Like millions of American women, Judy Hoover, 62, has struggled with facial and other body hair. Since the eighties, she has tried everything to rid her body of unwanted hair: shaving, tweezing, electrolysis and depilatories, and was thrilled to finally find something that works — laser. She is one of the very few women courageous enough to talk openly about this taboo subject in our culture.
When a woman is willing to talk, it is sometimes her husband who objects. The issue is a cultural one with huge psychological ramifications for both sexes.
In contrast, meet Sukhmandir Kaur Khalsa, 56, a woman of the Sikh faith who lives in California. Sikhs believe that keeping all body hair intact in its natural form honors the intent of the creator.
“I liken the inherent programming of the body’s ability to grow hair to truth,” Kaur said. “Truth always asserts itself and cannot be covered for long by a falsehood. Similarly, we can shave, pluck, bleach, color, trip, tweeze, and wax hair, but it will continue to be true to its programming. The hair follicle must be killed or removed to prevent hair from appearing on the face or body.”
And kill it we do. The hair removal industry in our society is booming. Both men and women visit medical spas and salons in every city to have hair removed from their bodies in all degrees, from a simple shaping of the eyebrows to complete removal of all body hair.
Kathy Bettenhausen, a registered nurse at Envision Face & Body Aesthetics, has removed all of the body hair for a few clients, but primarily has people asking for facial, underarm and bikini treatments. Hoover is one of her clients. Bettenhausen treated Hoover’s upper lip, face and neck with a laser, and Hoover was so happy that she had her forearms done.
“If I could get rid of the white hairs,” Hoover said, “I’d be over the moon.”
Lasers work by following the pigment in the hair to the follicle and killing it with intense light. It works only on dark hair in the anagen phase of growth, so treatments must be repeated over four or five months, according to Bettenhausen.
“Lasers are FDA-approved for reduction,” Bettenhausen emphasizes. “Reduction is the key word because it isn’t permanent, but when dark hair comes back, it comes back very thin, finer and lighter.”
At Simply Beautiful, Lisa Chism, RN, is a Certified Laser Hair Removal Professional (CLHRP), meaning she has national certification in using lasers. She has attended training in the use of all the different kinds of lasers, and chose for her own medical spa and salon the two she found most effective.
In untrained hands, Chism warns, a laser can burn the skin. “The difference,” she said, “is in the technician.”
How painful is laser treatment? “I’ve never had anybody get up and say I can’t stand this,” Chism said.
Her diode laser has a sapphire tip that cools the skin slightly just prior to the tiny blast of hot light. Some technicians, she said, will use an ice treatment beforehand to make the procedure less painful, but “the laser works by creating heat that travels down the follicle,” she said. “If you’ve cooled the skin too much, you’ve lessened the heat available to the follicle.”
It is important to get the heat out by icing or using aloe vera gel afterward, she added, if you still feel heat when the treatment is over.
“But no types of cream or ointment should be used,” Chism said. “They put a barrier over the skin and it can’t release the heat.”
Is it all worth it? It is to the high number of men who go to Chism to have their necks and backs done, especially those who suffer from folliculitis, an infection of the follicle sometimes referred to as razor bumps. She has also removed all the body hair for a male body builder.
“I do critical care in the hospital,” Chism said, “and this is more rewarding.”
Women come to her with such low confidence and self-esteem, she said, that they start to cry when they talk about their body hair. Once she begins to treat them and they see it working, their confidence is higher each time they come in.
“It changes their personality,” Chism said. “It’s really something. To see them in the end is really quite amazing.”
Kaur had trouble with her own self-esteem in the beginning.
“I had a lot of difficulty embracing my natural identity,” she said, “until I realized through a series of experiences that I was disgracing and defacing my God-given natural beauty.”
She said she developed a high degree of self-confidence through her self-acceptance. “I realize,” she said, “that many women do not have the confidence to face the world without masking themselves with cosmetic makeup and procedures such as hair removal.”
The women’s magazines Harper’s Bazaar and Ladies’ Home Journal are partly to blame for this, according to historian Christine Hope. In her article, Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture, she explains that Harper’s displayed the first print ad showing a woman with her bare arms held over her head, her underarms shaved. The year was 1915. Throughout the decade of the Roaring Twenties, women’s fashions exposed an increasing amount of skin, and the hair removal industry was born.
“We are programmed to have low self-esteem from birth by society and media advertising on behalf of cosmetic corporations,” Kaur said. “It’s all about dollars. We spend much more time hating than loving ourselves and are wrapped in a daily neurosis that we try to dispel with cosmetics and hair removal.”
She wishes men and women could accept themselves to the same degree they are willing to accept her. When asked if she encounters prejudice in our society, she said she has experienced a mixture of responses from others, including awe, amazement, curiosity, confusion, anger and good-natured teasing, but that for the most part, she is treated with a high degree of respect. People are more curious about her turban than her facial hair, she finds.
“It would be so freeing to assume unconditional love as a birthright,” Kaur said. “What could possibly be easier than being completely natural, yet it seems it is the one thing people have the most difficulty doing.”source: http://www.baxterbulletin.com/article/20090217/NEWS01/902170327