Hair Removal Techniques: An Esthetician’s Guide

An esthetician is a specialist whose primary function focuses on the skin and its appearance. Our skin is in direct contact with the world. So, it’s no surprise our skin requires regular maintenance and care. For many, maintaining one’s skin includes hair removal. A well-rounded esthetician’s know-how encompasses hair removal techniques to fulfill a client’s skincare needs.

Understanding the Skin and Its Layers

Our skin protects us by helping maintain our body temperature, preventing water loss, and serving as an initial defense against germs, UV light, chemicals, and injury. To understand an esthetician’s job and the hair removal process, you must first possess a knowledge of the three skin layers. The epidermis, dermis and hypodermis.

Epidermis

The epidermis contains five stratum layers called the stratum corneum, stratum lucidum, stratum granulosum, stratum spinosum, and the stratum basale. Those layers, combined with the dermis and hypodermis layers, are referred to as the skin’s seven layers. However, in other content, the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis are referred as the skin’s three main layers. Regardless, the epidermis is the outermost visible layer of our skin, mainly containing flat, scale-like cells, called squamous cells. For this content, we’ll describe it as one of three skin layers.

Dermis

The dermis is the skin layer that houses the blood vessels, lymph vessels, hair follicles, fibrous/elastic tissue, and glands. These glands are responsible for sweat production, regulating body temperature, and accountable for sebum production. Take a special note that this is the layer where the hair follicles reside. The dermis contains two layers, the papillary dermis and the reticular dermis.

Hypodermis

The hypodermis contains fat, connective tissue, and a collagen cell network. This skin layer serves as an insulator, shock absorber, and an energy reserving fat/nutrient store. The hypodermis’ thickness varies throughout different parts of the body, from person to person and gender to gender. The blood vessels, lymph vessels, fibrous tissue, and glands that run through the dermis layer also travel through the hypodermis. The same hair follicles that traverse the dermis also span the hypodermis.

The Hair Structure

As an esthetician, you will need to understand the hair’s structure to perform a hair removal treatment on a client correctly. The shaft is the portion of the hair’s structure that doesn’t anchor to its follicle and consists of three layers: cortex, cuticle and, in cases, a medulla. Much of the hair’s shaft sits above the skin’s surface. The root, anchored in the follicle below the skin’s surface, contains five separate parts: the follicle, bulb, dermal papilla, arrector pili, and sebaceous glands.

A Brief History of Hair Removal

Now that we have a little understanding of the skin and hair, it’s time for a brief history lesson on the origins of hair removal. Although some methods like depilatories and other techniques came much later, there is nothing new about the act of shaving. The practice of removing female body hair goes back to ancient Rome and Egypt. Some of the first razors, used in Egypt and India around 3000 BCE, were made of copper. Buddhist and Christian monks undergo a form of head-shaving or a technique called tonsure.

Reasons People Remove Body Hair

Outside of societal norms, there are many reasons people remove their body hair. The body hair for surgical patients gets removed around the incision area before surgery. Another reason for some clients is for personal hygiene to prevent body odor. Hair removal also plays a big part in sports like swimming because it’s believed smooth legs allow for slicker, smoother contact with the water, improving a swimmer’s speed. A closely-cropped haircut, entirely shaven head, and clean-shaven face are standard practices in military organizations. Facial growth like beards prevents an air-tight fit between the face and breathing equipment, such as a diver’s mask or gas mask. A tip for estheticians broadening their clientele is when advertising hair removal services, ensure you market to both genders. As we read, both sexes have ample reasons for this treatment for different body parts.

Skills Required for Hair Removal

As with any other salon service, clients come to you with concerns, questions, and falsehood regarding the hair removal process. Possessing the ability to explain the process and the technology involved gives the client confidence in you and the method you use. You’ll also examine your clients’ skin, medical history, lifestyle, diet, exercise, and possible questions about personal hygiene habits, then decide how to proceed accordingly. Estheticians possess the proper knowledge and the know-how to talk comfortably to the client about sometimes embarrassing topics. You may not think fluent communication and speech are a plus for hair removal, but the client does.

