MTF Facial and Body Hair Removal
How do you remove facial hair when transitioning?
Getting rid of hair when transitioning can be done successfully in several different ways. But we’re only looking for long lasting effects, that are actually worth the time and effort.
Let’s skip all the everyday stuff such as shaving causing razor burn, trying to cover up that 5 O’clock shadow, painful waxing that leads to ingrown hairs and stubbles.
What procedure removes unwanted hair permanently?
As a transitioning woman your best options for long lasting and effective hair removal (facial and body) are:
- IPL or Intense pulsed light hair removal
- Laser hair removal
Before we talk in depth about the hair removal methods above, it’s important to understand how hair grows on our body: the hair growth cycles.
Unlike other mammals, humans do not shed seasonally; we are constantly going through three (3) different cycles of hair growth and all three cycles are happening simultaneously.
Anagen phase: This is the first hair growth cycle otherwise known as the growing phase.
In this phase the hair is still attached to the root but is also visible on the outside of the skin. For body hair the anagen phase lasts about 2-3 weeks but hair on places such as your head can last years (which is why is grows so much longer than hair on your body).
The anagen phase is the phase you target when you want to treat your hair follicles. That means whenever you are having laser hair removal, electrolysis, or IPL hair removal, you want your hair to be in the anagen phase because studies show this is when hair removal is most effective. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hair_follicle#Anagen_phase
Catagen phase: This is the second phase of the hair cycle and is when the hairs begin to shed.
During this very temporary stage the hair is no longer attached to the follicle/root and is in the process of being shed out. Hair removal treatments done in this phase are somewhat effective but mostly ineffective in this stage as the hair is no longer attached to the root and any treatment done will not reach he source of which the hair is growing from. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hair_follicle#Catagen_phase
Telogen phase: Last and final stage of the hair growth cycle otherwise known as the resting phase that can last from days to years.
During this phase, the hair is not visible on the outer layer of your skin and treatments are completely ineffective because there is nothing to transfer the treatment from the hair down to the follicle. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hair_follicle#Telogen_phase
This is why, when undergoing permanent hair removal you have to go for numerous session because you want to catch each cycle of hair growth in the anagen phase (usually 2-6 weeks apart) once the new cycle is beginning. Now that you understand the hair growth cycles, lets talk about the best hair removal methods for MTF transgender women.
Best Hair Removal Methods While Transitioning
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Hair Removal
IPL is another type of effective laser hair removal method such as the Alexandrite laser. It’s a type of light therapy used primarily to remove unwanted hair from home, to get rid of wrinkles and treating spots.
Instead of using a concentrated beam of light, IPL devices use an array of light and is A LOT MORE AFFORDABLE than a salon and you can do it from the privacy of your own home.
How can I remove unwanted hair permanently at home?
Here's what Nikki Has to say about our IPL:
"Nikki - 21 JAN 2021 (35 upvotes)
I was nervous buying this because it seemed a little too good to be true, considering how low the price is for what your are getting and how good the reviews are. I finally caved and ended up buying this product on October 30th, and it was delivered on Nov 4th.
The packaging was very nice, My first thought was that it looked legit. It has a little bit of weight to it, when you turn it on you can hear some kind of whirring noise like something is happening. Note that the "zaps" are EXTREMELY bright. Even pressed tight to my skin and wearing the eyeglasses, I keep my eye clothes during the flash to be on the safe side. The first session I used it seemed to not do anything but I had only used the device at power level 1 because I was nervous it would hurt.
The second session I did a few things different: I turned up the power level to 3 and did one pass of zapping over the areas I was treating, as neatly as possible like I was following a grid. Then I turned the power level to 4, did one more pass, and in the areas where my skin is lightest, I went ahead and did the same again at power level 5 (maximum strength). So each spot of hair growth gets 2 or 3 zaps every time I use it and I usually wait 4 to 6 days before I use it again. It really doesn't take very much time to cover a large area because the part of the device that does the zapping has pretty wide coverage.
After my second and third sessions, the hair on my upper lip never grew back. It took six sessions to get rid of 99% of my chin/ jaw / neck hair (two stubborn hairs left on my jaw). After four sessions my tummy hair is about 2/3rd of the way gone, my armpit hair has been reduced by about half.
I have had this product one month and it has significantly reduced my unwanted hair. For context, I am cisgender latina woman with light, yellow/gold skin tone and my body hair is extremely thick, coarse, black, and curly. Please note, anywhere you have more melanin in your skin, the higher levels can also burn your skin instead of just hair- so do not use level 5 where your skin is medium-tone or tan, and do not use level 4 or up where your skin is dark. The device has a little card in it that shows which intensity levels are safe for which skin/hair colors.
I have found the best technique is to shave and then wait until I get "5 o'clock" shadow bit of hair growth before zapping. You will literally smell burning hair if you use this technique, but it does not actually hurt and this seems to be the best way to get the fastest results. You'll notice that a few hairs seem to be zapped out immediately, but most of the hairs that you lose will fall out after a day or two.
Just try to be consistent and it really, really works. I am excited about eventually not needing to shave but I am much, much more excited by the lack of that post-shave shadow. Especially for my underarms, it is amazing to see the patches where hair no longer grows are actually regular skin color instead of that gray/purple tone that my armpits normally have after shaving.
After sessions, your skin will feel warm to the touch, but I have had zero actual burns anywhere on my body. Over the course of an entire session, I might have one or two "Ow!" moments where a zap actually hurts, but the pain level is comparable to being snapped by a rubber band and goes away instantly. I use the "Australian Gold Aloe Vera Freeze Gel with Lidocaine" as a cooling gel after if my skin feels particularly warm to the touch after. Please, please learn from my mistake and do NOT put that cooling gel on your face: it gave me the worst acne break-out of my life. At first, I wasn't sure if it was this device or the gel that triggered the break out, but after continuing use of the device without the gel I can confirm that this device does not trigger break-outs. Now I just use a gentle face moisturizer after zapping facial hair and save the cooling gel for my body.
I have every intention of using this product to permanently remove all of my body hair and, honestly, it probably comes with enough flashes that two people or more could remove all their body hair. This thing is absolutely worth it and more, one of the best purchases I have made. It permanently removes body hair and there is no downside. If your body hair is darker than your skin tone, you should absolutely buy it."
KetchBeauty at Home IPL Review by Samantha Lux (check out her channel here)
*Full disclosure: Samantha did purchase our IPL on 20 JULY 2020 and used it for 3 months or until 20 OCTOBER 2020 before deciding to make a video review with here results. Even though we sponsored the video, all opinions are her own and real after testing it on herself. The video sponsorship is to compensate for here time and effort taken out of her scheduled to make a video in the first place.
Her own words via email prior to making the video:
I’ve been using your device and I’ve seen some impressive results! I’m down to share my results in a video :)
Let me know what you think!
Here are Ketchbeauty Home IPL Reviews (watch the videos)
Laser and Electrolysis | Hair Removal for Transgender Women (Home IPL Review) Check out Her Channel Here
Real Results from at Home Laser Hair Removal - Honest Review | My Transgender Journey (Check out Her Channel Here)
2. Electrology - the most effective, fastest, and painful way
If you’re not familiar with electrology this is where a needle or a small metal probe is inserted into each separate hair follicle and a small electric current will pass through the needle and zap the hair. This is essentially the same as laser hair removal but much more painful and expensive. Results are faster but session are a painfully slow process.
The best part of electrology is that it works on all skin and hair types, textures, and colors. The cost of electrology varies a lot but the main difference is that it is charged per hour or minute instead of per area of the body.
Like laser hair removal you can get really good discounts on groupon, so be sure to have a look there if this is something you plan on doing in the future.
Again, electrology is super effective but it is ridiculously expensive. Most people book an hour-long appointment but hardly ever make it to the end because it’s so painful.
You’ll need to book about 8-12 sessions to have an area completed treated and done with. This is not because it’s less effective than laser hair removal (4-8 sessions), but because electrolysis is so painful you will need to have more session of shorter treatment times.
For people with a lot of hair that you want to clear in a shorter amount of time, you can opt in for lidocaine or Marcaine injections (numbing agents) in the area before to make it bearable.
Pro tips: if getting lidocaine shots at your dermatologist or salon isn’t an option you can pay your dentist a visit and ask for a shot of lidocaine.
Also you can request to have patch test done on your hair at salons or dermatologist offices before committing to a 12 session packaged deals.
Some side effects associated with electrolysis may include:
- Discomfort or pain
- Skin redness
- Localized swelling
- Tiny blisters
- Ingrown hairs
How do you prepare for electrology?
Well to be honest, the preparation for electrolysis sucks. You have to grow your hair out long enough for a tweezer to grab onto. If you’re a trans woman with dark facial hair be prepared to grow your facial hair out for at least 5 days prior to treatment.
After electrology your skin may feel extremely raw or sore because the process does include the sticking of needles into each individual pore. As soon as the hair is treated, it’s plucked out so results are instantaneous.
At the end of the day you need to do your own research and find a laser that works for you.
3. Laser Hair Removal to Stop Hair Growth After You Transition
If you’re not already familiar with laser hair removal; it basically works by taking a concentrated beam of light and then heats up the hair follicle and destroys it. Single sessions of hair removal for a specific body part or area can easily cost upwards of $100 USD per session. (Groupon is a good place to look for coupons for discounts).
Unlike electrology, laser hair removal is most effect for people with light skin and dark hair (same as at home IPL hair removal devices).
The way laser hair removal works is the concentrated beam of light that heats up any pigmentation in the hair and transfers that heat all the way down to the root of the hair follicle destroying it.
If you have light hair and light skin, there isn’t a lot of contrast to differentiate between the hair follicle and the skin and this goes far dark skin and dark hair combinations as well. This can lead to burning of the skin or irritation which you want to be mindful of.
Different salons have different lasers, but people have reported to have the best results from “Alexandrite laser”.
Quick side note: “An alexandrite laser is one that uses an alexandrite crystal that is used as the laser source or medium. The alexandrite laser produces a specific wavelength of light in the infrared spectrum (755 nm). It is considered a red light laser”
This laser has been known to be the most effective and least painful compared to others. You’ll still feel the heat, smell the hair burning (which is a good thing… you want to smell the hair burning because it means that it’s actually working).
So now you must be wondering “How long does it take to see results from laser hair removal?” The time will vary from person to person, but the combined average is either instantly (within 24hrs) or 2-3 weeks you’ll notice the hairs starting to fall out in patches.
How to prepare for laser hair removal: Before you undergo laser or IPL hair removal treatment you need shave beforehand. This will allow for the laser/IPL light to identify and target the hair and transfer the heat to the follicle after it’s been zap and as stated above you can expect the fallout process to happen within 2-3 weeks.
How painful is laser hair removal? For laser hair removal the pain level is about 3-5 out of 10 on a pain scale depending on the area being treated. Areas such as the upper lip where the skin is incredibly thin and sensitive will be more painful than areas with thinker skin. You may feel like your skin is being snapped with a rubber band and you may also experience mild discomfort after the procedure, such as redness and irritation like a mild sunburn. (The more visible hair on the outside of the skin the more painful the treatment will be… that’s why you should shave before)
That being said - The pain is not nearly as painful as electrolysis.
How permanent is laser hair removal? According to Samantha Lux: “The permanenity… (is that even a word?... IDK anyways) of laser hair removal is very debated! Some people say that it just disrupts the hair for a long period of time and expect eventual regrowth.” All her treatment has been within the last five years and she is completely free from the burden of shaving.
Some negative side effects of laser are:
- Discomfort or pain
- Localized swelling
- Skin redness
- Hyper pigmentation (temporary skin darkening)
- Scab formation
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Related article: MTF laser hair removal