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Is it better to wax or shave?

Monday, August 14, 2006
Hair has to be one of our greatest beauty obsessions. Australians spend more than $300 million dollars a year on hair-care products, attempting to make it healthy, shiny and fashionable. But here's the twist in the pigtail — one of the industry's biggest growth areas is hair removal.

Women, and increasingly men, are obsessed with getting rid of excess hair, not from the head, but pretty much everywhere else.

So we pose the question: is it better to wax or shave? And by trying to be silky smooth, are we actually making ourselves hairier?

Dr Andrew Rochford plucks up his courage to find out the truth in the great waxing and shaving myth.

Let's start with bodybuilder Steve Jones — he's a shaver who has done it every few days for the last 15 years.

So why do bodybuilders shave or remove all the hair from their body?

"Well, when you compete in a bodybuilding competition you can't have a lot of body hair because what you're trying to do, you're highlighting that definition and all those lines," says Steve.

With all his years of experience, does he reckon shaving makes his hair come back thicker and darker?

"I think because when you're shaving you're only taking off the top of the hair but the hair growth is actually from the root, so I believe that there's no way that actual hair grows back any quicker or faster by shaving it," says Steve.

So shaver Steve doesn't believe the thicker re-growth story. But what about waxing?

Brisbane beautician Carole Haddad is going to do the honours.

She's going to wax some of Andrew and then compare it.

"So is this going to hurt?" Asks Andrew.

No there's no pain," says Carole. She's right, this won't hurt Carole a bit.

The plan is Carole will wax the hair off Andrew's left arm, left leg, and left armpit.

In six weeks or so, we'll compare the sides to see if the hair's come back thicker.

That should just about give Andrew enough time to get over going through the process of waxing. Did we mention that waxing pulls the hair out by its root?

Six weeks later it's time to find out if waxing or shaving makes hair grow back thicker and darker.

Andrew heads off to see Sydney trichologist (that's a hair expert) David Salinger. So what does he think about this hair myth and where does he think it came from?

"Well I presume it came from people shaving, particularly when they were going through puberty, and every time they shaved they thought it was coming back thicker. Shaved hair is blunt, as opposed to new hair which will always be pointed," he says.

Now for the answer … David's got a microscopic camera to magnify Andrew's body hair.

He compares the shorter new hairs coming through on Andrew's left leg with his untouched, right leg.

"As far as I can tell both with the legs and arms, they're exactly the same," says David.

"Your normal hair, which is like bamboo, you can move it — it's very flexible, but when it's just coming out the follicle it's much shorter, and well, it's not flexible at all, you can hardly move it and therefore if you put your hand across the hairs it does feel that much coarser," says David.

Also, according to David, shaving's the same as waxing — your hair won't grow back thicker either way. But waxing does keep your skin feeling smoother longer, because you pull out the root, and it can take up to three months before the new hair comes through.

So bodybuilder Steve was right all along.

Of course, he could have warned Andrew about waxing: "I did try waxing once but it was excruciating, so I stick to the razor," Steve says.

So you can take it off with a razor, pluck it or even wax it, it's not going to make your hair grow back thicker.

  • Humans have one hundred thousand hair follicles on our heads and five million over our whole bodies — that's more than a gorilla! Difference being, our hair is much finer.
  • If you pluck out a grey hair, will it grow back in your normal colour? No. Hair gets its colour from a chemical called melanin, produced by melanocyte cells in our hair follicles. Those cells die at a certain age, it's different for everyone, but once they do, there's no colour produced, and the follicle will only grow grey.


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