Advice about Hair Removal

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Hair removal - laser vs. electrolysis

Jan 2008

I need to find a new service for hair removal. I've been several times to an electrologist in the 90's, and have heard recently about laser hair removal. my situation is not particularly involved, I have maybe 15-20 chin hairs needing to be removed. I've been trimming them and it's time to eliminate. Has anyone used both electrolysis and laser, and has a preference with either? are they about the same? It's not pleasant to have electrolysis, but it's over quickly and fairly inexpensive. I don't know anything about laser. Advice, comparison info, and east bay referrals welcome. - chinny chin blues

I've been THRILLED with laser hair removal...I had a lot of facial hair (all my life) and now I don't. Wow!!! I've done electrolysis and found it so painful and time consuming...though it did work. Laser is also painful but its very quick zap and covers more hairs than electrolysis. For laser to work it's best to have dark hair, lighter skin, so is probably perfect for those annoying chin hairs. I now go to the Pinole Skin Care Center (may not be exactly what it's called) but it's on Appian just above Safeway by the freeway (sorry, that's not too clear). There are others around too and they are all similarly priced. I say go laser!! no longer hairy

If you only have a few isolated hairs, electrolysis will be way cheaper than laser, and probably more effective. Hagar Orren (next to Monterey Market in Berkeley, 526-4288) is great. You can use numbing cream (Emla) on your chin before the electrolysis, but the chin is not a terribly sensitive area anyway. Less hairy than before

Embarrassed about going in for hair removal

June 2007

I was looking at old referrals on this board and wondered if anyone had advice on a topic that has embarrassed me for years. I have very dark, heavy body hair, and I have tried to learn to love it as it is, but I just can't. I have decided that it would make me feel more attractive to remove it -- shaving causes big red bumps, though (not sexy), and home waxing has been useless. I would love to do bikini waxing (and maybe leg and elsewhere as well), but I feel really embarrassed about how much hair I have, and unsure if it would even work....could anyone give tips on how to prepare for waxing, and if you know of any really nonjudgemental, non-intimidating places to have it done -- I'm basically a natural girl, feel easily out of place in fancy spas... thanks! anon

If you have large amounts of dark hair that you want removed, I highly recommend laser hair removal. It is more expensive than waxing, but it is permanent--imagine never having to shave your legs again! I have been very happy with Aesthetic Laser Concepts in San Francisco: (415) 956-0111. You do have to go repeatedly--it may take 5-8 visits until your leg hair is basically gone. You shouldn't worry that they will laugh or sneer at your hairiness--they are very professional, and you can rest assured that they've seen hairier people than you! Anyway, you have to shave before laser hair removal, so you won't go in there all hairy. As far as the process, it is painful, but no more so than waxing. I use an anesthetic cream on my legs an hour beforehand (they sell it there). Smooth-legged and happy

I would like to recommend April Fortier in Walnut Creek. Although my body hair isn't heavy, it's dark and coarse. Sadly, before waxing, you need to let it grow to at least a 1/2 inch which ain't pretty! But April is very cool and does my full leg waxings and my bikini wax both front and back (I'm talkin' hiney, here!) It's just NO big deal to her. She does plenty of brazilian waxings which is TOTAL pubic hair removal. On top of it all, she does a great job...her waxings seem to last much longer than any others I've had in the past. April can be reached at 925-518-3090.

I also wanted to ask if you've explored laser hair removal? It's costly, but it's permanent. There are lots of places that do it now and you could be hair free in a matter of months. Good luck! karen

Believe me, everyone feels this way. Make an appointment for an extended bikini wax at About Face and Body (College at Alcatraz in Rockridge) and you'll meet the nicest, most pleasant women there. They are NICE. They don't judge. They do their jobs quietly and privately and never would embarrass you. They have seen it all, and I can assure you, you are not the hairiest woman to ever walk in there. Even if you were, they will treat you with kindness and professionalism. I don't request a certain person when I go because they are all competent and all very nice. You will experience some pain while it's happening (like a slap) but it goes away immediately and you are left with smooth, lovely skin. Be brave. Get in there and do it. You will not be sorry. And then the next time it will be a breeze because you will know what to expect. A

