Women go to great lengths for beauty and the pain involved can be agonizing, making hair removal pain relief a necessary step toward the perfect appearance. What method of pain relief to use, however, depends on both the hair removal procedure and the individual's sensitivity to pain.
What Hair Removal Requires Pain Relief
Not everyone requires pain relief, but different types of hair removal tend to be more painful than others based on the amount of hair removed and how it is taken out.
Shaving is usually the least painful method of hair removal unless the skin is accidentally nicked or cut. This can be excruciating, particularly if soap gets into the fresh wound. Plucking can be moderately painful, though some individuals find that removing only one hair at a time is agonizing over a long period. Waxing removes a large number of hairs quickly but because they are torn away along with a thin layer of skin cells, it can be very painful and the pain may last for several minutes or hours. Laser hair removal is also painful, but the hair is removed in smaller sections than by waxing so discomfort tends to dissipate more quickly. Threading pain varies, though if properly done many people compare it to plucking or waxing in terms of discomfort. Electrolysis is usually considered the most painful, but it is also one of the most highly effective hair removal techniques, so the old maxim "no pain no gain" seems to apply.
Different areas of the body also have a higher tolerance for pain. Generally speaking, the upper lip, eyebrows, bikini area, and underarms are the most sensitive and pain relief may be necessary in these areas. Legs, arms, and chin are somewhat less painful, though individual pain tolerances vary widely.
Hair Removal Pain Relief Methods
There are many ways to relieve the pain from different hair removal techniques, and most individuals need to experiment with different options or combinations of pain relief to find the most effective solution. For some individuals, simple tactics are all the hair removal pain relief that is required, while other people need medications or other techniques for the best results.
Many pain relief techniques are simple, quick, and inexpensive. While they are typically effective only for mild pain, they can help make severe pain more tolerable.
- Ice the area immediately before the hair removal to numb pain receptors.
- Stretch skin tightly when removing hair to open follicles as wide as possible and minimize any irritation.
- Remove hair quickly to shorten the length of time nerves are irritated.
- Apply pressure to the area immediately after hair has been removed to activate different nerves that will help override pain receptors.
- Use aloe gel or lotion after hair removal to soothe irritated skin.
- Remove hair after a warm bath or shower when the hair is softest and the follicles are open.
- Avoid caffeine or other stimulants before hair removal because they lower the body's tolerance for pain by increasing blood flow and nervous activity.
For some individuals, medications are more effective for relieving pain caused by hair removal.
- Over-the-counter pain relief drugs (aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, etc.) can be taken 30-60 minutes before the hair removal to help dull nerves.
- Topical anesthetics can be applied to the area prior to hair removal to numb the area. These may take up to 90 minutes to be effective, however, and may be sticky, runny, or cause temporary skin irritation or discoloration. Bottles cost $25-40 each and must be obtained from a pharmacy. Nevertheless they are quite effective; the most popular brands include:
- EMLA (eutectic mixture of local anesthetics)
- Stud Spray
- Prescription pain relievers or prescription topical anesthetics can be obtained from a physician, but this is usually a last resort and reserved for only the most severe cases of hair removal pain.
Mental Pain Relief
Some individuals have great success mentally preparing themselves for the pain of hair removal, and with simple mental techniques can lessen the procedure's pain.
- Talking with the stylist or technician removing the hair can take the client's mind off the pain.
- Reviewing the internal motivation for the hair removal (convenience, a special event, etc.) can be a great reminder of why the pain is worthwhile.
- Visualization of the end result will help clients work their way through discomfort.
- Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, aromatherapy, and music can help ease tension and lower pain.
When It Hurts Too Much
Postponement and Other Options
There will be times when even the most stringent hair removal pain relief methods are ineffective. In these cases, it may be best to postpone the treatment or take a short break and let the body recover. If the intense pain continues, consult a physician about the possibility of other pain relief methods, or choose a different type of hair removal that may be less painful.
Dangerous Pain Relief
Even if the pain is intolerable, there are certain pain relief methods that should never be used. Alcohol is not an effective pain reliever and will only serve to impair an individual's judgment. Combining drugs can be dangerous and may cause lasting harm. Prescription painkillers prescribed for other conditions should never be used for hair removal pain relief because their effects will not be the same and the results could be dangerous.
With care, it is possible to practice hair removal pain relief that can make an otherwise excruciating procedure tolerable, even virtually pain-free. Everyone feels pain differently and not every method will work for every individual, but knowing how to minimize pain will make hair removal a less onerous part of personal grooming.