Hair is a normal part of our bodies, but for those who seek to rid it, you’re not short on options. Between waxing, shaving, sugaring, laser, electrolysis, and IPL (phew), we’re often stuck facing a sea of methods to choose from. And to be honest, it can get real confusing, real fast. Whether you’re a shaver or waxer looking for a more permanent solution or you’re a die-hard laser hair removal or electrolysis fan, we’re breaking down the methods of hair removal that are known to last longer than your usual shave.

Everyone has body hair, but depending on the time of year or your personal preferences, you may want to remove some of it.

Contrary to many marketing claims, no hair removal treatment can get rid of hair permanently. However, there are a variety of ways to get rid of hair for weeks, months, or longer periods of time.

In this article, we break down the most common hair removal techniques, along with the benefits, side effects, and effectiveness of each one.

How fast does hair grow?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, body hair, on average, grows to its full length in about a month. Male hair also tends to grow faster than female hair. The hair on your head can grow about six inches in a year.

Certain factors can affect the rate of hair growth, including nutrition, medications, and genetics. The rate of growth may slow down as you get older.

Hair growth is a complex process that starts deep in the hair follicle. Hair is dependent on blood to feed it as it makes its way to the skin’s surface. The sebaceous (oil) glands also play a role by keeping the hair lubricated and healthy.

laser hair removal for black skin

Is Permanent Hair Removal Possible?

Unfortunately, permanent hair removal—whether it be on the face or body—isn’t really possible (sorry, folks). According McNair, there’s no one method that’ll remove all unwanted hair permanently. “Rather, the correct term is ‘permanent hair reduction,” he says. “The majority of hair growth is driven by hormones, so if the balance of hormones changes, this can lead to stimulation of hair follicles resulting, in new hair growth.” That said, things like electrolysis, laser hair removal, and IPL are the next best solutions to achieving smooth, ‘semi-permanent’ hair-free skin.

Types of Long-Term Hair Removal

Below, find out everything you need to know about long-term hair removal methods: electrolysis, laser hair removal, and IPL.

“Electrolysis uses a fine needle and an electrical current to heat up individual hair follicles,” explains McNair. “This can be a time-consuming procedure as each follicle is treated individually, but electrolysis is particularly effective on individual grey hairs.” The Food and Drug Administration considers electrolysis a permanent hair removal method because it has the best overall results.1 This means electrolysis can get rid of hair for long periods of time or even a lifetime. However, it’s important to note that electrolysis doesn’t give everyone these permanent results. You won’t know exactly how it will work for you in a specific area of your body until you try it. Still, if your goal is to never see hair in your target area ever again, this may be your best bet.

In terms of ouch-factor, Giudi notes that “Electrolysis is known for being more painful than traditional laser hair removal. The side effects of redness and tenderness are usually just temporary, but are common.” Electrolysis does require multiple sessions, which can get pricey depending on the electrologist’s prices and the size of the zone. On the bright side, it doesn’t require a certain hair color or skin tone for effectiveness (like laser hair removal).

Laser Hair Removal
“Laser technology uses a single wavelength (color) of light which can be used to match the single chromophore and generally would treat just one condition or skin type,” explains McNair. While it’s a safe option for most people, those with light skin and blonde hair might not see the best (if any) results. According to Lee, darker skin tones or people of color can have effective laser hair removal or reduction results with the 1064 YAG laser.

While some laser centers market the idea of permanent hair removal after a certain number of visits, it’s important to understand that there is no laser hair removal equipment that has been approved by the FDA for permanent hair removal. What they have approved, though, is laser hair removal machines for permanent hair reduction because they’re effective after consistent, multiple treatments.2

“Results are always based on the consistency of your appointments,” notes Giudi. “If you stop after two or three sessions, you will only have results for a short duration.”

Hair growing back at some point is still possible—whether it’s a reduced amount, a finer version, or a combination of both. “For lighter skin colors, an average of 80% reduction in hair can be achieved with high quality systems after four sessions,” says McNair. “Following a full course of treatments, the results can last for many years, and regrowth is only seen if, for example, the hormone balance changes.”

If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, on Accutane, have been exposed to the sun, or have other medical conditions, you may not be a candidate for laser hair removal.


Also known as intense pulsed light, IPL uses a high-powered controlled handpiece to deliver an intense, visible, broad-spectrum pulse of light. When using electrolysis or light-based systems—such as laser or IPL—McNair points out that these methods only affect the anagen phase of hair growth (the active growth cycle). “This is why it is necessary to have a series of treatments to permanently reduce the hair growth,” he says. “Different parts of the body have a different percentage of anagen hair.” As such, the time between treatments are shorter—four to six weeks for underarms and bikini, and eight to 12 weeks for other areas.

Giudi explains that the ideal IPL candidate is traditionally someone with light skin and dark hair. Side effects can range from redness to swelling, and more rarely, pigmentation and scarring.

What About at-Home Hair Removal Options?

There are plenty of gadgets, machines, and treatments promising permanent hair removal. But according to Giudi, the results can differ from treatments done by a professional. “While most at-home IPL devices are considered safe, they are not nearly as powerful as in-office treatments,” she says. “I would not recommend trying either at home, as these treatments are always best to be done by professionals.” Both McNair and Giudi recommend that if you’re in the middle of treatments and are unable to finish them for whatever reason, shaving is the best option before you can resume again.

What are your options for removal?

Shaving simply gets rid of hair at the surface, which is why it grows back so quickly. Tweezing removes the hair as well as its root, which helps slow down regrowth. But even with tweezing, the hair will likely grow back in a couple of weeks.

If you’re looking for longer-term hair removal solutions, it may be time to consider other hair removal techniques. The following methods are ranked by their ability to remove hair for the longest amount of time.

Electrolysis involves the use of shortwave radio frequencies distributed through fine needles placed directly into your hair follicles. The intention is to destroy the hair follicle so that it doesn’t stimulate new hair growth. This procedure needs to be done by a dermatologist or a certified electrologist.

Unlike other hair removal options, electrolysis is considered a permanent solution by the Food and Drug Administration. However, for best results, you will need multiple follow-up appointments.

Most people need follow-up sessions every week or two. Depending on the length of the session, the cost is typically around $35 to $100 per session.

Electrolysis can be done anywhere on the body, and works for most skin types. The most common side effect is pain and redness from skin irritation. Rare but serious side effects include scarring and infection from the needles, as well as keloids (an overgrowth of scar tissue).

Laser hair removal
Laser hair removal is another longer-term hair removal option. Like electrolysis, this treatment targets the hair follicle. It works by damaging the follicle with high-heat lasers to stop new hair from growing.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laser hair removal can be done anywhere on the body, with the exception of the eye area. The treatment tends to work best in people with light skin tones who have dark hair.

Like electrolysis, laser hair removal requires multiple sessions for best results. Depending on the area of hair removal, you may need about four to six treatments spaced four to eight weeks apart. It can cost up to $250 a session.

In most cases, hair removal lasts several months, and in some cases it might last for years. When hair grows back, it’s often finer and lighter in color. However, laser hair removal doesn’t guarantee permanent hair removal.

The most common side effect is skin irritation and redness, but this usually goes away after a few hours. This treatment can also cause temporary pigment changes, especially with darker skin tones. More serious side effects include blistering and scarring, but this is rare.

What is the most effective permanent hair removal?

Permanent: Electrolysis is the only FDA-approved method of permanent hair removal. Versatility: According to the American Electrology Association, electrolysis is effective for people with any skin type, skin color, hair type, and hair color. Electrolysis is suitable for any area of the body — including the eyebrows.