Hair Removal for Grownups

A graying bikini line, increasingly sensitive skin and “hag” hairs that appear overnight all make getting rid of unwanted fuzz—an already tiresome chore—more complex. So we asked pros how to smooth things out safely. Read on for their age-appropriate tips

by Genevieve Monsma
Photograph: Yasu + Junko

1. You’ve got: stray “goat” or “hag” hairs
As we age, we can blame a spike in testosterone for those irritating strays that crop up on our chins, cheeks, upper lips and even ears. And if they seem to appear overnight, well, that’s because they often do. “The production of those strays is hormonally mediated, so they can grow very rapidly and literally pop out in a matter of hours,” says Jeanine Downie, MD, a dermatologist based in Montclair, New Jersey. If your hag hairs (some of us deal with one recurrent stray; others get clusters) are darker than the color of your skin and very persistent, a few pros suggest ponying up for a series of laser treatments. Keep in mind, though, that because this growth is hormone driven, the hair may take longer to eliminate (e.g., 12 treatments versus eight—at $100 and up a pop) than growth elsewhere. If that seems a bit costly, experts say there is no reason not to pluck or shave. It gets the job done, at least temporarily. For shavers, Gervaise Gerstner, MD, consulting dermatologist for L’Oréal Paris, suggests the Tinkle Eyebrow Razor ($5; sallybeauty.com), a narrow, easy-to-handle razor that’s unlikely to nick and safe to use anywhere on the face.

2. You’ve got: a graying bikini line
Shaving or waxing will still work effectively, though depilatories will most likely fall short, since a number of formulas aren’t strong enough to dissolve coarse grays. For at-home waxers, we recommend strip-free kits, because they’re better at yanking out coarse hair at the root (whereas strips can tear hair at the skin’s surface). Try Bliss Poetic Waxing Kit ($48; blissworld.com). However, if it’s the new hue, not the overgrowth, that bugs you, Victoria A. Cirillo-Hyland, MD, a dermatologist based in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, suggests Betty Beauty ($13; bettybeauty.com), a pubic-hair dye that comes in nine shades, from brunette to blonde to (why not?) pink.

In the market for a more permanent solution? Laser hair removal is, alas, off the table, because laser light seeks melanin—and gray hair has none. But electrolysis is still a viable option, because it uses color-blind electric currents to zap the graying hair follicles. Expect to undergo a series of at least five sessions (average cost: $50–$150 each) spaced a couple of weeks apart. You will also need to have yearly touch-ups; the body is resilient (or defiant?) and will eventually sprout some new hair.

3. You’ve got: facial fuzz
Hormone swings tied to aging account for an increase in peach fuzz, usually on the cheeks and upper lip. If the hair on your face is fair and fine (or gray), you have a number of choices. You can wax, which removes hair for up to six weeks. However, waxing is not a good alternative if you use a retinoid cream, which thins the skin and makes it more apt to tear. A less irritating option in that case is threading, says Shobha Tummala, founder of Shobha hair-removal spas. This method literally utilizes a thread (not unlike one used for sewing) to yank hairs from their roots. Threading and waxing give similar results, and both also weaken follicles over time, making hair grow back finer and occasionally not at all. A third possibility (this one too is safe for retinoid devotees, provided they stop using their creams for 10 days before the procedure) is dermaplaning, in which a certified aesthetician -gently removes the top layer of skin—and any excess hair—with a surgical blade (cost: $90–$150 per treatment). This procedure is essentially a deep exfoliation (with no downtime) and will leave you both fuzz free and radiant. Finally, for immediate, albeit short-lived, results, you can just pick up your razor and gently shave over fuzzy areas—or use a depilatory made for the face, such as Olay Facial Hair Removal Duo ($25; truthorhair.com), which works for fine hair. Results last about a week.

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