Many of us have unwanted hair on our feet and toes, and it can be challenging to find effective, safe, inexpensive ways to remove it.
You can shave it, but this can be tedious, and hair that has been shaved grows back quickly, and it often begins to itch after it has been growing for a day or two.
You can simply learn to live with it, of course, but if you find hair on your feet and toes to be unsightly, there are many ways to handle it, some of which are more effective than others.
Electrolysis, also known as electrology, is a form of hair removal that has been used in the United States since the late 19th century.
The advantage to this procedure is that it is permanent. There is a downside, however; electrology is an expensive, time-consuming, painstaking and painful process.
A tiny, hair-thin probe is inserted into each individual hair follicle. This probe delivers an electrical current to the follicle, damaging it so that it is no longer able to grow hair.
Although the probe does not puncture the skin if it is correctly inserted, the procedure is still painful, and a complete course of electrolysis can take years to complete. Electrolysis has been in decline since the advent of laser hair removal, but many people still use it to get rid of hair on their feet and toes.
Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal works by exposing the hair follicles to pulses of laser light, and it has been in use since the 1990s. Laser hair removal is not as permanent as electrolysis, but it is much faster and less expensive.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows practitioners of laser hair removal to claim that their technique achieves “permanent reduction” of hair, rather than “permanent removal.”
The reason for this distinction is that all the hairs growing on a given area of the body (such as the feet or toes) are at different stages of growth at any given time, and a laser can only affect hair follicles that are in the active anagen growth stage.
Because of this, multiple sessions are required to achieve complete hair removal, although a single session will noticeably reduce the density of hair growth on your feet.
Waxing is, of course, a simpler method of hair removal, and many people favor waxing because it can be done quickly and inexpensively in the privacy of one’s home.
While waxing sensitive areas of the body (the face or underarms) is a job for a licensed esthetician, anyone can use wax strips to quickly and easily remove unwanted hair on their feet and toes.
Waxing is not permanent, but it removes the hair by its root, and significant regrowth does not occur for four to six weeks, although some people may see regrowth sooner due to the variation in hair growth cycles discussed above.
Some people are susceptible to skin damage from waxing. Do NOT use wax to remove hair from your feet and toes if:
- You suffer from a skin condition such as psoriasis or eczema
- You have recently suffered a sunburn on your feet
- You have recently had surgery on your feet
- You have unusually sensitive skin
Sugaring works in much the same way as waxing—a sticky substance is applied to the skin and torn away when it has cooled, pulling the hair out by the root.
Sugaring is a much messier process than waxing, but it requires a lower temperature, which may make it a better option for people with sensitive skin.
Sugaring paste is easy to prepare at home. The easiest recipe calls for one part fresh lemon juice (don’t use concentrate), one part water, and eight parts sugar.
Heat the ingredients until they are uniformly liquified, and the solution has achieved a light gold color. Do not allow it to become too dark.
Allow the solution to cool to room temperature and apply to your feet after dusting them lightly with baby powder. Press a strip of cloth into the solution and pull it away; the hair on your feet and toes will come with it.
Threading is one of the oldest methods known to man for getting rid of hair on the toes and feet. The practice originated in ancient India, but has recently gained popularity in the West.
The practitioner takes a length of thread and doubles and twists it, rolling it over the area where the unwanted hair grows.
Like waxing, threading pulls the hair out by the root. The accuracy that threading allows makes it ideal for areas like the eyebrows, where precision is important, but it is not as effective or simple a method as waxing for removing hair from the feet or toes.
Depilatory creams such as Nair and Veet are less messy than waxing or sugaring, and not as painful. They are also inexpensive and easy to use. The downside to them is that they smell terrible and can irritate the skin if they are used incorrectly or if the user is allergic to them.
Also, depilatories are only marginally more effective than shaving; they only affect hair above the skin’s surface, so regrowth happens within a few days
Hair Removal Methods to Avoid
Many companies manufacture products for getting rid of hair on the feet and toes, and it is important to be skeptical of the claims they make. In the 1920s one company made a device called the Tricho System, which promised to remove hair with x-rays.
Some women went in for as many as 20 treatments or more, and many of them suffered severe skin damage or contracted cancer. Reports of injuries caused by these machines appeared in medical literature as late as the 1940s. Today, x-ray hair removal is illegal in the United States.
Some of today’s hair-removal methods are no more effective and no less dangerous than the variety of snake oils con artists have peddled throughout human history. For your safety—and to save yourself from being conned—you should be very cautious about:
- Dietary supplements that claim to reduce unwanted hair
- Transcutaneous hair removal
- Microwave Hair Removal
- Over-the-counter ointments or pills