Ruth Griffin: Bare necessities
From waxing to laser, there's a hair removal method for everyone - whatever your pain threshold
Something unfortunate happened to my face once I hit 40. It wasn't the added wrinkles and lines - I was fully prepared for those little guys. No, something altogether more unexpected and unwelcome began to appear, something nobody had warned me about. Put simply, my face grew fuzzier. My dad had always sported a rather dashing-looking, Ernest Hemmingway-esque moustache, and as I matured, the family resemblance was growing uncanny.
As we age, we lose hair from our lashes and scalp, just as our faces grow bushier. This is especially noticeable in the stronger summer light (have a look in any of those ego-deflating, evil car mirrors in the sunlight if you're brave enough, and you'll get the picture pretty sharpish). After experimenting with pretty much all the hair-eliminating techniques listed on these pages, I ended up getting my top lip lasered with Anna in Dublin's Laser and Skin Clinic (laserandskin.ie) last year and found it brilliant. My only caveat would be that if you are going to invest in this, you must be fanatical about using SPF all year round, as it can make your skin more photosensitive.
Lasering used to work best on darker hair, as the machine works on the hair's pigment and the stronger it was, the better it worked. That essentially left women with blonde/grey/white hair unsuitable for the treatment. Now, however, there are brilliant new machines such as Yag and Applesonix that are designed to work on lighter hairs.
For those who would prefer to go it alone, there has also been a huge influx of DIY, at-home laser and IPL hair removal products coming onto the market. I am currently researching and testing these for you and will let you know how I get on in a later column. For now, you can find the hair removal technique that will work best for you in our Ask The Expert section (below) and try out my top products (below).
What's the one part of our body that we would wish our hairs were as long and as full as possible? Our lashes, of course! If you weren't blessed with naturally luscious lashes, cheat it with eyelash extensions. They can be long and fluttering or, for more mature women, give an illusion of fullness again. Below are some general guidelines.
● Eyelash extensions are individual lashes, made of silk, mink, synthetic material or human hair, which are attached to your existing lashes semi-permanently.
● You choose the length and density. Most salons will carry extension lengths from 9mm to 15mm - ie, from natural looking to full wattage glam.
● They last between two to six weeks, depending on how you look after them. Be careful not to get water on your lashes and don't use oily products near your eyes.
● It's recommend you come back every two to three weeks for a touch-up. Lash extensions should be professionally removed but can fall out naturally.
Ask the expert
Neelu White is a beauty therapist and salon owner with 30 years experience. She first introduced threading into Ireland decades ago. She gives us some unbiased advice on all the different techniques used to get rid of unwanted body and facial hair.
Why do we get more facial hair as we age?
It's all down to hormones. Though a significant minority of women of all ages have coarse dark hair growing on their chin and upper lip because of a genetic predisposition, most women who have excess facial hair have an underlying hormonal issue. Some women seem to experience extra hair growth during puberty, pregnancy, or as they age, especially during or after menopause, due to shifts in hormonal balance.
How can we remove facial hair?
There is no permanent facial hair removal treatment. The various treatments can reduce the hair growth but cannot stop the regrowth of facial hair. That said, some hair removal options are better than others for permanency. Facial hair is different to body hair and needs to be treated differently. It's not recommended to shave facial hair - the down on your face feels soft because it's been there for a long time, but shaving will cause it to grow back stiff or coarse (though no thicker than before). Plucking isn't the best option either, because the force of the pluck can irritate and leave a bump.#
THE PROS AND CONS OF METHODS OF HAIR REMOVAL?
Shaving is painless as long as you are careful not to cut or nick yourself. By making sure to use a proper shaving cream or oil and sharp blades, you can decrease the chance of having razor burn or any other post-shave irritation. It's easy and pain-free, and can be done at home.
These work by dissolving the hair. They are typically smeared on in thick layers over the desired area, and left on for a few minutes before needing to be wiped off. Depilatories typically remove hair at the skin level. They are inexpensive and versatile, however, they are not always the most effective when it comes to coarser hair. And because of the chemicals, they can have a somewhat offensive odour and can also irritate the delicate skin.
This method works by applying wax to the skin, which sticks to hairs. The wax is then quickly removed, taking the hairs out with it. The procedure is relatively quick. This is an effective option that involves removing hair from the root, so it lasts for six to eight weeks.
However, waxing involves stripping off the upper dermis of the skin, thus leading to slight pain and skin eruptions. Sometimes, waxing may lead to small bumps or itchy areas on the waxed area. Look for a salon that uses PHD Waxing system, which cuts out all cross contamination. The hair needs to be at least a quarter of an inch long before waxing for the wax to stick to it. This means that hair needs to be given some time to grow out between waxes.
Waxing of the face can cause friction allergy, bruising and can also promote broken veins - it's too harsh a treatment for delicate skin. Also, makeup doesn't sit right on the waxed area as the skin becomes slippery.
Similar to waxing, this involves a sugar- containing paste or gel to remove hair. It works by applying the paste or gel and, depending on the type, either removing it with or against hair growth to pull the hair out by the root. It can cause a lot of in-grown hair if not done properly.
I introduced threading to Ireland from my native India and I am still well-known for that. Threading works by removing the hair from the root like waxing but with a simple cotton thread. Because of its chemical-free and non-harsh method, threading is a good option for those with sensitive skin. The best part about threading is that individual hair can be removed easily, while multiple hair strands can also be removed at the same time. One of the limitations of threading is that it is for facial and neck areas only. It is generally said that threading is not as painful as waxing. People with peach fuzz on the sides of the face, lip, chin and neck areas are suitable for threading.
