Hair removal 101: Everything you need to know

Article by Fashion Quarterly

Tash Oakley

Nicky Shore from ON and OFF answers all our questions about hair removal

What’s the difference between laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)?
Many people think IPL, Variable Pulsed Light (VPL) and laser are the same thing, but they are different. In IPL or VPL a broad-spectrum light is passed over the area; laser treatment uses just one wavelength to target specific follicles. Hence lasers are more selective and effective at targeting hair, meaning quicker, more permanent results. They are also safer, with less risk of pigmentation or burning.

Are there certain colours or textures of hair that respond better to lasers or IPL?
The darker the hair and the wider the contrast between hair and skin colour the better – this is especially true for IPL and certain lasers. Previously there had been limitations as to what skin types could be effectively treated for successful and, importantly, safe hair removal. We are incredibly excited that we have the Gentle Max Pro from Candela. This is a dual platform machine with two lasers/ wavelengths – one for lighter skins and a second that can treat darker skin. The key then is only that there is melanin (pigment) in the hair.

Is it true you can’t treat blonde hair?
The laser requires melanin in the hair shaft in order for the laser energy to “travel” to the follicle to do its job. Blonde, grey, white and true red (which is an absence of brown melanin) are not able to be effectively treated. That said, just because you have blonde hair does not mean all your body hair is blonde, so it is really specific to the area targeted. Finer and lighter hair can also be trickier to treat and is one of the reasons why there might not be 100% hair removal.

How many treatments is realistic?
Your hair grows in three stages. It is only through the active “anagen” phase, when it is attached to the hair follicle that the laser can permanently disable future growth. Over a course of treatments at the correct weekly intervals, we can target the hair in that phase of growth. The cycle varies for individuals and for different areas. For example, facial hair can be on a three- to four-weekly cycle, but body hair may be six to eight. To further complicate things, the cycle for hair is not synchronised (at any time maybe 20% of the hair could be in anagen phase, maybe less) which is why multiple treatments are needed.

The number of sessions you need is dependent on your genetic makeup, hormone levels, medical background and changes in the areas being treated. In general, clients experience excellent end results in six to eight sessions for the body and six to ten for the face. Facial areas require more sessions as they are on shorter regrowth cycles, and hormones and medications can increase the speed and density of growth. We price a course as a minimum of six sessions for this reason, not because there is anything magical about the number six in itself.

Is it possible to get a full Brazilian with lasers or IPL?
Absolutely, and it is one of our most popular services. It is no different from any other body area in that we are targeting the hair in the active growth phase, so the same rules apply.

What is the real cost?
The real cost of IPL or laser is the total to get you to 85-90% hair reduction, not the cost per session. With factors such as inferior technology, lack of operator experience, and the differences between types of permanent hair reduction, people could end up needing many more sessions than with a well-implemented laser plan and thus spending a lot more.
Although laser is the more expensive option upfront, over a lifetime, versus waxing and shaving, it saves on both time and money dramatically.

Why should you shave before you get laser or IPL?
We only want the laser energy to travel down the hair shaft below the skin. If the hair is not shaved beforehand two things happen: 1) laser energy is wasted on the hair that remains above the skin and 2) there is a risk of excess heat at the skin’s surface – not cool!

However, removing the hair via waxing or plucking prior to laser will compromise your treatment. This removes the hair from the root, which means there is nowhere for the laser energy to travel to destroy the follicle.

What are the new hair-removal trends?
Certainly our customers haven’t returned to the bush! There was a bit of nostalgic media hype about this last year, but I don’t think it resonated with the person on the street, as we are seeing only increasing demand for Brazilians.

As for strip versus no strip, it is 50/50 and I would estimate 75% get the back done.

What do you think about females shaving their faces to get rid of peach fuzz?
We have a colleague in the office who does it (she’s blonde) and swears by it. She uses a tiny razor that she got from a Japanese shop. Dermablading is very popular, and we do this to prep facial areas prior to lasering them (as you have to shave). It is fantastic for creating a smooth canvas, perfect for flawless makeup application, and a lot of woman love the feeling of the smooth face.

Is waxing still as popular as ever or more so?
Absolutely. The addition of laser hair removal to our business has been purely incremental. This is because the majority of our waxing is in braz- and bro-zillions, whereas the key areas for laser are those that compete for your time in the shower – eg, legs and underarms – and for guys laser tackles the areas that require too much time and maintenance for waxing – eg, backs and chests.
There will always be a place for waxing – not just from an accessibility point of view, but because many people are not candidates for laser.

Are there trends for waxing – is the braz still the biz?
The braz is the biz! Yes absolutely we still predominantly do Brazilians because of their popularity. Men’s waxing is on the increase and in particular facial grooming – ears, nose and brows.

We also interestingly see an increase in what we call “sneaky patches”. This is those random patches of hair we have – be it back, chest, stomach, nipples, toes, etc. This tells me that hair removal is becoming more widespread and focused on all areas.

What are the common mistakes people make following a wax appointment?
Not adhering to the 24-hour rules about heat, friction and sweat. The key afterwards is to keep the area clean and neutral, then going on to a regular exfoliation and moisturising habit.

Best way to remove an ingrown hair is?
Not with your bare hands or by picking it! Before even attempting you need to understand what kind of ingrown it is and avoid anything sebaceous or angry/possibly infected without professional help or the right products.

Best way/s to prevent ingrown hair is … ?
Regular exfoliation AND moisturising, not shaving between waxes, using the right prevention product, such as something containing salicylic acid. If you are a regular or chronic ingrown sufferer (and sometimes you are just one of those really unlucky ones), laser is an amazing solution for nipping it in the bud for good.

Which procedure is best if you have sensitive skin?
Each has its pros and cons and it depends on what type of sensitivity you have (environmental, product, heat). Going the more permanent route through laser does mean that the long term outcome will be better.

5 things your waxologist wishes you would stop doing before your appointment …

Shaving (unless prior to laser), exercising, going out in the sun, not exfoliating and not telling us about changes in your health and medication. These are so we can do the best wax and make sure you are as comfortable as possible.

At-home care:

If you’re prone to ingrown hairs, you should use a post-wax serum with glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids to help exfoliate the skin and aid new hair growth to cut through without getting blocked.

Nair Sensitive is a range of hair-removal products for the face and body, designed specifically to be gentle on sensitive skin. Nair offers a range of at-home hair-removal products that are easy to use and can deliver salon results. Nair NEW Sensitive Wax Strips are great to have on hand for those in-between salon touch-ups – eyebrows, upper lip and body hair removal. Priced from $13.99

Words: Tamsin Marshall
Photos: c/o