A centuries-old technique with origins in the Middle East and South Asia, threading uses cotton thread to remove hair. A threader twists a thread into a loop and rolls it against the skin, moving at lightning speed. The loop acts like a tiny lasso, pulling out hair by the roots.
"The first 60 seconds or so are uncomfortable, but you get used to it," says Stephanie Maier of Fort Myers, Fla., who first got threading in 2004. "When it's over, your skin is 100% smooth and hair-free."
Salons offering threading are popping up in cities across the U.S. If you're looking for ways to shape your brows or remove unwanted hair, this all-natural process might be worth a try.
With threading, says Shobha Tummala, the owner of three threading studios in New York, "you get both the expediency of waxing, because threading can remove multiple hairs at one time, and the precision of tweezing, because you can target individual hairs."
The results last about as long as those from waxing do -- two to four weeks.
For people who use topical retinoids or acne medications, threading may be a safer alternative to waxing. Waxing can sometimes take off layers of skin that have been thinned by those drugs, says New York dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD.
Marmur notes that the hot temperature of wax can lead to hyperpigmentation (dark patches of skin), and tweezing can produce ingrown hairs. However, threading also can cause ingrown hairs and small red bumps.
Want to give threading a try? Ellen Marmur, MD, and salon owner Shobha Tummala share tips for finding a pro who won't string you along.
- String Safety. Choose a licensed cosmetologist, esthetician, or waxer. "Any tearing of skin can make you vulnerable to skin infections," Marmur says.
- Speed and Cost. Eyebrow threading can cost anywhere from $5 to $40 and up. Look for someone who will spend at least 10 minutes shaping your brows, even if that means paying a bit more.
- Clean Choice. Traditionally, a threader holds the thread between her teeth. In some places, such as California where threading is regulated, it's illegal to hold thread in the mouth. Regulators deem that unsanitary. Some practitioners tie the thread around their neck. If you're concerned, you may want to look for the latter method. Make certain your skin is cleaned with rubbing alcohol before and after the threading so you don’t get a skin infection.