One hair-removal hack you may not have pondered? Bleaching. Although bleach doesn't actually eliminate hair, it can make hair appear practically invisible, negating the need for shaving, waxing, epilating, and the rest. It's also pain- free, quick, easy, cheap, and safe for a variety of skin types, including sensitive skin.
Meet the Expert
- Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in Miami, Florida, and the founder of Dr. Loretta skincare products.
- Ali Tobia is a licensed esthetician based in New York City.
- Edyta Jarosz is a master esthetician at the Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City.
How Does it Work?
Bleaching works by breaking down hair's melanin, or pigment, permanently lightening the hair. Some of the active ingredients (like hydrogen peroxide) that are used to lighten facial and body hair are also used to lighten head hair. That said, the product you use to get golden, summer-y highlights isn't the same stuff you'd use to bleach hair on your upper lip.
"The hydrogen peroxide content is much lower for facial hair bleach than scalp hair bleach," Ciraldo explains.
Is Bleaching Facial and Body Hair Safe?
Bleaching is relatively safe, especially compared to heavy-duty hair-removal treatments like lasering. The most common side effects of bleaching, Tobia says, are "redness, itching, bumps, burning, blisters, hives, dry skin [and] swelling."
If you follow the product directions with meh resultsâ€”say, the hair didn't lighten as much as you expectedâ€”don't leave on the product for longer than the recommended time, which may cause more serious side effects such as burning and blistering. Instead, Ciraldo recommends waiting at least 72 hours before trying again in case a skin allergy develops.
"After 72 hours, start to apply one percent hydrocortisone cream to the skin in the area, morning and night," she suggests. "Then repeat the bleaching, following manufacturer's directions after a day (by 96 hours)."
If you're not sure bleach is for you, there's a simple way to ensure your skin is compatible: "Do a patch test on a small spot before you apply the bleach all over," Jarosz suggests.
How Much Does It Hurt?
Ever white-knuckled your way through a painful waxing or lasering appointment? There's good news: On normal, healthy skin, bleaching is utterly painless.
As the bleach works its magic, a tingling sensation is typical. A burning sensation is a red flag that hair bleaching isn't for you.
If you feel any discomfort from bleaching, Ciraldo says to "wash it off immediately, and apply ice or even 1 percent over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream."
Body and facial hair bleach kits are easy to find in drugstores and grocery stores, typically ranging in cost from about $5 to $15.
Tobia and Jarosz both praise Jolen Creme Bleach. Tobia calls it "a mild and reliable product that is budget-friendly."
Ciraldo recommends the also affordable Sally Hansen Creme Hair Bleach, especially for bleaching hair on the face. "Facial hair products should have skin-calming ingredients like aloe and vitamin E," she says. The product's mild formula is aces for light and medium-dark hair; those with dark or thick hair should try the brand's extra-strength variety.
"Aftercare is important with skin and hair bleaching treatments to maximize results," Jarosz says. Post-bleaching care can also counteract dryness and inflammation from bleaching, she explains.
After you use bleach, make sure to lightly cleanse the affected areas, Tobia says. If skin is irritated or red, Jarosz and Ciraldo recommend applying soothing aloe vera gel and ice packs; if your skin's good to go, skip aloe and ice in favor of a moisturizing cream or spray.
"Use a rosewater spray to help hydrate the skin after bleaching," Tobia suggests; she recommends the "simple" Heritage Store Rosewater Spray ($11), made with purified water and moisturizing rose oil.
Bleaching is a fast, easy, low-risk way to reduce the appearance of facial and body hair, especially for people with light, sensitive skin who don't want the hassle or pain of other hair-removal methods. If you've got $5 and 15 minutes to spare, what have you got to lose (besides maybe a waxing appointment)?
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