Body hair shaming is a thing, but people everywhere are openly embracing body hair, including underarm and belly hair. Whether you elect to keep your body hair or remove it, there is no right or wrong solution. To each their own, right? If you're on team hair removal, you have options.
Since belly hair is relatively easy to remove at home, you can stick to a DIY method. But if you'd prefer to say goodbye for good, you have a few professional options as well. Depending on your skin tone, sensitivity, and hair thickness, however, you may have to be careful of some alternatives to prevent scarring and allergic reactions.
If you have any questions, be sure to talk with a dermatologist before testing any new hair removal treatment on your skin. Now, let's talk options.
Using a razor—multi-bladed, straight, or electric—is one of the oldest forms of hair removal. Using one is quick, easy, painless (as long as you don't nick yourself), and can be done in or outside of the shower. Shaving is accessible, but you will have to shave often to keep skin smooth. If you have coarse hair, you may feel some itchiness as the hair starts to grow back. Keep a body scrub in the shower and gently exfoliate a few times a week to keep ingrown hairs at bay.
Depilatories (Hair Removal Creams)
Many depilatory products come in cream form, but they also come in gels, lotions, and sprays. They're pretty simple to use and relatively inexpensive. Some can work in a matter of minutes, breaking down the hair so that it can be easily wiped away. Like shaving, though, they remove hair at-or-slightly-below the level of the skin. Therefore, they're a temporary method that will only last a couple of days at best.
They're also made very strong to break down the hair follicle, so be careful, because improper use often results in chemical burns—even with no allergy to the ingredients. Whether you have sensitive skin or not, start with a formula made for sensitive skin types, and spot test before applying it.
Waxing is found on most salon and spa menus. The wax (typically resin-based) is spread over hair, and then quickly ripped off in order to remove hair from the root. Waxing removes the entire hair, providing longer results than shaving or depilatory creams. However, there is a downside: It can be painful, and for some, it can even cause allergic reactions.
While we can't make the process less painful, there are a couple of things you can try to minimize waxing discomfort. Don't wax five days before or during your period, since the body may be more sensitive during that time. You might also want to try a topical numbing cream prior to waxing.
Sugaring comes in two forms: paste and gel. The paste removes hair in the direction of growth, and gel removes in the opposite direction of hair's growth. While it also removes the hair follicle from the root like waxing, it's less painful and gentler to the skin.
The traditional method, which is the sugaring paste, is one of the oldest methods of hair removal. Because it's so similar to waxing, it can give you the same side effects—although they're generally less severe. Sugaring was once a difficult service to find, but many salons now offer it as an alternative to waxing. Just be prepared to pay more since sugaring can be a more time-intensive process.
If you want your stomach hair gone forever, the best way to go is generally electrolysis. It's the only FDA approved method of permanent hair removal. Unlike some forms of laser hair removal, all hair colors can safely receive electrolysis. Be warned though, it takes multiple sessions and may be painful.
Apply a topical anesthetic, like topical lidocaine cream, prior to treatment to help with pain and discomfort.
Laser Hair Removal
Laser and other light-based technologies like IPL (intense pulsed light) work to impair the hair follicle and are FDA approved for permanent hair reduction. There was a time when lasers only worked on dark hair and light skin for results, but the technology has come a long way.
While laser and light-based technology can work for everyone, those with darker skin tones will want to work with a board-certified dermatologist with experience using lasers on deep skin tones. Laser hair removal can require up to six and eight sessions to see results, so be prepared to make an investment.
Gold MH, Foster A, Biron JA. Low-energy intense pulsed light for hair removal at home. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010;3(2): 48-53.
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