This works by destroying the root of each hair at the follicle with an electric current. It is ideal for removing hair from large areas of the skin and is less painful than waxing. It can be used for dark or blonde hair. It is a very slow process as individual hairs are treated one by one. It has a side effect of dehydrating the area and it can also cause facial marks if the current used is too high. It is not permanent, can result in ingrown hair and it is ineffective in getting hold of small hairs. Previous waxing or tweezing can make hair follicles bent or misshapen, which makes electrolysis more difficult. Multiple treatments are needed. You have to truly be committed as it can go on forever.
This is a sound-wave treatment. It is a unique innovation for permanent reduction and it's a superior alternative to conventional electrolysis. For dark or blonde coarse hair on the face, Epil Pro (sound wave) treatment works for weakening the regrowth and making it softer to the touch. It is truly non-invasive - needleless and is claimed to be safe for diabetics and epileptics and those with smooth moles. Very fine hairs can be treated without any side effects and regrowth is slower than with other methods.
Laser hair removal
A longer-term method that involves destroying the roots with heat and light. It can remove hair from any part of the body. Semi-permanent hair loss can be obtained in laser technology with six to seven sessions of lasers. It can be permanent, but usually just reduces the amount of hair and makes it finer and lighter. It works best on those with darker hair and lighter skin, though, as the laser detects pigment. It's not as effective on white hair, and if your skin is olive or darker, lasers can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. After the laser session, you must be very cautious in moving out in the sun, as the treated part cannot be exposed to UV rays.
8 of the best hair removal products
● Best epilator
Remington Smooth and Silky Epilator EP7010, €39.99.
Full disclosure: I'm not brave enough to use an epilator on a regular basis, but lots of women swear by these hair-eliminating tools. This one comes highly recommended and has over 40 "pluckers" that remove hairs from the body by the root in mercifully quick speed. From pharmacies and electrical outlet stores nationwide.
● Best facial hair removal cream
Nad's Facial Hair removal Crème, €7.50.
If you don't fancy threading, bleaching or waxing facial hairs, which can become much more noticeable in the lighter summer months, try a hair removal cream. However, be vigilant about only using a product specifically created for the sensitive facial area. These creams work only on the surface area hair (ie they don't remove the root). Simply apply to face, leave on for at least four minutes and rub off. Lasts about two weeks depending on hair regrowth. Veet and Nair also do good options. From pharmacies nationwide.
● Best bikini line razor
Gillette Venus Bikini Styler (with battery), €27.99.
Over 70pc of Irish women shave their bikini line (surprisingly only 21pc of us actually get salon waxes regularly), so if we're going to do it we may as well get a brilliant tool for the job. Try this battery-assisted, super fine, easily angled, electrical bikini razor which helps to eliminate shaving rash, itching and nasty cuts. Using oil rather than a shaving cream can help with sensitive skin.
● Best in-grown hair banisher
Thalgo Biodepyl Anti-Ingrown Hair Cream, €24.
If you're sick of the lumps and bumps and redness that can come from shaving and waxing body hair, try Thalgo Biodépyl - an intensive cream to fight against ingrown hairs by using ingredients that encourage the hair to break the surface of the skin. A simpler way to help with in-grown hairs is to exfoliate every day. I just use exfoliating gloves and my usual shower gel and moisturise, moisturise, moisturise with an unscented hydrator. From thalgo.ie
● Best body moisturiser
Cera Ve Body Moisturisers, from €5.50-€16.80.
America's No1 dermatologist-recommended brand and fastest-growing mass skincare brand arrives in Ireland this June. Jam-packed with ceramides and peptides, this is a no-nonsense, hardworking body moisturiser that will deeply hydrate your skin, face and body. No bells and whistles needed, this plainly packaged brand will give your skin a bang for your buck, for sure. From pharmacies nationwide.
● Best bikini line products
The Perfect V Shades of V Luminizer Cream, €45.
The Perfect V is the first line of luxury beauty creams, exfoliators, serums and freshening sheets specifically created for the bikini line or 'V' area. All products are pH-balanced, dermatologist and gynaecologist tested and paraben-free to ensure that this delicate area is cared for as gently as possible. This cream is basically a dedicated bikini line moisturiser with built-in illuminator. From Harvey Nichols.
● Best hair bleaching agent
Jolen Facial Bleach, from €3.99-€9.99.
I've used this product for years on my top lip and it works like a dream. Simply mix the two ingredients together, leave on for 10 minutes (a slight tingling may occur) and your dark hairs have been given a bleach-over. Available in a sensitive skin formulation. Can be used on sideburns, forehead and chin area also. NOTE: Do not use over facial fake tan! I did once and it was a speckled "reverse moustache" disaster! From pharmacies nationwide.
● Best skin corrector
Pinkini Lightening Serum, €32.
Uneven patches and darkly pigmented skin can be caused by pushing too hard with a razor while shaving underarms and bikini line, or repeated rubbing of a certain area (watch how your workout clothes affect them). If you're looking to lighten these areas before taking out your summer wardrobe, try the Lycon Pinkini Lightening Serum. It can also be used on the face and hands to remove dark skin spots. From lycon.ie and salons nationwide.