Updated 18 August 2014

Hair removal for guys

Many men wish to reduce the amount of hair on their bodies, especially on their backs. But how can this be done, and how safe is it?


Many men wish to reduce the amount of hair on their bodies, but this is not always easy. Especially excessive hair on the back is often in line for removal treatment. But how can this be done, and how safe is it?

The dangers of hair remover

“Hair remover, when used on large parts of the body, can be dangerous,” says South African beauty and health consultant Christel van Waesberghe, who has worked at beauty clinics the world over.

“The skin is fairly acidic, which is one of its lines of defence against the world. Hair remover is very alkaline, and basically not only dissolves the hair with chemicals, but often a layer or two of skin as well. It can also damage the hair follicles, which means they easily can get infected, especially if the person sweats or sunbathes.”

“Hair remover should not be used on large parts of the body regularly. It can do permanent damage to the skin and cause nasty recurring infections. And as the hair grows again fairly quickly, it needs to be used often. But in very severe cases, many people would prefer to be minus a layer or two of skin, than to be hairy.”

“There is a cream that can be used after hair has been removed, which prevents oxygen being absorbed by the hair follicles. This severely limits the regrowth of hair and is safe to use, even in the long term.

A close shave

The problem with shaving is that hair grows again immediately.

“It’s a myth that shaving makes hair grow faster and makes it coarser. It only feels that way, as within twelve hours stubble starts appearing and gives your skin that sandpapery feeling”, says Van Waesberghe.

But there are other options.

Waxing lyrical

“One of them is waxing. This is a good method, because it lasts upwards of six weeks and does not use chemicals on the skin. As the entire hair gets ripped out, the regrowth period is much longer and many of the hairs eventually stop growing. Some people, though, have problems with ingrown hairs that can get infected.”


“The other is an expensive and long term method called electrolysis. The hair follicles are killed one by one by means of a small electric shock. This is a fairly painful method and is not permanent, but the effects last longer than with waxing. Because only every third or fourth hair can be treated in this manner, clients have to return again and again before the desired effect is achieved”, adds Van Waesberghe.

But what makes some people excessively hairy?

“There is a difference between being hairy and suffering from hirsutism, which is a condition that makes the sufferer extremely hairy from top to toe. Few people suffer from this, but there are many people, especially men, who have a lot of body hair. In many cases, they are not bothered by this, but women tend to want to remove excessive body hair.”

“Excessive hair growth is mostly as a result of hormonal problems, so if someone is very hairy, it’s always advisable to seek hormonal treatment from either a GP or a gynaecologist, in conjunction with hair removal treatments.”

And a final word of advice: “Make sure all the hair removal cream has been properly washed off, and stay out of the sun. And don’t do it again next weekend.”

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated May 2012)


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Skin expert

Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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