Dealing with Unwanted Facial Hair
Based on the hundreds of hair removal clients I've had over the years, upper lip and chin hair is the #1 most distressing issue women come in for.
It can range from a few strays and patches to full beards that span your jaw and cheeks, up the sideburns, and down the neck.
Hair growth in this specific area can have several causes, but they are all challenging and complicated to deal with.
Ask the Expert: Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal for the Chin, Jaw, Beard & Sideburns: Which is better?
BY SAMANTHA WELCH, ESTHETICIAN
Unwanted female chin hair is usually a symptom of hormonal imbalance.
This can be caused by normal systemic changes like puberty, pregnancy, or menopause.
It can also be caused by hormone-influencing factors like medication, conditions like PCOS or Cushing's Syndrome, or even stress.
Whatever the cause, the solution remains the same:
- Permanent hair removal through electrolysis or high-intensity laser hair removal.
- Stopping any temporary hair removal that pulls the roots and stimulates hair growth like plucking, tweezing, threading, or waxing. Shaving is the only neutral method where it doesn't make it worse.
- For conditions like hirsutism, concurrent medical management may be needed. You can talk to your doctor about PCOS, adrenal gland issues, or other medications that could be contributing to your excessive hair growth.
When you're ready to commit to long-term hair removal, these are the factors you'll need to take into consideration:
- Hair Color: Both can work for dark, terminal hairs. Vellus hairs or “peach fuzz” can only be treated via electrolysis.
- Hair Thickness: Both can also work on thick, deep-seated beards. Laser hair removal will be much less effective on wispy, vellus hairs.
- Pain: Electrolysis is a much more painful process that involves probing a thin needle into every follicle and using a current to kill the hair. Laser hair removal is an easy and much more comfortable procedure.
- Time: Electrolysis is a labor-intensive and time-consuming procedure. It can take 1-5 hours per session, while laser or IPL takes 15 minutes.
- Cost: Electrolysis is charged by the hour, around $100-200 for the chin and beard. Laser hair removal for the chin averages $84, while beards and jaw are $154 per session.
- Frequency: Electrolysis can be done once every 4-6 weeks continuously until all your hairs are gone. This can take anywhere between 2-4 years total.
A course of laser hair removal for the chin takes 8-10 sessions, with bi-annual upkeep. An at-home laser hair removal is convenient and cost-effective to deal with your maintenance.
- Efficacy: Electrolysis is the only FDA-approved form of permanent hair removal. Laser and IPL are laser hair reduction.
The most efficient way to deal with chin hair is to reduce them via laser hair removal first, then finish the remaining strays with electrolysis.
If you're going to do at-home laser hair removal, you should opt for the most powerful one on the market today: the Tria Beauty Laser Hair Removal Device 4X. Darker skin types can use the Silk'n Infinity.
The exception to this is those who have hirsutism. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, you are at risk for paradoxical hypertrichosis.
Otherwise, combining the two methods will save you pain, time, and money in the long run.
- Dealing with Unwanted Facial Hair
- Ask the Expert: Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal for the Chin, Jaw, Beard & Sideburns: Which is better?
- The Difference Between Electrolysis & Laser Hair Removal for the Chin, Jaw, Sideburns, & Cheeks
- Pros & Cons: Electrolysis & Laser Hair Removal on the Chin, Sideburns, Cheeks, & Jaw
- Pain Scale
- Cost & Price
- Time & Frequency
- Risks & Side Effects
- Operators and Home Use
The Difference Between Electrolysis & Laser Hair Removal for the Chin, Jaw, Sideburns, & Cheeks
Electrolysis is a well-established epilation procedure used to achieve long-lasting hair removal.
In fact, it is the only FDA-approved hair removal method allowed to market itself as “permanent hair removal.”
It is effective on all skin tones and hair types, regardless of hair thickness.
How it Works
Your electrologist will insert a tiny needle probe into each hair follicle.
Depending on her preferred technique, she may use heat energy (thermolysis), chemical energy (galvanic), or both.
Thermolysis uses a high-frequency current to heat the water molecules in your follicle. This heat will destroy the roots and other parts of your hair that allow it to re-generate.
Galvanic relies on a chemical reaction instead of heat. You'll be holding a positively charged electrode during your session while your electrologist uses a negatively-charged probe. When these two meet during insertion, the galvanic current causes lye production inside the hair, eventually killing it.
Blend is the combination of both techniques. Once the galvanic current produces lye, thermolysis heats it up, creating faster results.