Give Annahita a call - 2976 Adeline St.,(510) 666-0600 and get a bikini wax! She's awesome, nonjudgemental, sweet, thorough, quick, and makes the process as pain-free as possible. Her place is a little store front, near Ashby BART - not a fancy, attitude-filled salon. Like you, I'm pretty much a low- maintenance all-natural gal, but I felt uncomfortable wearing a swimsuit 'cause of the fuzz, and got bumps from shaving. After reading some BPN reviews, I first went to Benefit on 4th Street for a bikini wax, and found them to be pretentious and additudinal. Then I found Annahita, who is so welcoming and low-key. In both places, I told them I was new to bikini waxing and they totally talked me through it, including telling me to exfoliate before the wax, to take a couple ibuprofen ahead of time, and to avoid hot showers afterward. DON'T go to About Face and Body! I went there recently b/c Annahita is closed on Mondays (note to self!) and I was about to leave for a trip. AFB tried to get me to sign a release AFTER the treatment, and gave me attitude about it. The wax itself was uneven (the two sides don't match!), not thorough (lots of little hairs left), and quite painful. waxing convert

I recommend About Face on Alcatraz @ College for waxing; it's a very low-key and reasonably-priced place. To get the most out of waxing, you need to stop shaving or plucking, and you need to do it regularly; I go about 1x/month for legs, bikini, and underarm and it has been soooo worth it. I have much less hair than I used to and what grows back is mostly very silky and light-colored. Believe me, they've seen it all and they have zero judgment. I see Dao, but all the women are great. Good luck! Formerly hairy gal

I feel your pain. I struggled with the same thing for years and tried just about every gadget and spa you can thing of. The only thing that worked for me was Lazer hair removal. It's pricy but worth every penny if you think about all the products and services you pay for over the years. Also, it's the only thing that got rid of my red bumps. It's the best. Now I can wear skirts or go to the pool without worrying about hair issues. Do it if you can spend 3 or so thousand! smoothie

Don't feel embarassed about the hair - have it zapped! I'd recommend electrolysis. Not super cheap, takes a few visits, but kills the hair(s) completely, forever. I live in SF and here, I'd recommend Sofia's Skincare in Noe/Mission: 3548 22nd St San Francisco, CA 94114 (415) 824-2125

They've seen and done it all; very discreet and nice. I'm sure there are others similar in Berkeley. Oh, and though I have light hair, I have a few random dark/thick ones...that's why I know about Sofia's. :-) Good luck! Kate

There were some really good replies on this topic in April 2005 - - see the archives at for some great tips about what to do and expect at a salon. I'm still trying to get up the courage to go get my first waxing, too. Maybe we need some sort of support group for the shy and hairy. ;) Good luck! Still Shaving

Don't be embarrassed! I have had bikini waxes at several swishy salons and have never been made to feel uncomfortable by the aestheticians. I'm sure I am on the hairier side, especially as I am not the type to get a wax ''just for maintenance,'' preferring to do it right before bathing suit season. These people tend to be really sensitive and kind, so if you can muster up the courage, go for it. I would definitely recommend paying more for a fancier place, as the cheaper nail-salon-type places tend to be less comfortable (and sometimes less good).

I will say, though, that waxing HURTS and that it is only temporary. There also can be issues with ingrown hairs and skin irritation. I have been doing electrolysis on my lip and chin for about 15 months, and it seems to be making a difference-- I can't wait to be facial-hair-free! I do fantasize about getting laser removal for my bikini line, as electrolysis is way too painful and slow for that area, but I'm not sure I can justify the expense.

But if you are new to the hair-removal game, try a wax in a nice salon. I don't think you'll feel you've compromised your natural values, and you will love being smooth. love my body, hate the hair

I also have dark, thick body hair. For over ten years, I've gone to About Face and Body to get my legs waxed. They are very nonjudgemental. I usually make some embarrassed comment before they get started, like ''there's a lot of hair...''; and the clinician, in the most friendly way, says, ''that's what we're here for.''

