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February - March 2006


Hair Care: Structure of Hair

by Shashi Gossain B.Sc (Hons), MRPS, Member

There are many ways to remove body hair and to give advice on the right one can be difficult!
There are many products now available in most pharmacies and toiletry stores in addition to specialised procedures that can only be carried out in beauty and cosmetic salons.

In the UK this is the most popular way to remove hair. A wet razor or a power shaver is used due to its speed and convenience. Since your hair is growing all the time, even the most advanced shaver can only slice off each shaft after it has emerged from its follicle. This means that your stubble can return within two days. To maximise the closeness of the shave and minimise the irritation to the skin a few simple steps should be followed:

1. For a wet razor the blade should be sharp and clean. Take care that the blades are not rusty or dirty.

2. For a power shaver the foil should be smooth and covered when not in use.

3. Exfoliation is important to clear the surface of dead skin cells, sebum and grime. Use a skin sponge or body scrub with warm soapy water to soften the skin.

4. A layer of shaving lubricant, in the form of foam, gel or oil should be applied prior to using a wet razor.

5. If using an electric or battery-operated shaver, make sure you pat your legs dry with a soft warm towel prior to use.

6. You should shave against the growth of your hair, however, if this causes sensitisation and appearance of red bumps a downward direction should be used.

7. Rinse the blade after each stroke since it becomes clogged with hairs and foam and its performance can be compromised.

8. Special care should be taken around hard, bony areas such as ankles and knees as most accidents occur in these areas as it is difficult to manoeuvre a straight blade across the crevices.

9. Hair growth in the underarms is irregular and the use of a lubricant is essential (stand in front of a mirror!). Both downward and upward strokes are required as the hair grows in different directions.

10. The bikini line is a difficult area to shave and can be sensitive. Extra care should be taken to follow the direction of hair growth.

11. After shaving, rinse away the hairs and dry your skin gently.

12. Because shaving removes some healthy epidermal skin cells, which can affect the moisture content of the skin, rehydration is important and an unperfumed oil or moisturiser should be applied.

Cream Depilation
A chemical in the cream detaches the hair just beneath the skin surface. It follows that new growth takes much longer to emerge from the follicle. Chemical hair removal is relatively messy and time consuming. They come in various forms, for example, foam, lotion, gel, cream and roll on.

1. They use thioglycolate to penetrate the hair shaft and dissolve its connective tissue. This breaks down the cellular tissue that holds the dead cells together, and the hair is easily pulled away from its follicle. You must perform a 24 hour patch test prior to using a product/brand for the first time.

2. The location of the unwanted hair also determines the type of chemical formula, for example, the bikini line and underarms may require a different formulation than the legs.

3. After bathing or showering, use a skin sponge or body scrub to exfoliate, then dry your skin thoroughly and apply the depilatory formula.

4. Smooth it on to your skin in the direction of hair growth, without rubbing it in. Wait for the recommended time, which varies according to the thickness and density of your hair growth. Gently remove the product and the hair using either cotton wool, tissue or a spatula.

5. After patting the area dry, apply a layer of moisturising cream to rehydrate the skin. Sunscreens or self-tanning products soon after hair removal should be avoided.

Waxing removes each hair by its root, resulting in a longer lasting hairlessness. It is time consuming and messy and definitely more painful than shaving or the use of creams.

1. First exfoliate all areas to be treated. The softer your hair and skin, the easier it is to wax off the hair.

2. Most home waxing solutions are solid, sugar based formulas that need to be softened in the microwave or boiling water before use (make sure it’s not too hot!).

3. Spread the formula thinly and evenly over the hairs, following the direction of hair growth, concentrating on one small area at a time. There are special applicator bottles available to make this step easier.

4. Woven cotton strips, which are naturally porous and absorbs liquid, are used by pressing the strip gently onto the wax and smoothing it in the direction of hair growth.

5. Pull your skin taut at the base of the strip and quickly rip it away against the hair growth, with one fast firm movement.

6. This process can leave your hair follicles and skin very sensitised and a soothing moisturiser, e.g. aloe vera, should be applied after rinsing away any traces of wax.

An epilator is an electric handheld device that grips each hair and plucks it out by its root. It has the same effect as waxing but without the mess. However, it is more painful.

This involves inserting a very fine, flexible needle into the hair follicle and applying an electrical charge to the papilla. This is done over a period of months and is best for small areas, such as upperlip and chin.

Laser and Intense Pulse Light (IPL)
This is by far the most expensive method of permanent hair removal. The laser and light treatments deactivate your hair follicle. This is done over a period of a few months but can be well worth it!

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