January 21, 2009

Disguising the Fur: Shaving and Other Methods

Here's my last post on methods of hair removal that I've tried--at least for now. For those of you who've missed the others, you can read back or follow these links:

Laser hair removal: here and here
Plucking and trimming: here
Bleaching and chemical depilatories: here


As I've probably said before, I graduated from bleaching to shaving quite suddenly while on vacation with a friend's family. I tried to bleach in private that first day in the tiny little trailer bathroom and it inconvenienced others too much--and led to sharp, mocking comments later. I had been thinking of shaving for a while but had never had the guts. I finally found the courage--or desperation--as a teenager on summer vacation in a closet-sized loo in a gorgeous mountain park. All I had was my leg razor at the time and some fruit-scented shaving gel. It was quick, my skin felt smooth, the stubble was hard to see. I was hooked, but it was hard to believe at that time that I'd still be doing the same thing now.

What don't I love about shaving?

  • I find breakouts and ingrown hairs are more common with this method than any other.
  • As time has worn on, I've also got a permanent rash of bumps and pinkness from irritation.
  • A moment of carelessness may mean nicking those uneven spots and making it even worse (chins bleed like ankles--they never stop!)
  • Extreme dryness from the shave and possibly the gel have made applying makeup very difficult.
  • All that stretching of my skin to get the closest shave possible is something I know I'll be paying for in my 40's and 50's.

Over time my method has evolved as my skin and hair have changed. They discontinued the replacement cartridges for my old razor, and disposables became a cheaper solution (now, I can keep one for my face and one for legs and other areas). Soaking my face in warm water and regular (but not daily) exfoliation have become more important over time--as has moisturizing. I've experimented with the tautness of the skin and the direction of the blade relative to the direction of the hair growth. Some resources recommend leaving the gel on your skin for a few minutes before shaving to help condition the skin, but I have not found this to make a significant difference in any way. And I've tried different treatments after the shave. (Astringents are certainly not for me, I have found. )

Right now, I'm on a mission to find a shave gel I really like. I'm torn on this question: Is it better that it's designed for a woman, or designed for a man but for the face? I just feel really awkward sidling into the men's section of the hair removal aisle, and am worried I'll bring undue attention to what I'm buying by blurting, "It's, uh, for my boyfriend. Yeah. My boyfriend."

Overall, though, I'm stuck on shaving because I find it to be the most efficient solution to hiding stubble. I'm a busy girl and I have to be considerate of others in the house. But I can tell my skin is very tired of the process, so I've begun to designate a holiday for my face once a week. I stay hidden and do nothing but cleanse and moisturize my chin and jaw, and work from home. Resting my chin on a fist and getting unexpectedly prickled does tend to make me feel unfeminine, but a shave always feels best after a couple days of growth.

For the products I currently prefer to use, see this post.

Other Methods

Waxing/sugaring: I have never done this on my face, because I simply cannot wait for the hair to grow the required length. I have tried both hot and cold wax on my legs and stomach, and have found the do-it-yourself method to be pretty hit-or-miss. I would be willing to get used to the pain if the payoff were better, but I get plenty of irritation and am not terribly skilled at getting all the hairs in one or even two attempts. Plus, it's just messy. ;-p

Epilator: Something I might consider looking into. It gets such mixed reviews that I'm fairly sure I'll just have to try it for myself. I'm quite accustomed to the sensation of plucking on my face, so I might find this a more efficient and happy medium between tweezing and shaving.

Threading: Something else that piqued my interest the first time I heard about it--which has only been in the past year or so. I probably wouldn't go the old fashioned way, but I thought of trying something like the Epicare.

Electrolysis: Though I was aware of this process before I'd ever heard of laser treatment, the risks like scarring made this solution unappealing. And considering how mysterious the cause of my excess hair is, it's probably best I withhold from anymore expensive treatments until I discover what's behind all this.

D-I-Y Laser Treatment: I won't name any companies who offer these products, but I find the idea of putting anything similar to the professional process into the hands of the average joe to be very disconcerting, not to mention far-fetched. And I've read disappointing reviews which I'm inclined to believe.

Prescriptions: Apparently there are some oral and topical medications out there that are supposed to reduce hair growth. The dermatologist who referred me to the laser clinic mentioned the desire to have me test one such cream, but that didn't go any further than an offhand comment. I'll wait until the cause of my hypertrichosis has been named before I worry about these. Speaking of which, some hirsute women have found that a birth control pill works on the cause of their darker body hair. It's a good idea to make sure you know the reason behind your problem before you invest in certain methods (says I without a hint of irony).

For more information on hair removal methods, take a look at the HairTell forums. I often go there for information.

There will be no updates until February 11. I'm off on vacation to a much sunnier part of the world, where I intend to wear shorts, skirts and v-neck shirts, and dare I add bikinis... sharing a hotel room with a member of my family who I do not trust with my little secret. But nothing's going to stop me from having my fun, I promise.

Take care of yourselves, lovelies!


Anonymous said...

You said that you've found mixed reviews on epilators. Well, I'm a person who hugely supports them.

I have ALWAYS dealt with idiopathic hirsutism. I use the epilator on my arms, stomach, neck, forehead, cheeks, sideburns, chest, and upper lip. The epilator has saved me. My suggestion is to start out by (I know, it's going to seem gross!) Growing out the hairs for 2 to 3 days. Then epilate. Then you'll have around three to seven days of freedom. Then you need to cake on the makeup and survive through slight hairgrowth (it's not stubble, it's just thinner hairgrowth). It will take a year or so, but there will be a time when you only have to epilate once every three months.

This can help! Just make sure to use a cold washcloth on the area, and use a hydracortisone cream (found in a drugstore) after epilating.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

(I just added the epilator comment, before realizing I missed something)

Epilating works even better with the perscription of Vaniqa (american name. It's drug is 13.9% elfornithine).

It has a large amount of side effects, has a 50-50 chance of working, and is expensive. But it helped me, so it might be able to help you too.

If you can get a doctor to prescribe it for you (I had to look around to find one willing to), and if you have the financial ability (80 dollars), it's worth a try.

Good luck!

Allerleirah said...

It gets me really excited to hear when people find such success with a particular method! I have certainly heard some good things about epilators (and Vaniqa).

What frightens me most is the reports of damaged follicles years down the road, creating more than the usual ingrown hairs. I'm sure this wouldn't happen to everybody, but it's enough to make me leave the epilator as a possibility for the distant future.