How teenagers feel about their hair — its presence or its absence — influences their developing self-concept, self-image, self-acceptance, self-esteem, self-respect, self-worth, self-confidence and selfies. Nowadays, many teens want areas of their bodies to be hair-free. And all they have to do is pick up a copy of Seventeen magazine and they'll find many articles about hair removal, including "10 Things You Should Know Before Getting Your Face Waxed,"  "Summer's Coming! Are You Bikini Ready?" and "Get Fuzz-Free."

Parents, before your hair turns gray from worrying about the safety of these techniques, I suggest you learn about them:

Shaving using a razor or electric shaver cuts off the tip of the hair close to the skin. Contrary to popular belief, shaving does not change the texture, color or growth rate of hair. Tips for shaving include using sharp blades, wetting the skin first, using shaving gel or cream, and shaving in the direction the hair grows. Any part of the body can be shaved.  Shaving lasts for one to three days.

Plucking, threading, waxing and sugaring (ouch, ouch, ouch and ouch) remove hair from the roots. These methods last for three to eight weeks.

  • Plucking, usually done with tweezers, is best for small areas of the face.
  • Threading is done by twisting and rolling antibacterial cotton thread over the skin, trapping hairs, then pulling and lifting the entire hair out.  It is also best for the face.
  • Waxing involves applying a layer of melted sticky wax to the skin (wax on), covering with a cloth strip, and then quickly pulling the strip off taking the hair with it (wax off). Any part of the body can be waxed.
  • Sugaring is similar to waxing but uses a heated sugar mixture of sugar, water, lemon juice and glycerin. It may produce less redness after treatment than waxing.

Depilatory products use chemicals to destroy the hair at skin level. After a three- to five-minute application the dissolved hair can be wiped off. Depilatories are useful for areas where a lot of hair is to be removed. Hair regrowth usually occurs within two to three weeks.

Laser is FDA-approved for permanent hair reduction. Pulses of light from a hand-held laser are used to destroy the hair follicles. Typically, the areas to be treated are shaved a few days prior to the treatment. On the day of the procedure, an anesthetic cream may be used to make the treatment more comfortable. Laser hair removal can be done on any body part. Most patients need several treatments and may require maintenance treatments.

Electrolysis is the only FDA-approved method for permanent hair removal. A small needle or thin metal probe is inserted into the opening of the skin where hair grows and destroys the hair follicle by heat or by a chemical. The hair is removed with tweezers. Hair is unable to grow back in an area where the follicle has been destroyed. Electrolysis is slow and may be uncomfortable. Most areas of the body can be treated with electrolysis. Multiple treatments are often necessary to achieve permanent results.

There are potential problems with all methods of hair removal.  People with diabetes or those who develop thick scars (keloids) may not be candidates for certain hair removal techniques. Any hair removal method may cause a flare of the herpes simplex virus. Other hairy situations:

Shaving can produce skin irritation either from the actual cutting process by the blade or from the shaving creams, gels and other preparations used to smooth the process. Shaving may lead to:

Plucking, threading, waxing and sugaring may cause skin irritation and infections.

Depilatories can cause burns, blisters, stinging, itchy rashes and skin peeling. When trying depilatories for the first time, it is important to test a small amount on the arm to rule out an allergic reaction.

Laser and electrolysis may cause skin irritation and changes in skin color of the treated skin. Laser may also cause burns. Electrolysis may also cause scarring. Individuals with pacemakers should not undergo electrolysis. It is extremely important to have these procedures done by a doctor or skilled technician.

My advice to parents: Educate yourselves and your teenagers about the pros and cons of different methods of hair removal before getting a "hair cut."  Share these websites (not razors!):

Have a question for the Healthy Kids panel? Ask it here. Read more from the Healthy Kids blog »