Waxing hurts a lot the first time you do it, but it's not so bad when you're used to it. When the hair grows back, there's an awkward period with some ingrown hairs, and unfortunately for us hairy women, it grows back pretty quickly (although not nearly as fast as shaving). Good luck! Lisa

I too consider myself a hairy girl and had great fantasies about how wonderful waxing would be. This was the deal for me: the hair begins to grow back in about 1 week and I understand that this is fairly common. I was under the impression that I'd be hair free for 3-4 weeks, so I was very disappointed. It does work well if you're away for a week long beach vacation. One waxer told me that taking ibeuprophen 1 hour before the appointment would make it less painful during the procedure. I've only had it done twice, first time full leg and bikini and second time bikini and the pubes that grow in places down my leg. The full leg took about an hour and was a bit too much. The place I went and liked is no longer in business, so unfortunately I have no place to recommend. If only it were sexy for us to be hairy too! Good luck to you. anon

I know how you feel. i have used many different ways and have also gone au naturale. I have very course, wiry black hair and I have found that Nads actually does work the best for me. It is sugar based and non heat activated. It is much less painful than waxing but much messier than creams. Luckily, the honey like sugar washes right off. I found waxing and tweezing much more annoying. I have used it on my bikini, stomach, underarms and face. It does not work well on my chin or eyebrows. I would not use it on my legs or arms. Creams are better for those big patches. Hair Free for the Summer

I also had your problem. I did laser hair removal and it changed my life! Not only does it get rid of the hair but I now have smooth soft skin on my legs that I never ever thought I'd have because there are no bumps or regrowth.

It is more expensive but that is short term and it is so worth it. It has even made a difference to me psychologically, I didn't realize how embarassed and even ashamed I had felt about it until now that I am free of it. I can throw on shorts or a bathing suit without pre-planning, I can wear capri pants with worrying about nubs and I even used to worry I'd get into a car accident and everyone would see my hairy legs! Silly I know but true.

I went to a place in Palo Alto near Stanford, it may be too far for you but here is the website, it's called Dr Berman's Skin Institute. I did full legs and bikini area. It took 5 times to get rid of most my hair. I still have a few stragglers but they are barely noticeable but I do still shave about every 6 months if I really want to be completely hair free but it so quick and easy to shave now because there is almost nothing to get rid of. I could go for one more round to clear it up but it's not worth it.

The way it works is a nurse does the hair removal using a laser. I felt really embarassed the first time but after that never, because trust me they have seen it all and they don't care at all. Besides, you have to be shave fully before your appointment because the laser will burn any little hairs. You sit on a regular doctor's bench or table thingy, you both wear goggles and they begin. It takes about 1.5-2 hours. I found it to be pretty painful but doable.

One tip to reduce the pain is to ask that they use the 9mm laser which has a smaller point rather than the 12mm laser. The like to use the 12mm laser when doing a full leg because it can cover larger areas but I found it to be too painful.

It takes 4 or 5 times because it only kills the follical if it's in the hair growth stage when the hair is growing. And I've read it works best on pale skin with dark hair which is exactly what I have.

I think it cost me about $400 per session but I'm really pulling that number out of the top of my head because it was 5 years ago. Anyway, if it cost 10x that it's worth it, it's one of the few things I have done that has changed my life in such a positive way.

I know you wanted recommendations for waxing but I just think anyone who does waxing which is also painful, long term, more costly over a life time and doesn't get rid of the nubs and re- growth might be interested in laser hair removal to really have the smooth hair free skin. been there

Try ''About Face and Body'' at the corner of Alcatraz and College (in Berkeley??). It's a quiet, unassuming place that offers waxing and other related things, but isn't a big fancy spa or anything. Don't be embarrassed about body hair. I think the women who work there have probably seen it all and isn't that why you are there!? (After all, I come in when my dark nasty hair is all grown out and nasty-looking!) I have seen men there too (although rarely) so you can imagine how hairy some of them must be. The women there are good and fast. Walk-ins pay a cheaper price than appointments but you may want an appointment for your first visit to just get yourself in the door. Ask them about preparation. I just make sure that I am clean and I try not to put lotion or body oil on the parts that will be waxed before I go. Wear nice underwear because the woman doing your wax will see it. Andi

Hair removal for fair-skinned, ''dirty-blonde''

Aug 2005

After reading all of the postings regarding hair removal, I went to an appointment with Dr. Mehrany of Dr. Rodan's group today (Dr. Rodan was recommended, but difficult to get an appt with). This was just for a consultation with no actual treatment. According to Dr. Mehrany, I am a poor candidate for laser hair removal due to the lack of contrast between my skin and hair color. Apparently the laser reacts to the pigment in the hair, if I understood correctly. Additionally, he said that laser hair removal should really be called ''temporary hair reduction'' vs. ''permanent hair removal'' because most individuals have to return at least 1-2 times annually to really remain ''nearly hairless.'' Then he went on to say that I surely could find someone who will tell me that I would experience positive results with laser hair removal, but I had better get a 3rd opinion in that case!

