Ask the Expert: Can Facial Hair Removal Affect Your Skin?
If you’ve never committed to a facial hair removal technique, it’s likely you’ve considered it. From waxing and shaving to tweezing and laser, there’s a wide variety of methods to help remove unwanted hair on the face whether it be just a few stray eyebrow hairs or pesky peach fuzz. But what makes one different from the other? Don’t they all just remove hair after the fact? Believe it or not, there’s a handful of differences between each hair-removal method despite the fact that they all target the same concern. Want to find out what makes one different from the other, and hopefully determine which method is right for you? Well, we’re here to help! We spoke with a board certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Dendy Engelman to discover how different facial hair removal techniques can affect your skin.
How Can Facial Hair Removal Affect My Skin?
Each route you take to remove unwanted hair can produce different results, and it’s important to keep potential side affects in mind when deciding which method is best for you.
Tweezing and Waxing
According to Dr. Engelman, tweezing and waxing can cause ingrown hairs to form. “Waxing can also remove some surface skin cells,” she says. “This can compromise the epidermis and weaken the skin barrier.”
Laser Hair Removal
Similar to waxing and tweezing, laser hair removal can cause unwanted skin sensitivity. “The skin can become red and may have some swelling after the procedure,” Dr. Engelman says. “It may also feel more sensitive for 1-2 days after.” While some sensitivity post-procedure can be normal, any sensitivity that lasts longer than a few days after the fact could be due to the placement and intensity of the laser. If that’s the case for you, voice this to your laser technician so they can adjust the laser to better suit your skin. Additionally, Dr. Engelman advises to avoid sun exposure when possible in-between sessions, and wear Broad Spectrum sunscreen daily.
Unfortunately, prolonged sensitivity may not be the only post-laser side effect you could deal with. “Some dead hair particles can be left in the follicle after treatments,” Dr. Engelman says. “When the body tries to rid the skin of these fragments, they can become trapped which can resemble zits/pimples.”
Another potential long-term effect of laser hair removal? Scarring and discoloration. Melanin, as you may know, determines the pigment of the skin. It is produced to help protect damaged skin from UV rays by absorbing light. “Over exposure to harmful rays could result in overproduction of melanin to overcompensate when it cannot properly absorb the rays,” Dr. Engelman explains. “This could lead to permanent dark spots when stressed areas continue to get damaged by an intense laser.” Different from discoloration, permanent scars can occur if the skin is burned along with the hair follicle, Dr. Engelman explains. “This is rare side effect and can easily be avoided with the right intensity setting.”
Moral of the story: Make sure you are receiving laser treatments from a licensed technician at the proper intensity level for your skin type and tone. Failing to take these precautions and doing your research prior to receiving a laser treatment could result in long term effects and damaged skin.
What Should I Do Before Removing Facial Hair?
Whether you opt for waxing or laser hair removal, Dr. Engelman advises to always start with well-moisturized skin. Be sure to exfoliate the skin to remove any dead skin cells on the surface, and follow up with a hydrating lotion. “If shaving or waxing, stick to one direction and use short strokes,” Dr. Engelman says, “because shaving or waxing in many different directions can increase the chances of razor bumps, irritation and even ingrown hairs.” Instead, she advises to shave in the direction in which your hair grows or directly against it.