Blend is the best electrolysis method to use for strong, terminal hairs in the beard, chin, and jaw.
It is also gentler on your skin, so less irritation and swelling should be after your session.
What to Expect
This procedure is honestly one of the most invasive, labor-intensive, time-consuming, and painful hair removal methods you can do.
Your comfort, risk of side effects, and the efficacy of your treatment are heavily reliant on your electrologist's skill.
People do this as a last resort because, despite the arduous process, it is the most effective way to eliminate beard hair for good.
And nothing sells like the dream of a smooth and flawless face forever.
Video: 33 HOURS of Electrolysis facial hair removal | CLOSE UP beard progress | PCOS/Hirsutism
Electrolysis isn't done in one go but in several sessions over multiple hair cycles.
The goal for your first round is to clear all the hair in the active growth phase.
You can have a single 5-hour long visit, for example, or break it up into multiple one-hour sessions.
This depends on the density of your hair and your pain tolerance.
After your current hair cycle is cleared, you'll have to wait for 4-6 weeks until the previously dormant hair becomes active and is now in the active growth phase.
On and on it goes.
As you go through this, your hair will become fewer and thinner until it no longer grows back. This can take anywhere from 2 – 4 years.
Another significant drawback is you have to stop shaving 3-4 days before your treatment. Your electrologist needs to see which hairs are growing or active, so she knows which ones to treat.
This means walking around with stubble for days. Not ideal, but very necessary.
If this isn't for you, you can do both laser and electrolysis to expedite your permanent hair removal journey.
Start with laser to reduce the amount of terminal hairs electrolysis would have to deal with, then cap with a finishing course of electrolysis.
Small areas, hormone-driven facial hair growth like hirsutism or hypertrichosis.
Laser Hair Removal
One of the most efficient long-term treatments for excessive hair is laser hair removal.
What was once an expensive procedure that was only available in a few clinics is now one of the most affordable and convenient options for hair removal.
How it Works
Laser hair removal uses light energy to target the melanin in the hair shaft. This causes enough thermal damage that the hair will be unable to regrow normally.
This process happens very quickly, with the chin and jaw area taking 15 minutes at most.
A cooling gel will be applied to make your sessions more comfortable.
Video: Laser Zaps Out Ingrown Hairs
A course of treatments for the chin can take anywhere between 8-10 sessions.
As you progress with your treatments, you'll find that the hair grows thinner, fewer, and grows very slowly.
You'll need to go back for maintenance once or twice a year to keep it tidy.
What to Expect
Laser hair removal is easy, quick, affordable, and convenient.
It is widely accessible in salons, aesthetic centers, and dermatology clinics nationwide.
There are also portable laser devices available to do your treatments at home.
After your session, there might be minor redness and irritation that feels like a slight sunburn.
A soothing ointment or a recovery cream will be applied to aid healing.
You'll also be advised to stay away from the sun for the next 24 hours.
One of the significant disadvantages of laser hair removal to electrolysis is that laser only causes hair reduction, not complete hair loss.
Some people get great results when the laser manages to delay hair growth for years.
However, some people want permanent hair removal, which electrolysis can ultimately only achieve.
The good news is that you don't have to suffer all the setbacks that go along with electrolysis.
You can do both and take advantage of what each method can offer you.
Start with the laser to reduce the amount of terminal hairs electrolysis would have to deal with, then cap with a finishing course of electrolysis.
Just make sure to take note of the risks if you have been diagnosed with hirsutism.
Those with dark hair, looking for a more convenient and affordable way to long-term hair removal
- Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal: Upper Lip
- Unwanted hair and PCOS
Pros & Cons: Electrolysis & Laser Hair Removal on the Chin, Sideburns, Cheeks, & Jaw
- The only FDA approved method of permanent hair removal
- Effective on all skin tones and hair types, regardless of hair thickness
- A highly technical procedure. Your comfort and risk rely heavily on your electrologist.
- Labor-intensive. Treatment is treated one strand at a time.
- Time-consuming. The numbing cream is a 30-minute wait, and the actual procedure can last anywhere from an hour to 5 hours long.
- It can be painful. The pain can also build the longer your session.
- Longer recovery period of 3-5 days. It can also cause scabbing.
Laser Hair Removal:
- Quick treatments. Treating the chin and jaw takes around 15-20 minutes at most.
- Very little to no recovery time is needed.
