Hair Removal for Sensitive Skin

Trying to remove hair from sensitive skin can be a daunting task. We cover the different methods, from what to stay away from to how to get rid of the hair without irritation.

01
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Sugaring

Tradional sugar paste shown. Photo © ALETRIS, Scottsdale, AZ

If we had to recommend one hair removal method for sensitive skin it would be sugaring.

Here's why: It's removed from the root so you can be hair-free for weeks on the face or body. Made from all natural ingredients, there's also less chance of skin irritation that artificial ingredients in wax often cause. The method using the paste (there's also sugaring gel) can remove hair as short as 1/16" (see gel vs. paste).

You don't have to wait to the 1/4" hair length like with waxing. And because the paste removes in the direction of hair growth, it leads to minimal pulling on skin, which means less pain and irritation.

02
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Shaving

Image Doran / IStockPhoto

Using a razor can create nasty side effects, but it definitely doesn't have to end in disaster. 

Often the problem with shaving isn't the method but the wrong products and tools being used. Other times an allergy to a common ingredient in shaving products or poor shaving techniques can be the culprit. Finding the cause is key. 

03
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Waxing

Image Jo Unruh / IStock Photo

There are circumstances when you shouldn't wax at all or you should avoid a certain area as it could lead to extreme redness, peeling and scabbing. Many times being overly red, having a lot of pain, or bruised skin is because of choosing the wrong type of wax for the hair or area, using a poor quality wax, not prepping the skin correctly or removing it the wrong way.

04
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Threading

Image © 2008 Facial Threading

This method is quite unique in that it pulls hair out from the root with a thread. It doesn't use any chemicals or heat so there's no need to worry about product allergies or burns.

Generally, it's gentle to the skin with a good tech. And while people sometimes get bumps and redness, it often doesn't last that long. 

Looking for something to do at home? While they don't use a string, coil hair removers like Lindo and Epicare look like little slinkies and manually remove the hair without the use of chemicals. They can only be used on the face, except for the eyebrows.

05
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Laser / IPL Hair Removal

Professional laser hair removal. Image Todd Keith / IStock Photo

Lasers use pulsed light to disable the follicle by targeting the pigment. Generally, you will feel some heat and a snapping against the skin.

Sensitive skin (even in the safe zone range) will get overly red or swell sometimes. It's important to do a patch test to see how skin reacts.

Most professional clinics apply a gel to protect the skin during treatment, which also helps cool it. Gels or calming products to be used during and/or after treatments are often sold by those that make home devices like Tria Laser 4X, Lumi Evoderm and the ​Silk'n family of products.

06
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Electrolysis

Yanik Chauvin / IStock Photo

This is the only method that's FDA-approved for permanent hair removal as it has the best track record. It uses an electric current and it's a match for all tones of skin and hair colors.

There are three different modalities used in electrolysis. The discomfort, potential side effects, and results have a lot to do with which modality is used as well as the skill of the electrologist. It can be a bit painful, which is why Emla, a topical anesthetic is often recommended.

For those who often have side effects from temporary hair removal methods, getting rid of all or most of the hair can bring great relief.

07
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DON'T Use Depilatories (Hair Removal Creams)

Image Source / Getty Images

This is one of the harshest hair removal methods because it uses strong chemicals to break down the hair so that it can be wiped off. It has been known to make skin burn, turn red, peel and scab—even for people that don't consider themselves to have touchy skin.

It doesn't usually create a sharp tip like shaving does, but it lasts just about as long (a day or two). You're likely to experience problems with a depilatory, no matter the brand, if skincare products generally irritate your skin.