Sometimes you have sensitive skin. Sometimes you have acne. Sometimes you have peach fuzz on your face that you'd like to remove. And sometimes, if you're really lucky, you might have all three at once.
While facial-hair removal has become relatively accessible, thanks to the myriad ways in which you can go about it (threading, waxing, depilatory creams, dermaplaning, laser...), those with sensitive, easily-triggered skin can find themselves in a vicious cycle of trying to get rid of hair only to break out or risk irritation from the very thing that removed it.
Battling skin conditions that warrant treatments that upset your other skin conditions is peak frustration. So we asked aesthetician KerryLou Herbert, who works out of Omniya in London: What's one to do when they want to enjoy a smooth, fuzz-free face, but don't want the reaction that comes with it?
First things first: The trendiest way to take it all off is totally off the table. "If there's active acne on the skin, I really wouldn't recommend dermaplaning," Herbert says. "It can cause a lot of irritation and inflammation, and you're also spreading the acne bacteria over the skin a lot. It's an unnecessary and very harsh form of exfoliation for someone with reactive skin and breakouts."
Dermaplaning has its diehard fans, but the results tend to vary a lot from person to person. Herbert points out that, believe it or not, waxing or threading may still be the best bets for someone whose skin freaks out at the first sign of a wax warmer. "If you're always breaking out after a wax or a thread, it's most likely due to the wrong aftercare or prep beforehand," she says. "It's very common. I see lots of women come in for facials with breakouts around the brows or upper lip, and I know immediately that's from threading. Not everyone is prone to it, but if you are, it's really important that you gently but thoroughly exfoliate a couple of hours before your appointment."
It sounds like an unlikely — and potentially even more irritating — tip, but the case for shedding dead skin cells before threading is strong. If you don't, you risk going into your session with a lot of build-up on the surface of the skin, which can lead to clogged pores afterwards. "Always go with no makeup on, and exfoliate the day after, too," Herbert advises. "That way you're only removing the hairs and not disturbing anything else." A few drops of Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid on a cotton pad a few hours before, as well as the day after, should do the trick with minimal irritation.
On the whole, Herbert says, "Threading and waxing are best for sensitive skin, as the chemicals in hair-bleaching creams can be irritating." It comes down to personal choice between the two, but for a client who has especially sensitive, fragile skin Herbert says she'd recommend they apply aloe vera gel continuously after their appointment as needed, or even use a cold compress if you're finding the pain especially acute.
As far as which method is "better" for reactive skin, Herbert says she leans toward threading, even though the pain on contact during the procedure is a little more intense. Whereas waxing can be brutal, insofar as it tears the hair from the skin all in one go, threading is more precise, since it only removes the hairs and doesn't pull at the skin. "Wait four or so weeks between appointments so the hair is a bit longer, and you won't have to go so close to the skin to remove the hair," Herbert says. "That way, you can minimize some of the sensitivity."
There's no magic method that can help you shed your peach fuzz without aggravating your skin, full stop, guaranteed. But the upside is that you can take steps to cut down on any irritation you do get by prepping skin beforehand and taking extra caution with how you care for it afterwards. And please do invest in a tube or three of aloe vera gel — it's a godsend for sensitive skin, fuzz-prone or otherwise.