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For Women Only: Best Options for Hair Removal

Many women struggle with the issue of hair removal. Here's a guide to help you find the method that's best for you.

WebMD Feature

From peach-fuzz fringes to long, dark, or coarse growth, women have been doing battle with excess hair -- and hair removal -- for centuries.

For some, the problem is hereditary or related to ethnic heritage. For others, it can be caused by a medical condition such as polycystic ovaries or a hormone-secreting tumor, or even the result of hormonal changes linked to menopause.

Still other women are interested in hair removal for areas such as legs, underarms, or bikini area, where growth is normal but sometimes undesirable.

No matter the reason, there is no shortage of ways to cope.

To help you decide which method of hair removal might be best for you, WebMD consulted several experts in the field. They helped us prepare this guide to the eight most popular methods of hair removal for women.

Hair Removal Method No. 1: Laser/Pulsed Light

What It Does: One of the more popular ways to remove hair is via laser or pulsed light - energy that goes through the hair shaft down to the follicle, where it destroys the hair's root.

"The hair does not immediately come out during a laser treatment. Instead, it weakens and falls out over time because we've blown away the root," says dermatologist David Goldberg, MD, director of Skin and Laser Surgery of New York and New Jersey and the author of a medical textbook on laser hair removal.

Goldberg says the newest laser, called DUET, combines laser with a little bit of suction for even better results.

"It pulls the hair into the follicle, allowing the beam to penetrate deeper," says Goldberg.

This means doctors can safely treat larger areas at one time and more comfortably for the patient, he says.

Best For : Laser hair removal can be done anywhere on the body. The best candidates are women with dark hair and light skin. Lasers won't work on white hair, and they are much less effective on blond hair, which Goldberg says usually responds best to electrolysis.

While most lasers work on the skin of Hispanics, only one, called the Nd:YAG, is safe for black skin. All other hair removal lasers increase the risk of hyperpigmentation (dark spots), as well as burning and scarring, which can lead to the creation of keloids (scar tissue).

How Long It Takes : It usually requires 5-7 sessions, with a touch-up about once a year thereafter.

Cost : The cost runs between $150 and $500, or sometimes more depending on how many treatments are needed.

Hair Removal Method No. 2: Electrolysis

What It Is : The only method of hair removal that is permitted to be called "permanent," electrolysis uses a tiny needle that slides down into the hair follicle until it reaches the cells responsible for hair growth.

"Electrolysis destroys the cells that cause the hair to grow. The hair will release and slide right out and it won't grow back there again -- it's permanent removal," says Patsy Kirby, executive director of the American Electrology Association in Bodega Bay, Calif.

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