daniella’s Ramblings. All reviews are done off my own bat, at my own cost and I do not receive incentives for doing these reviews. So, you are getting my genuine opinions in all cases. This is one way of keeping my opinions unbiased and it still allows me to bring more products to you for review purposes.
It can be really tricky to find what works and I will say in advance that what works for one person will be a disaster for others. I know of people who say waxing is the only solution and others who have tried it only to be a mess of ingrown hairs, rashes, pimples and pain. What follows is my personal experience of what works for me. Apply what you can and use it in any way you wish, but don’t be afraid to experiment is my advice.
Some general principles:
1. Hygiene. The cleaner the skin the better. You want to limit bacteria as any hair removal technique will likely cause some minor damage (cuts, abrasions etc) allowing nasties in. If you can remove them your chances of infection and thus unsightly bumps and pimples are much reduced.
2. Skin care. Having made the point re hygiene above, don’t go mad! You want to protect the skin and applying too much anti bacterial stuff can damage the skin causing chemical burns or even killing the good cells and other organisms that keep your skin healthy.
3. Soap. Usually a good soap and warm water is all you need. Too strong a soap can strip the skin of useful oils and antibacterial soap can do more harm than good in the long term. Make sure the soap makes a good lather and that you are able to tolerate the scent and fats in the soap. Personally I find Dove (for example) to be too mild and some of the stronger soaps too harsh, Lux, Palmolive etc are good for me for general use.
4. Water. Clean warm water seems best. It dissolves some of the oils that make dirt stick and opens the pores. Hot water may actually open the pores too much, thus damaging their elasticity and may actually allow too much ‘other stuff’ (bacteria etc) into the pore. It can also strip away too much oil leaving your skin dry and defenseless. Some people advocate rinsing with cold water after washing to close those pores. I personally don’t ,like cold water on my face so I don’t do this. But I do use a warm water to wash. Obviously keep the water as fresh as possible and rinse with clean water.
5. Clean equipment: Keep all equipment clean. I make sure I rinse everything very well and use hot water for this where appropriate (razor blades etc).
6. Exfoliation. I exfoliate, often. Usually every day for my face and every second day for my body. I use an exfoliating scrub (with biodegradable ‘bits’) on my face and nylon exfoliating gloves on my body. Don’t be too rough. This is a fairly common mistake. We sometimes rub until we are raw. This is wrong! Make small gentle circles all over the parts of your body that you are washing. The idea is to gently remove dead skin and free any ‘stuck’ hairs. You are not trying to remove the upper 5 mm of skin from your body!
7. Moisturize. Keep your skin moisturized from inside and out. Make sure you drink sufficient fluids and refrain (as much as you can) from dehydrating yourself: alcohol, coffee and smoking are all not good things. Then find a good moisturizer to get some moisture back in your skin. I use simple, cheap, but effective aqueous cream. I moisturize my face and hands twice a day (more often if needed) and my body once a day or every second day depending on necessity.
8. Drying. Avoid towel drying as much as you can. Rubbing vigorously with a towel can feel good but it can also remove more skin than necessary and can also rub hairs back under the surface layer of skin resulting in more in grown hairs. I prefer to air dry as much as possible, especially after shaving. If you have to use a towel then try to gently dab the water as much as possible instead of rubbing.
Notes on hair removal
1. Laser. I know that this is simply not an option for many of you. I am guessing that this is either because of the price, or due to its permanence. With respect to price, yes it is expensive, but I would say it is cheaper than waxing and over time, depending on how old you are, it could be cheaper than shaving (blades, shaving cream etc add up over time). As to permanence, well, whilst not truly permanent (there will be some regrowth over time) it certainly changes the way you look for good so I understand that this may not be ideal for some of you.
However, if your objection is due to concerns regarding the colour of your hair or fears regarding the pain you can expect to endure, all I can say is that I am currently getting laser done on my upper legs, buttocks and torso at The Laser Beautique in Rosebank, Johannesburg. They have a new (ish?) machine that is genuinely pain free and that nukes even the light brown hairs I have on my legs. Also, you don’t need to grow the hair out. They actually want it shaved the morning you come in for the treatment. That really suits me as waiting for hair to grow out drives me insane. Also, there is no burning or damage to the skin, at least not as far as I can tell (no, I am not on commission, just calling it as I see it). Having said all of that if it is still not an option, let’s move on.
2. Waxing. Waxing is not on. It just doesn’t work for me. It is expensive (fairly close to the price of a laser session in fact), complicated (you need a certain amount of growth and you need to book in advance, so you need to know how much growth you will have by the time you go for the treatment, making quick decisions to seize an opportunity difficult). Also it can damage the skin. I am therefore nit a fan of waxing, but if it works for you, go for it.
