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Good-Bye, Thigh Hairs

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Some women don’t mind those coarse hairs that creep down past the panty line and onto the inner thighs—but some do mind. A lot. Our options…

Shaving. This is the cheapest, fastest, safest way for most women to get rid of pubic hair on the thighs, according to Mount Sinai Hospital dermatologist Karen Burke, MD, PhD, author of Great Skin for Life. The problem is that running a razor over this sensitive area may irritate the skin.

Secret to preventing irritation: Be sure to wait three minutes after applying shaving cream before you use the razor, so hair has time to soften. You can use soap instead of shaving cream if you prefer—but don’t skimp on the amount of soap or neglect to wait the three minutes. For the closest shave, it’s best to shave against the grain of the hair (for instance, shave upward if your hair grows downward).

To prevent breakouts caused by clogged hair follicles, apply benzoyl peroxide (a topical antibacterial and anti-inflammatory medication often used for acne) to the area once or twice daily. Benzoyl peroxide is sold over-the-counter at pharmacies and comes in gel and lotion form. There are even shaving creams that contain benzoyl peroxide—check labels. If your breakouts are not cured with topical benzoyl peroxide, you should see an American Board of Dermatology–certified dermatologist who can prescribe medication or recommend permanent hair removal by laser treatment.

Depilatory. This is a cream that breaks down hair’s chemical bonds. Because hair is removed right down to the bottom of the follicle (not just cut off at the skin’s surface, as with shaving), a depilatory leaves skin smooth for several weeks. To reduce the risk for skin irritation, Dr. Burke recommended using a product made specifically for the pubic area, such as Nair Bikini Cream. Always test it on a small patch of skin before using on the whole area. Beware: Some women develop a sensitivity to depilatories over time. So, even if you’ve used a product several times before with no problem, be prepared to stop if any signs of irritation appear.

Laser. The laser’s pulsed light is absorbed by the pigment in the hair, heating up the strands and permanently destroying the hair follicles. But: Laser works only on dark hair—blonde, light brown or light red hair does not have enough melanin to absorb the light. Three to four treatments six to eight weeks apart typically eliminate upper thigh hair for good.

Caution: “To minimize the risk for scarring or unintended lightening of the skin, have laser treatments done by a doctor or nurse, not by nonmedical salon personnel,” Dr. Burke advised. Cost: $250 or more per treatment.

Electrolysis. For light-colored hair, this is the best permanent solution. It delivers an electrical current that destroys follicles one at a time, so it takes longer and is more uncomfortable than laser treatments. A topical numbing cream applied 30 minutes in advance minimizes discomfort. The number of sessions needed depends on how many hairs you want to eliminate.

To reduce the risk for scarring or pigmentary spotting of the skin, always use a professional electrologist who is accredited by the American Electrology AssociationCost: $50 to $175 per session. Never use a home electrolysis unit, which can cause burns or leave scars.

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Source: Karen Burke, MD, PhD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital and a research scientist and dermatologist in private practice, both in New York City. She has written numerous articles and books, including Great Skin for Life. Publication: Bottom Line Health
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