I have fair skin that doesn't tan easily and my hair is naturally a dirty blonde color (if you ask me it's more of a light brown without a little help from Clairol!) Anyhow, the bikini area is a major nuisance, because the hair is definitely dark enough to be noticeable when wearing a bathing suit. On my sensitive skin, shaving causes horrible razor bumps, waxing has often caused a reaction that is more unattractive than the actual hair, and a depilatory that seems to work the best is a huge hassle (smelly project that I need to allow time for). I would be willing to consider other hair removal options besides laser, but I'm curious about what the Doctor said today.

Please let me know if you have lighter coloring and have had a positive permanent hair removal experience. If so, what technique did you undergo, with whom, how costly, and any other details that might be helpful.

Thanks in advance! ''Hairy Blonde''

I too had heard that laser works best on dark-haired folks, for that same reason - the laser can't identify hair if it doesn't contrast enough with the skin tone.

There are some other options.

One is electrolysis. I did this for awhile 10 years ago. I don't know if there are practitioners anymore, since laser is so popular and much quicker. Electrolysis takes a long time to achieve permanence, maybe a year of regular appointments, while the hair follicles become weaker and slowly die off.

Then, on to waxing. The bumps and reactions are typical, however, I've been told by a few people that if you do it regularly, two things happen. 1. your skin adjusts to it and you stop getting the bumps after awhile 2. the hair follicles, again, weaken, and over time, they become much softer and grow in much slower. So perhaps this is another method to kill off the hair, but it will require you to keep up with it for an extended period.

The downside to waxing is you have to wait until the hair is long enough before you wax it. I would coordinate a waxing to begin with the swimsuit season, to maximise your hairlessness. Then I'd probably shave for the rest of the summer (again, your skin will get used to it and the bumps will stop). Then get yourself on a regular wax regimen for the rest of the year and hopefully it will be less noticeable the following year. Since swimsuit season is mostly over, maybe just get started with regular waxing now, and see how far you get by 2006.

**I wish cute little bathing shorts were always the fashion so that we didn't have to work so hard on a tidy bikini line. anon

I have to respond to your posting because I believe the information you were given was not accurate, or fair. There are different lasers out there being used and I do not know which one Dr. Rodan's offices uses. Often, physicians purchase lasers for their offices which claim to do many things such as wrinkle reduction, vein removal, hair removal, etc. Those ''all in one'' lasers tend to do a bit of everything, but nothing very well. The physics of a laser is such that any particular laser excites a particular pigment or color. A laser designed to excite the red pigment in blood cells does not excite the brown pigment in hair follicles. It is possible that the laser in Dr. Rodan's office is not the best hair removal laser available.

Laser hair removal works because the laser energy is picked up by the melanin pigment being made in the hair follicle as the follicle is actively growing a strand of hair. This pigment heats up and destroys the follicle. Laser hair removal does not work on hair without pigment such as light blond or grey hair because the follicles growing that color hair are not making melanin. Skin color has nothing to do with the response of hair follicles to an appropriate laser; only the color of the hair matters.

Multiple treatments are required for successful hair removal. Hair follicles cycle. The follicle grows hair, followed by a period of static hair presence, followed by the third part of the cycle when the follicle sheds its hair and remains hairless and dormant for a while. The follicle is only sensitive to the laser during the time it is growing the hair and actively making pigment. The treatments should be separated by 4-6 weeks, because by that time, the next group of follicles will come into the growth phase and those can be treated. The cycle of follicles on the body is different than those on the head which cycle much longer and therefore grow longer hair.