3. Depilatory creams. These are very time consuming, they are not always good at removing tougher (testosterone fueled) hair, can be very painful (I once burnt my nipples so that they bled and my buttocks so that they oozed fluid for a week). Not fun. Plus they smell bad. Let’s move on.
4. Epilation. I have a Braun epilator and I love it. It is relatively quick and easy to use on yourself (although having an assistant on hand to do the back of your legs and your buttocks/lower back is always nice). I won’t lie, it is painful, especially at first. Some parts of your body are more painful than others and some people find it less of an issue than others. My model has a low pain setting which is less painful but takes longer and a MAX EFFECT setting. I now only use the maximum effect setting as I have become used to the sensation. Mostly. I only epilate my legs and buttocks as anywhere else is just too painful. If you want an epilator you can get a good one for around R1 200 (US$100) or maybe even a little less. Make sure that it comes with a light so you can see what you are doing. I believe that the tweezers models which have individual tweezers are better than the old coil spring model as they pinch less skin which is sore. Make sure you exfoliate before epilating. I use both a physical and a chemical exfoliator. Also, you should moisturize afterwards. I prefer to epilate at least 8 hours before going out. This gives the skin a chance to recover. You will get some inflammation and small bumps but they should go away after around 8 hours. Leaving your legs looking and feeling great.
You may want to try taking an over the counter antihistamine as this reduces the swelling around these bumps as well. You will still get some in grown hairs but, at least in my case, they are far less than any other hair removal technique (bar laser).
Please do not epilate your face! Male beards are just too thick and strong and the skin too soft. The epilator will do damage, possibly ripping whole layers of skin off. Some epilators may say that they can be used on facial hair and some even have special attachments for this purpose but these refer to a genetic women’s much finer, much less dense facial hair, not ours.
I have been able to get the epilator right up into the groin area without too much discomfort but I would not recommend using it on the torso or any other more delicate areas.
5. Shaving. Shaving is probably the best all round hair removal method. It is easy, painless, require minimal outlays of cash, can be done by yourself and requires little or no forward planning. I have stopped using fancy creams and use the following routine on my face and body.
First I wash with an exfoliating facial scrub using warm water and rinse well. Then I apply hair conditioner (the cheapest I can find to the area to be shaved). Then I use a good quality razor (minimum of 3 blades for face and 4 blades for body). I rinse well, pat or air dry and apply moisturizer.
If I am shaving in readiness for an en femme outing I will make sure I do the following: use a brand new razor, you want as close a shave as possible and you want to avoid razor burn so a sharp blade is essential. I will shave ‘with the grain’ first. I then rinse and reapply the conditioner and shave ‘against the grain’. I make sure to get into all the crevices (nose, chin around the lips etc). I then rinse and run my fingers over my face. Wherever I feel stubble I shave again, but only in that area, in both directions, but this time only with water. Rinse and repeat as necessary. Be careful to never apply too much pressure to the razor, let the blades do the cutting, not your fingers and also be sure to keep the blades in good contact with the skin you don’t want them bouncing around. Watch out for nicks and get a styptic pencil to deal with them if necessary, blood is never a good look.
If I am doing this kind of close shave I will probably apply a gentle antibacterial cream (Germolene) as it helps reduce pimples the next day, then moisturize before applying makeup. I can heartily recommend bikini balm from the ever excellent Lola Montez. It is an excellent after care product for all kinds of hair removal. It moisturises and reduces ingrown hairs. Magic stuff.
I give the skin a few minutes to cool down and absorb the moisturizer before applying makeup.
I always shave my face after shaving my body/legs (I follow the same routine as above for these areas) when getting ready to go en femme.
In terms of makeup, make sure you have a good beard cover and know how to blend: no matter how well you shave the hair under the skin still shines through.
But you do need to make sure all those bristles are GONE before applying the beard cover.
I have not had any experience hair reducing pills or other such medication and I would caution against using any medication without a doctor’s supervision. This is true of hormones as well. These are powerful chemicals that control every function in your body, from digestion to moods. Side effects are real and can be devastating so be careful (I have heard of people attempting suicide because of incorrect hormone dosages).
Whatever you decide to do it is best to stick to one method in each area DO NOT MIX methods. If you are going to use depilatory cream on your legs and shave your face then do that, don’t use the cream AND shave your legs. The creams burn a layer of skin off every time you use them (that is why you shouldn’t use them too often) and if you shave you also scrape a bit of skin off the surface. Using cream before the skin has grown back will result in the cream coming into skin that is more delicate than the skin it is designed for and you can get very serious burns.
My suggestion is find the technique tat works best for you and then experiment around that. Try different products to get the best result. Remember that hair grows in different directions on different parts of the body and that this will affect the direction you need to shave. Don’t forget that hair grows in cycles. So it is possible for hair to magically appear in places that were recently shaved or epilated.
For maintenance shaves (non femme days) I shave ONLY with the direction of growth as this reduces in grown hairs, it does give a less close shave though.