Monday, May 12, 2008

The History of Hair Removal

If you thought that the wish to get rid of unwanted hair is a 20th century phenomenon... you’re wrong! Evidence points back as far as the caveman attempting to get rid of facial hair with sharp stones. The Sumerians removed hair with tweezers. Ancient Arabians used string... doesn’t sound real practical today, but was probably leading edge technology in the day! Egyptians, including Cleopatra, also did it -- some with bronze razors they took to their tombs, others with sugar and others – probably in anticipation of what was to come many centuries down the line - with beeswax. And so we move through the ages...merrily plucking, shaving and tweezing!

As an alternative, there were lotions and creams – called depilatories (from the Latin, meaning completely + deprive of hair), which dissolved hair above the surface of the skin....much the same way it is still used today. In discussing hair removal options – past and present - it is important to remember that waxing, sugaring, tweezing and electrolysis methods all remove hair from the roots. Ouch! Waxing uproots the hair from its follicles (shiver!!) for the smoothest results of all temporary hair removal methods. Depilatories chemically destroy the hair. The one we all know – shaving - merely slices it off at skin level, just to restart the cycle of hair growth again.

A study conducted by Gillette in 1990 puts the wish to get rid of unwanted hair into perspective. The survey found that 92 percent of women 13 or older in the United States shave their legs, though not necessarily exclusively.

Laser technology was popularized in the 60’s, but was not yet sufficiently developed to be able to eliminate the hair without collateral skin damage.

In 1995 – a century after the discovery of X-rays – the FDA approved the first laser for laser hair removal in the US. Results of this laser turned out to not live up to the promises. In 1997 the FDA approved several lasers that target the melanin in hair for laser hair removal. Hair removal by Laser is not to be confused with electrolysis. Electrolysis is a method of removing individual hairs one-at-a-time by directing an electric current into each hair follicle. This is rather time consuming, as you can imagine – but it does work. Removing hair with a laser is currently the most effective way to get rid of large amounts of unwanted hair.

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