In the whispering alcoves of a Mayfair members’ club, top facialist Teresa Tarmey and I are suffering from an attack of the giggles.
We’re discussing female facial hair, and like most taboo subjects there’s an inherent humour involved. The poor besuited gentlemen at the table next to us look shellshocked: they’ve officially had their bearded-lady cherry popped.
My own story is an apparently common one. After hitting 30 and having children, I noticed a slight increase in the previously negligible upper-lip fuzz and a definite, ahem, ‘thickening’ of certain chin hairs. (Do not call them whiskers, do not call them whiskers).
I briefly tried laser treatment, but because the hairs were fine and pale it made no discernible difference. So for the past few years I have gone for a twofold approach: hair-removal cream every few weeks, teamed with emergency tweezing (though there are a couple of suckers on my chin that Teresa and her laser machine now have their eye on).
The weird thing is, especially coming from a make-up artist, that I thought I was alone. Not that I thought I was the only one to have hair on my face – I know women with far more severe problems to cope with – but I genuinely felt like one of the few unlucky ones who had to deal with this particular kind of low-level fuzz. Not so. Most of the women I spoke to for this article, the majority of them in their thirties and forties, conduct some kind of hair-removal campaign in the safety of their own bathrooms. Not only are we reluctant to talk about it, the actual process of removal seems to be taboo too.
The enlightened approach might be to merely live with the fuzz, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re (I’m) not ready to go the full Frida Kahlo. The fact is, make-up sits better on a clean, smooth surface, and, as Bobbi Brown make-up artist Hannah Martin concurs, a bold lip line definitely doesn’t work when it’s fighting stubble. According to top dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting, facial-hair-removal options can be broken down into two broad categories: the short-term – cost-effective and offering instant gratification with minimal risk; or the long-term, providing a more definitive solution but with the possibility of side-effects. And if you’ve experienced significant growth over a short period you should visit your GP as occasionally it’s a sign of a hormone imbalance disorder, such as polycystic ovaries.
Below, I discuss the seven hair-removal options available on the market:
Experts advise caution with waxing facial hair. As Dr Bunting says, “it can give hair-free skin for 3-4 weeks, but may cause pimples due to irritation of the hair follicles, which in turn leads to dark marks.” She also says that hot wax on the top lip area can be a trigger for melasma. Yikes. And as Teresa Tarmey points out, you are constantly chasing your tail with waxing as you have to allow enough re-growth to continue. “Depending on your hair-growth cycle, you can end up having hair more than you don’t have hair,” she says.
This is a popular choice among our experts, but interestingly not so much anecdotally amongst friends and clients. I think this is probably due to the fact that the majority of threading chairs are slap-bang in the middle of busy nail bars and beauty salons. No thanks. I really don’t want my tache yanked in full-view; and if your skin reddens with threading then there’s the walk of shame home to deal with too. However Dr Bunting believes threading is the quickest and safest method amongst the short-term options, and ideal for those who are prone to hyperpigmentation and anyone using retinoids (waxing can sometimes actually pull fragile skin away leaving a red raw patch). It also wins over waxing when it comes to the precision it offers.
Thankfully the experts at Blink have introduced private rooms at their Selfridges and Fenwick locations, so fingers crossed others will start to follow suit. As Jaimineey Patel – head therapist at Blink – points out, threading, unlike other hair-removal methods, doesn’t require a specific hair type to be effective, and it can reach even the tiniest of hairs. “If the hair is there then our therapists can thread it,” Patel says. It’s sadly not going to be pain free however, and she recommends having your eyebrows threaded first to test your pain threshold.
Dr Vicky Dondos was the first to alert me to Dermaplaning. While not a method she offers at her Medicetics clinic, Dr Dondos is one of the most well researched and up-to-speed aesthetic doctors I know, so when she told me it was the best technique she knew of for removing fine facial fuzz I had to know more. Officially an exfoliation treatment, Dermaplaning uses a very fine surgical blade to remove dead skin cells. It just so happens that it removes fine hairs in the process. In effect, you are shaving the face, but as Dr Dondos points out “if the blade is used at the correct angle you can prevent any course regrowth.” Currently there’s only one clinic offering Dermaplaning in the UK, HB Health in Knightsbridge. Their senior therapist, Saira Choudhary, told me that the treatment is already well known and popular in the USA. It appears to have few downsides and, according to Saira, can result in the hairs growing back finer. It’s not cheap, at £250 a session, but this could well be the Hollywood secret I have been searching for.
Plucking hairs with tweezers in your bathroom mirror is a short-term, single-hair solution and is never effective for multiple soft downy hairs. Tweezing can damage your skin and irritate the hair follicles in the same way waxing can. For emergencies only.
5. Hair-removal cream
It might be a bit Eighties, but lots of us are still turning to these stinky little tubes at home. Our experts give you their cautious blessing. Dr Bunting points out that depilatory creams generally contain a form of thioglycolate, a chemical found in perming solutions, and can trigger irritant dermatitis; natural they are not. But she does concede that creams are a good option for anyone troubled by ingrown hairs as dissolving the hair means you don’t get sharp ends. Teresa Tarmey – alarmingly – has seen clients with serious burns after accidents with hair-removal creams. Personally, I think we’re still using depilatory creams because of the privacy and convenience they afford. I always use a ‘sensitive’ cream and leave it on for a maximum of three minutes. The tubes say five minutes, some of them ‘up to 10’ – please don’t do this! Be very careful and trust your instincts. Anything more than a gentle tingle and you should remove the cream promptly.
Teresa Tarmey is my laser guru. But even she doesn’t oversell its capabilities. “It simply won’t work on blonde fine hair, and no-one should claim otherwise,” she says. However on darker hairs it can work like a dream, and Teresa says she has had particular success using it on darker hairs on the side of the face (lady sideburns, if you like). It’s best done without a tan (the success rate has direct correlation to the difference between hair colour and skin tone) and also points out that it can even out skin tone at the same time as achieving a reduction in hair – particularly useful for those with skin damage from waxing. Contrary to popular belief, it can work on darker skin tones.
Dr Bunting also emphasises the importance of sun avoidance with any kind of laser treatment. Both experts stress the importance of seeking out practitioners with experience in treating areas of the face and with up-to-date laser machinery.
“Electrolysis is a permanent way to remove hair and under the chin it’s very useful, but it is not as reliable on the upper lip, where it tends to form scars where the needle is inserted,” says Dr Bunting. In particular, she cautions women with darker skin tones as they have a tendency for hyperpigmentation and even scarring. Like laser treatments, multiple sessions will be needed to achieve permanent removal. Ultimately it’s probably best left for body hair.
Source: Haper’s Bazaar