- Regrowth involves finer and fewer hairs
- Minimal side-effects, mostly temporary
- Most effective on dark hair. It cannot work on light blond, red, white, and grey hairs.
- Treatment of dark skin needs special equipment.
- Need maintenance once or twice a year
Electrolysis works on all skin types and hair colors.
Laser hair removal needs a lot of melanin, so the ideal candidates are those with dark hair. It will not work on white, gray, red, and light blond hair.
Electrolysis can work on all ranges of hair thickness.
Laser hair removal works better on terminal hair than on vellus hair, as thin strands absorb less heat.
Electrolysis works on all skin tones.
Laser hair removal works on all skin tones but under certain conditions. Most lasers and IPL can work on Fitzpatrick I-IV, but darker complexions need unique technology.
Professional lasers for Fitzpatrick V-VI are nd:YAG and long-pulsed diode.
For total hair removal, electrolysis is ultimately more effective.
Laser hair removal can delay growth for years and reduce thick hair down to very fine strands, but there will be regrowth. You will also need to do maintenance once or twice a year.
Pain sensitivity can vary greatly between people, but continuous probing with an electric current will be painful over long periods of time.
Numbing creams can help with discomfort and pain relievers like Advil.
Blend electrolysis is gentler than thermolysis, so take it if you have that option.
Laser is can also cause discomfort if your energy setting is high enough.
The skin on your jaw is thick, so it should be manageable.
Cooling agents are applied to ease the heat, and it shouldn't be more painful than other epilation methods like waxing.
Cost & Price
Electrolysis on the chin and jaw ranges $100-200, and is charged by the hour.
Laser hair removal for the chin averages $84, while beards and jaw are $154 per session.
Time & Frequency
Electrolysis can take anywhere from an hour to 5 hours, depending on how much you want to tackle your chin hair or beard in one sitting.
Laser hair removal takes 15 minutes per session at most for the entire jaw.
We're looking at 18-24 months in regular visits for electrolysis and laser hair removal.
The frequency is between 4-8 weeks, determined by your severity.
The primary contraindications include sunburn, pregnancy, diabetes, and acne vulgaris.
While electrolysis can actually relieve ingrowns and folliculitis, acne vulgaris has a high presence of bacteria and can be painful.
Additional considerations should also be given to those on medications.
Risks & Side Effects
The primary side effects of electrolysis are: pain and discomfort for long periods of time, swelling, and pinprick scabbing afterwards.
If the energy used is too high, the procedure can cause permanent scarring and skin discoloration.
The most common immediate side effects of laser hair removal are redness, swelling, and irritation. This should feel like a minor sunburn.
More severe side effects where there is a mismatch in energy used include inflammation, burns, blistering, hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, and scarring. A licensed laser technician would know how to use the right setting to avoid such incidents.
Another uncommon but dreaded side-effect of laser hair removal for those with hormonal irregularities is a phenomenon known as paradoxical hypertrichosis.
This is where vellus hairs on the cheeks and chin are triggered by the laser to turn into terminal hairs.
Whatever you do: DO NOT PLUCK, TWEEZE, THREAD, OR WAX.
It has been scientifically proven that this type of mechanical stimulation can trigger regeneration in your hair growth cells up to 5x in the surrounding area.
This means that when hairs are plucked in a certain pattern, your follicles can signal the surrounding area, leading to even more hairs growing back.
We want the complete opposite: to destroy your hair roots entirely, including any hair growth cells that could trigger this biological regeneration response.
Paradoxical hypertrichosis has been reported to happen more frequently in women of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and South Asian or Indian descent.
It manifests mainly in the upper lip, jaw, chin, sideburns, and chest.
If you fall under this category, it would be best to skip other hair removal methods and go straight to electrolysis.
Operators and Home Use
Only electrologists can perform electrolysis, and licenses vary from state to state.
Laser hair removal can be performed by licensed laser technicians, estheticians, and dermatologists.
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- Kang CN, Shah M, Lynde C, Fleming P. Hair Removal Practices: A Literature Review. Skin Therapy Lett. 2021 Sep;26(5):6-11. PMID: 34524781.
- Matheson E, Bain J. Hirsutism in Women. Am Fam Physician. 2019 Aug 1;100(3):168-175. PMID: 31361105.
- Lizneva D, Gavrilova-Jordan L, Walker W, Azziz R. Androgen excess: Investigations and management. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2016 Nov;37:98-118. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2016.05.003. Epub 2016 May 19. PMID: 27387253.