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Skin Care: Then and Now--Hair Removal

By: Michelle Goldsmith
Posted: February 28, 2013, from the March 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Historically, hair removal has been a common ritual among people, going as far back as cavemen scraping the hair off of their faces with flint blades, sharp rocks or pulling it out with two seashells held together. Throughout the centuries, a plethora of tools, concoctions, methods and mixtures—some even toxic—have been used to remove unwanted hair. In the 1760s, French barber Jean Jacques Perret invented the Perret razor, followed by the advent of a much safer type of razor invented by King Camp Gillette in the 1880s; the first razor for women was invented in approximately 1915.

Fashion has also been a determining factor in the desire to remove hair from specific areas. For example, with clothing revealed more skin during the roaring 20s, removing hair from the legs and underarms became a necessity. The bikini wax became popular as bathing suits shrunk with the introduction of the first bikini in 1946, advancing into the Brazilian wax. Men have also become more concerned with unwanted hair for either aesthetic purposes or due to certain sports. According to the most recent statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, laser hair removal ranked third among the top five nonsurgical procedures performed in 2011. The number of procedures totaled 919,802; 107,450 of which were performed on men.

However, even with improved procedures and tools, two issues still exist: pain and the trauma caused to the skin by either the heat, friction or both associated with most types of hair removal. Because of these factors, the science and technology of removing unwanted hair has progressed in the esthetic industry with no signs of slowing down.

Skin care professionals must look at more than just the removal of hair; they must also treat and maintain the health of the surrounding skin. It is your responsibility to educate clients about the best skin care methods to achieve the desired results and to avoid potential complications from hair removal treatments. You must also choose the best method of hair removal according to the client’s skin type, any other conditions that may be present and the area being treated. These determining factors will not only contribute to successful client outcomes, but also will maintain the client/esthetician relationship, and increase revenue through product sales and other in-spa treatments that complement the chosen hair removal procedure.

Caring for the skin

When performing treatments that induce heat and trauma to the hair follicle, the surrounding skin is affected in the same way. This can be problematic, especially for darker Fitzpatrick skin types. Skin care professionals must understand the melanogenesis process in the skin before utilizing any of these methods and be able to educate clients about it, in turn. The last thing you want to do is create post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) when removing unwanted hair. Although the skin cannot be prevented from producing pigment, professional and at-home regimens can be created that will minimize this risk.