It is typical that after 3 treatments to the bikini area, you will have no hair for several months, followed by recurrence of hair in the treated area. This is not treated hair growing back, but follicles previously dormant coming into their growth phase. Usually two more treatments are required again at 6 week spacing to permanently eliminate a majority of the hair. Our bodies are constantly creating new hair follicles; we get hairier on our bodies and less hairy on our heads (unfortunately) with age. These new follicles will need touch up treatments intermittently. However, the majority of hair follicle creation on our bodies occurs during puberty, so if you are past that, a series of 4-6 treatments will leave you essentially hairless in the area treated.

The best hair removal laser is the Gentlelase by Candela. It is used exclusively for hair removal and does a wonderful job. This laser costs $200,000.00 and so is not owned by most physician offices. Also, laser technology is updated almost as quickly as computers, so it is expensive to keep up with the best available. My office works with a company who provides the laser for the day. We bring in the Gentlelase on the hair removal day and the V-beam on the day for vascular lesions so we know our patients are receiving the most effective treatment for their particular problem. Our patients love this procedure and if your bikini area hair has any pigment in it, you can absolutely be treated successfully with the Gentlelase. You will never need to shave in the treated areas after the initial 4-6 treatments and spot touchups of the occassional new follicle 1-2 times per year is easy and will keep you essentially hairless. Don't lose hope! Feel free to call the office for more information.
Elizabeth Lee, MD, Plastic Surgery

I, too, am a dirty-blonde with relatively fair skin. I consider myself to be on the hairier end of the spectrum, and have struggled with horrible razor burn in the bikini area, underarms, and backs of my thighs. About six months ago I began receiving laser hair removal treatments on these areas. I am not exaggerating when I tell you it has changed my life! I went on vacation recently and for the first time in my adult life I didn't feel self-conscious about the red bumps near my bikini line when I wore a swimsuit. Not to mention the time I have saved not shaving daily. I have had 4 treatments so far with great results, and expect to have a couple more before I'm truly hairless. (Most of my body hair is light brown, with the occasional blonde hair.) Anyway, I highly, highly recommend Dr. Elizabeth Slass Lee in Berkeley (510)704-2170. I believe it is free for a laser consult. Good luck! lexigal

Does waxing make hair thicker?

July 2003

I have a few hairs in my chin area that I regularly tweez out. I've been thinking of having it waxed which would be easier but I'm concerned that waxing may cause the other tiny normal hairs to grow longer and thicker like the problematic ones. Does anybody have any info on this beyond urban myths? anon.

I was in your situation and found that tweezing and waxing just led to a vicious cycle of increased hair growth and more plucking. I researched laser hair removal and electrolysis and ended up going to Judy Porat in Berkeley for electrolysis about 3 years ago. Although I was worried about the pain factor I really didn't find it that bad. Towards the end of the sessions I would be happy they were over but only the last 5 minutes or so were truly uncomfortable. I went for about 6 sessions and haven't had to go back--there's the errant hair now and then but nothing like before. This is after about 20 years of nonstop tweezing and being embarassed every thime I looked in the rearview mirror and saw how many dark hairs (on very light skin) I had on display. Also, Judy is really easy to talk to and her office is very clean and professional. She does not accept tips and so you know how much you will be spending when you make an appointment. I hope this helps!
--happily zapped

Go for the waxing. Your hair will not grow in thicker, in fact it will probably grow in THINNER! This is because the hair is removed from the root (like tweezing) so over time the root weekens a bit growing thinner hairs. since you're already tweezing, your hairs might have already weakend but they will not get thicker. The only way hair acctually gets thicker is if your hormones change, otherwise it is GENETICS wich dertermine hair thickness. (urban myth hair grows thicker if you shave it. No, it only appears thicker and more coarse for a time because of the severe cut edge caused by the razor. But the diameter of the hair reains the same)
Hairy Lady

If you only have a few hairs on your chin that bother you, I would not recommend waxing. If you're tired of plucking, electrolysis would be a good way to get rid of those hairs. I like Hagar Orren, next to Monterey Market, 526-4288. Less hairy than before

More recommendations for hair removal

Re: Tomboy Mom (July 2002)
For hair removal I highly recommend Sofia at Sofia Skin Care and Electrolysis: 3548 22nd Street in SF 415-824-2125 and for hair I recommend Tereza at Shapes 760 Market in SF 415-982-0404. Both women are compassionate, helpful and very skilled. Best wishes to you. R.L.

Feb 2010: Some reviews on this page were removed per this policy: