Hair removal is the process of taking off the threadlike covering that grows from the surface of the skin. Hair grows on all areas of the human body except for the palms of the hands, the lips, certain areas of the genitals and the soles of the feet. Hair usually is most noticeable in people in the following areas: the face, head, eyebrows, eyelashes, chest, abdomen, pubic area, legs, armpits and back. There are a number of processes for removing hair; most of these processes remove the hair only temporarily.
There are two general types of hair removal: depilation and epilation. Both are temporary solutions. Depilation is a generic term for hair removal that affects the part of the hair above the surface of the skin. Depilation may last several hours to several days and may be achieved by shaving or trimming (manually or with electric shavers), depilatories (creams or shaving powders that chemically dissolve hair) or friction (rough surfaces used to buff away hair). Epilation is removal of the entire hair, including the part below the skin. Epilation lasts several days to several weeks and can be achieved by: waxing (a hot or cold layer is applied and then removed with porous strips), plucking (hairs are plucked, or pulled out, with tweezers), sugaring (similar to waxing, but with a sticky paste), threading (also called fatlah or khite, in which a twisted thread catches hairs as it is rolled across the skin) or rotary epilators (devices which rapidly grasp hairs and pull them out by the root).
There are also permanent hair removal procedures available. Methods have been developed that use chemicals, energy of varying types or a combination to target the areas that regulate hair growth. Permanently destroying these areas while sparing surrounding tissue is a difficult challenge. Methods include: electrolysis, laser and flashlamp (also called Intense Pulsed Light or IPL). Lasting hair removal for many may require the continuous use of prescribed oral medications.
Hair removal has been practiced for centuries in many human cultures. The methods used vary among times and regions, but in the United States, shaving is the most popular form of hair removal. Reasons for hair removal have included: medical, social, cultural, sexual, religious, military or as punishment.
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