Fashionably Bald: Hair Removal and Endometriosis

If you read the comments of any internet article that shows a woman with body hair, you’d be forgiven for thinking it is a crime equivalent to assault with a deadly weapon for a woman not to remove everything but lashes, brows and head hair.  Personally, I support any woman who wants to leave the rest of her body hair alone; it’s there for a reason, it isn’t hurting anyone, and removing it can be expensive, painful, and tedious.  However, I am not able to escape the societal pressures, the memory of being teased for having hairy legs in high school, or the annoying sensation of leg hair in a pair of stockings, and so every now and then I give in and remove it.

If you too remove your hair, for whatever reason, this post may be of assistance in considering the options for you and what is easiest with your endometriosis.  Obviously the cheapest, easiest and quickest way to deal with your leg hair is to leave it be and say a big “nobody cares” to the haters, but not everyone has the courage or the desire to do so, so these are the other options.

SHAVING

Probably the most common method, shaving involves dragging a blade along your legs or other parts of the body and chopping the hair off at skin level to give the appearance of smooth and shiny legs.

Pros: it is quite quick, as you can drag a razor over your legs pretty swiftly once you’re practised at it.  It is also pain free, unless you nick your skin, which hurts way more than it should for such a tiny cut.  It is easy to do in the bath or shower, and doesn’t require a great deal of effort so it is an easy option for those with endo.  It is cheap.

Cons: It isn’t that quick if you have super sensitive skin and need to exfoliate and lather up to avoid coming out in an itchy rash, like me.  Hair grows back quickly with shaving, so you need to do it relatively often, and the stubble stage is both itchy and unpleasant to feel when your legs brush against each other.  It’s not terribly environmentally friendly unless you purchase a good safety razor without plastic parts.  If you are as clumsy as me, blood is guaranteed to be shed.  Ingrowns are a problem if you don’t exfoliate well enough.  It can be painful during a flare-up to contort your swollen belly around to reach your legs.  I find doing the bikini line very fiddly.  I also find my underarms look stubbly very quickly.

All in all, probably the easiest, cheapest and most pain-free method for most peeps with endo, but requires regular doing.

CHEMICAL REMOVAL

Glorious Veet.  Chemical removals usually require you to spread an evil-smelling cream over the hair you wish to remove, then rub it off with a sponge.  Like shaving, this just brings it down to the level of the skin and leaves the root.

Pros: Like shaving, it is relatively easy.  It’s not as quick as shaving but still easy to do at home.  It is painless as long as you aren’t sensitive to the cream.  No chance of cutting your legs open.

Cons: Generally smells pretty ick.  Not great for sensitive skin.  I find it doesn’t give me as close a shave as actual shaving.  Hair grows back quickly so this requires regular applications.  Same issues re contortions as shaving during a flare-up.  Not environmentally friendly.  Cheapish but not as cheap as razors.  Requires different cream for bikini line than it does for legs, from memory.

This one is not a winner for me, although I did it for a long time as it irritated my legs less than shaving and it is safer for a klutz than handling a razor.

WAXING

Possibly the most common option after shaving, waxing involves applying one of two types of hot wax to the hairy area.  One type hardens and can then be ripped off; the other has a cloth strip pressed over it, which is ripped off, bringing the wax (and the attached hair) with it.

Pros: long term effect.  Waxing means you won’t have to worry about needing to engage in further hair removal for several weeks, unless you are particularly hirsuite.  It can be done at home by the brave.  Hair regrowth is soft rather than stubbly, and repeated waxing over a very long time can discourage hair from growing back at all.  I found I had fewer ingrowns with waxing.

Cons: It hurts.  I don’t find it too bad, except around the ankles and on the shin, but I would never describe it as fun.  Your hair is literally being ripped out by the roots.  The pain is extra-intense if you have your period.  You have to let the hair regrow long enough before it can be ripped out again.  Although you can do it at home, hot wax has always seemed to me like something best left to professionals, so it does tend to involve cost, travel time and actually going somewhere to get waxed, which can be hard to deal with during a flare-up.  It can be not vegan due to the wax.  Bikini waxes or Brazilians involve a stranger getting fairly familiar with your crotch (although we are kind of used to that on the medical side of things, so some people may feel right at home).

I waxed for a very long time and I do prefer it to shaving, but that are barriers that some endo-havers may find are not worth it.

SUGARING

A close cousin of waxing, sugaring is where a hot sticky combination of sugar, water and lemon juice is smeared on the leg, which hardens and is then ripped off, bringing the hair with it.

Pros: like waxing, hair is ripped out by the root so takes some time to regrow, regrowth tends to be soft, and long-term usage can reduce overall hairiness.  It is very environmentally friendly (apart from the disposable gloves used by the beauty therapists) as the mix simply dissolves when thrown away and contains nothing toxic or bad for the planet.

Cons: Basically the same as waxing.  Pain, cost, commitment to an appointment.  In Australia it isn’t very common so it can be hard to find a place that does this.  It can go wrong – during summer the sugar refused to harden on my leg and ripping it off once took some skin with it.

Overall, I prefer sugaring to waxing but I’ve had some bad experiences.

EPILATING

It’s hard to describe an epilator without making it sound like a medieval torture device.  Basically it is a little barrel covered in tweezers that spins at high speeds.  You pass it over the hair bit and it catches the hair and rips it out.

Pros: Only a one-off cost as these things last for years.  More environmentally friendly than shaving for the same reason.  It can remove very short hair so you don’t need to let it grow for as long as you do with waxing or sugaring, but you get the same ripping-out-at-the-roots benefits.  It only takes a little more time than shaving and can be done in the bath or shower, or on dry skin.

Cons: It’s not pain free, although I find it less painful than sugaring or waxing as it is just the hair being pulled and not the skin.   Sometimes my hair breaks rather than coming all the way out, so I have to do it more often than waxing to catch the little ones.  I also find I get more ingrowns epilating than waxing.

I love my epilator.  I have the Braun Silk-Epil 9.  If I hadn’t gone for a more permanent option, I’d carry right on epilating for the rest of my life.

LASER

The holy grail of hair removal, laser involves firing a laser pulse down the hair shaft and killing the follicle so it doesn’t grow back.

Pros: Relatively painless for me (others do report pain), eventually permanent, extremely quick, environmentally friendly.

Cons: Expensive, some people report pain, takes several sessions to be effective, not likely to be effective on dark skin or very fair hair, requires travel to a professional.

I am currently getting laser as I bought six sessions on a package deal.  I have noticed a massive reduction in regrowth and to be oft-waxed legs it is not painful at all.  However, my super pale skin does stay red and spotty for some time afterwards, and it can be a touch itchy.  Antihistamines help.  Shaving is required to kickstart the process.  For people like me with extremely pale skin and dark hair, it’s a bit of a miracle, though.  The advantages of not having to worry at all about hair removal during a flare up are fantastic – flareups are hard enough without fussing around with my legs.

Overall, for long-term gains, laser would be my favourite option as an endo gal.  If it is out of reach financially, the next best (easiest) thing has got to be shaving or epilating.  The ease of shaving makes the regrowth problem worth it for most of us.  Epilating gives the best of both worlds, so that I would choose it in preference to shaving, but some people find it too painful.

What do you find the best hair removal method?  When you are having a flareup do you bother keeping up with hair removal, or do you just let it run wild til you have the energy to deal with it again?  Let me know in the comments.

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