Professional hair removal guide

Permanent hair removal sounds appealing — but the results aren’t guaranteed.
Learn more
  • Updated:27 Feb 2007

01 .Electrolysis


Whether you choose to pluck, shave, wax or zap it, getting rid of unwanted hair can be a time-consuming and often expensive and painful process. Before you decide which method to go for, you need to consider the risks, suitability for your skin and hair type, and the cost of each.

Please note: this information was current as of February 2007 but is still a useful guide today.


  • Electrolysis works by inserting a fine needle into the hair follicle and applying an electric current to destroy the hair root. The loosened hair is then removed with tweezers.
  • It’s a slow process as each hair must be treated individually, and only 30 to 40 follicles can be treated in a 15-minute session.
  • Under the US Food and Drug Administration regulations, electrolysis is the only method that can claim to remove hair permanently. However, certain factors can cause new hair growth. 

Who is it for?

  • Electrolysis is safe for all skin types, if it’s done properly.
  • As the treatment is slow and likely to continue for months or even years, it’s not a cost-effective method for large areas, such as the back or legs. It’s often used by women to get rid of unwanted facial hair.

Risks and side effects

  • There’s a risk of electric shock if the needle isn’t properly insulated.
  • The operator must be properly trained. If the needle misses the mark or insufficient electricity is applied the hair root can survive. There’s also a risk of scarring if it isn’t done properly.
  • There may be some temporary redness after treatment.
  • It’s not guaranteed to permanently remove all hair. The stimulus for hair growth in an area can’t be removed and hormonal changes may cause new growth. 

Where to get it done

Training and qualification in electrolysis is part of the Advanced Association of Beauty Therapists’ (AABTh) schools’ diploma. AABTh advises people to ask to see a therapist’s qualifications in electrolysis before undergoing treatment.

Does it hurt?

Some people find electrolysis painful, but not many find it hurts enough to need pain relief.


Usually around $25 for a 15-minute session.


Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.


02.Laser hair removal


What is it?

  • laser hair removal equipmentLaser hair removal uses a single wavelength of light (laser) to target, heat and damage hair follicles. It’s been shown to successfully reduce hair growth but, unlike electrolysis, it can’t claim to permanently remove hair.
  • The laser can treat large areas (such as the back or legs) at once, so it’s much faster than electrolysis.
  • However, you’ll still need to have multiple treatment sessions as the laser is most effective when hair is in the anagen or ‘growing’ phase and only a certain proportion of hairs are in this phase at any one time.
  • Most people need between three and six treatments. 

Who is it for?

  • Laser treatment works best on people with dark hairs and light skin, as the melanin in dark hair absorbs more of the laser energy. Ginger, blonde and white hairs don’t respond well to this treatment.
  • Darker skin types also have to be treated carefully as the pigment in the skin may absorb too much of the laser energy and cause skin damage. However the Nd:YAG type of laser can be safely used on a larger variety of skin types.
  • For the treatment to be effective with some kinds of laser, the hair must be darker than the surrounding skin. So if you’ve got a tan you should let it fade before you have the treatment.

Possible risks and side effects

  • Laser light can damage the eyes so you need to wear protective goggles.
  • It can cause some redness around the treated area, but this should only last for a few hours.
  • If not applied properly, a laser can burn the skin. There’s a risk of blistering after treatment, especially for people with darker skin.
  • There’s a risk of skin discolouration (either lightening or darkening of the skin). 

Where to get it done

The Advanced Association of Beauty Therapists (Australia) and the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia advise people only to go to an experienced laser operator working under medical supervision for treatment. See Laser and IPL danger.

Does it hurt?

The sensation has been likened to the feeling of an elastic band snapping hard against the skin, but some people find it much more painful than that. Operators may provide a numbing cream to be applied 30 minutes before treatment.


Prices vary significantly between operators. They range from around $50 to $130 per session for the top lip and from $120 to $250 for the bikini line. Some operators offer a discount if you have more than one area treated

03.IPL and laser danger


Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

  • IPL is a newer treatment than laser. It works on the same principle of heating and damaging the hair follicle, but instead of using a single wavelength a flash lamp emits hundreds of wavelengths in each burst of light.
  • As the beam tends to cover a larger area than a laser, the treatment is slightly faster.

Who is it for?

IPL has the same restrictions as laser in terms of effectiveness. It works best on people with dark hairs and light skin.

Possible risks and side effects

  • IPL lamps pose the same risks as lasers. However, the lamps are more difficult to use than lasers and so even greater skill is required to operate them.
  • As with lasers, we think IPLs require greater regulation and should only be operated under medical supervision.

Does it hurt?

The sensation is similar to laser treatment.


Usually similar cost to laser, but price varies greatly between different operators.

Laser and IPL danger

  • A number of people we spoke to expressed concern about the lack of uniform regulation of laser and IPL hair removal.
  • Regulations vary according to the state or territory you live in and range from a fairly strict system in WA and Queensland, where a licence is required to use laser equipment, to a comparatively lax regime in NSW.
  • The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) is currently working on national guidelines to regulate the use of lasers in cosmetic procedures (including hair removal). These should be released for public comment in early 2007.
  • In the meantime, we recommend that you look for an experienced laser or IPL operator who works under medical supervision.

04.Waxing and threading



  • women's legs in red high heelsWax is applied to the skin and a strip of cloth or paper is smoothed on top of it. The strip is then pulled away against the hair growth, taking the hairs with it.
  • It leads to slower regrowth than shaving (weeks rather than days) but there’s no guarantee of permanent hair reduction.

Who is it for?

  • Waxing is suitable for all skin types and is good for large areas, such as the legs or back, as well as underarms and bikini line.

Possible risks and side effects

  • There’s a danger of skin infection if proper care isn’t taken. In most states, salons that do waxing are regulated by legislation and may be inspected to ensure they comply with hygiene standards. Some general rules include:
    • Wax shouldn’t be applied to broken skin, sunburn or moles.
    • Wax should preferably be in single-use pots for each client, and only disposable spatulas should be used.
    • Waxing can also lead to ingrown hairs. You can help to reduce this by wearing loose clothing and avoiding showering or swimming in chlorinated pools immediately after waxing.
    • Skin can be red after waxing, but this should only last for a few hours.

    Does it hurt?

    Many people find waxing to be quite painful. Women are advised to avoid waxing the week before and during menstruation, when the skin is more sensitive.


    Varies depending on the area being waxed, but usually starts at around $12 for eyebrows and $20 for a half-leg wax.


    • Threading involves an operator twisting and rolling a piece of cotton thread along the surface of the skin entwining hair in the thread, which is then pulled from the follicle.
    • Some consider it to be a more effective method of shaping eyebrows evenly than waxing, and it’s generally considered to be less painful too..


    Around $25 for eyebrows.