Different Hair Removal Methods

There are many techniques to remove hair including waxing, laser, chemical, tweezing, and shaving. Each with their own pros and cons.

Waxing

Waxing is a popular semi-permanent method of hair removal well-suited for larger areas of unwanted hair. Semi-permanent means the process removes hair for lengthy periods but grows back eventually. As an esthetician, many salons use warm liquid wax that’s applied over the treatment area, followed by a strip of paper. The wax adheres to the paper and the hair shaft. As you pull the paper from the skin, it removes the entire hair structure from the follicle’s point.

  • Pro: A wax removes hair for up to two weeks before regrowth appears.
  • Con: The physical technique of ripping the hair out by the follicle is not an enjoyable sensation. However, A well-trained esthetician knows how to minimize the discomfort.

Electrolysis and Laser

Laser removal is a professional technique that uses ultra-concentrated beams of light to remove unwanted hair. During this method, a laser emits a light absorbed by the hair’s pigment or melanin. The light energy converts to heat, damaging the tube-like sacs within the skin, referred to as hair follicles, responsible for the hair’s production. Although lasering inhibits and delays future growth, it is still not considered entirely permanent.

  • Pro: Laser treatments last longer than many hair removal methods, saving time and money in the long run.
  • Con: Laser treatments possibly result in a permanent pigment darkening or lightening of the treated skin area.

Chemical Depilatories

Typically, chemical depilatories use a combination of alkaline-based products like salt, sodium thioglycolate, calcium thioglycolate, and strontium sulfide as their active hair removal ingredients. These ingredients hydrolyzed or break down the protein bonds, and you utilize a technique to wipe away, rinse off, or otherwise remove the mixture. Chemical depilatories often come in creams, gels, or lotions that penetrate through the follicle but won’t damage the root.

  • Pro: Generally pain-free making a difference for people with low pain tolerance.
  • Con: Chemical depilatories contain a harsh odor, a nightmare for clients with asthma or other breathing difficulties.

Tweezing

Tweezing is the hair removal method where individual hairs get pulled out from the root using a pair of tweezers. Quick and cost-efficient, it’s a method of removing a small precise number of hairs. Tweezing is mainly used for eyebrow shaping, odd strays, and ingrown hairs as it carefully removes those troublesome single hairs. There are numerous different types of tip shapes in tweezers, and each has its purpose. However, the three types commonly used for hair removal are slanted, pointed and combination tweezers.

  • Pro: Tweezing is a quick, convenient, and inexpensive hair removal method best for small areas and single hairs.
  • Con: Hair grows back quicker than with any other except shaving.

Shaving

Shaving is common, the most widely accessible form of hair removal, though not the best option. This practice removes hair by running a razor across the skin’s surface and as close to the surface as comfortably necessary for a smooth feel. Continuous razor use leads to roughness, an imbalance of moisture, and leaving the skin open to bacteria and infection from abrasions. As an esthetician, you should consider advising your clients against shaving or suggesting decreasing the number of times they shave. Estheticians see clients who shave to maintain hair growth between appointments. Some warn against this because it changes hair texture, disrupts the waxing schedule, dries the skin, and causes roughness, especially from stubble and razor burn.

  • Pro: Shaving is an inexpensive and easy way to maintain body hair.
  • Con: Hair grows back the fastest out of the removal methods, ultimately saving money but costing time.

Although these methods of hair removal are safe and effective, dangers do exist. Some skin types are too sensitive to wax and others may present allergies to the chemical hair removal technique. Ensure you do a thorough consultation and possible patch test before determining which treatment best suits your client. While laser hair removal is safe, there is always a possibility of redness, burns, blistering, discoloration, and scarring. A properly trained, well-rounded esthetician understands all aspects of hair removal, including caution.

Are you ready to help clients with hair removal? If so, you could begin your career as an esthetician at the Minnesota School of Cosmetology (MSC).  Our Esthiology Diploma Program has been developed by talented, caring, real-world professionals, many of whom still work in the field.  We give our esthiology students experience in skincare, waxing, make-up, application of facials, and more.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming an esthetician and starting a rewarding career in the beauty industry.

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