What is Depilation?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Depilation is the removal of body hair. Technically, this term refers only to removal of hair above the level of the skin, while removal of hair and root together is epilation. However, people often use “depilation” to describe processes that involve stripping the root out along with the hair. Numerous societies across human history have practiced depilation and there are a number of depilatory techniques in use today.

Swimmers may practice depilation in order to reduce drag.
Swimmers may practice depilation in order to reduce drag.

Reasons for removing body hair vary. In some cultures, body hair is aesthetically undesirable and people may remove it so they have smooth skin. Body hair can also be removed by athletes, such as swimmers, who want to reduce drag or feel more comfortable in athletic clothes. There may be religious reasons for removing hair or reasons associated with comfort, such as wanting to remove thick body hair in hot climates.

Waxing is a technique that may be used for epilation.
Waxing is a technique that may be used for epilation.

A classic depilation technique is shaving, in which a sharpened razor is run over the skin to cut off hair as it emerges from the follicle. Shaving needs to be practiced on a regular basis to keep the skin smooth and using dull razors or not being careful can cause ingrown hairs, razor burn, and cuts. Depilatory creams that break the hair up and allow the user to rinse the damaged hair away are another popular method in some regions and tend to last longer than shaving.

Plucking is a technique that may be used for epilation.
Plucking is a technique that may be used for epilation.

Epilation to remove the hair and the root lasts even longer because a new root must grow before the hair can reappear. Waxing, sugaring, plucking, threading, and lasering are all techniques that can be used for epilation. Some of these methods can be used at home, while others need to be performed by an experienced aesthetician who has received training in performing them safely. Lasers, for example, require skin and eye protection to limit damage.

Depilation means hair removal.
Depilation means hair removal.

Some body hair is stubborn and difficult to remove. Different depilation techniques may be used on different areas of the body to control various types of body hair. Over time, repeated sessions of epilation can damage the root and prevent the hair from growing back at all. This is the specific goal of techniques like electrolysis that are used to prevent undesirable hair from growing.

Ingrown hairs can be caused by improper hair removal techniques.
Ingrown hairs can be caused by improper hair removal techniques.

It can help to consult an aesthetician when exploring depilation methods. Aestheticians can provide advice based on the skin type and needs of a client. Some may provide assistance with methods used at home, teaching clients how to remove hair while avoiding injury. Others may recommend methods that require a professional if they believe that those methods are in the best interests of their clients.

A razor may be used for depilation.
A razor may be used for depilation.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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