Spa Services: Hair Removal Basics
We cover the ins and outs of the most popular methods of hair removal.
Summer’s almost here. As hemlines shrink, the demand for smooth, hair-free skin soars, which is why hair–removal services are the bread and butter of spas and salon at this time of year.
“Hair removal is a billion-dollar industry,” says Gregory Cartwright, owner and founder of Koru Touch Spa in Statesville, North Carolina. “Hair will always grow, and clients want perfection when addressing that, whatever their chosen method of removal.”
Spa owners know that clients have a plethora of options when it comes to choosing the right vehicle for them: namely, waxing, threading, sugaring, lasering and electrolysis. Employing any of these services in your spa can help boost revenue, as the profit margins can be generous.
“Margins on hair removal services such as threading and waxing can run between 30%-40%, with the biggest expense being labor,” says Eva Kerschbaumer, owner and master esthetician for ESSpa.com and the Delray Day Spa in Delray Beach, Florida. “Although hair removal requires constant maintenance and requires constant refilling of supplies, it is definitely our most popular segment.”
We got the lowdown on five methods of hair removal from spa pros to see what keeps clients coming back for more.
Probably the most requested hair-removal method in the U.S., waxing is a popular choice because of its low price point and speedy, in-and-out (or wax-on, wax-off) process.
Why clients choose it: “It’s quick and easy,” says Diana Evans, lead esthetician at Milk+Honey Spa in Austin, Texas. “And, unlike other methods of hair removal, waxing can be done on almost any part of the body.”
Pre-and post-care recommendations: “I advise clients to apply a gentle sugar scrub to areas prone to ingrown hair about 12-24 hours prior to treatment,” says Evans. “I also tell clients who use retinol as part of their skincare regimens to discontinue use a week before the service, as retinol is a rapid exfoliator and applying hot wax on top of it can cause the skin to lift.” Evans also advises to keep the area moisturized as this allows the skin to handle wax better. Post-treatment, clients should avoid touching the treated area with unwashed hands, and apply oil-and bacteria-eliminating products (such as those used to address acne) to the skin 24 hours after waxing to prevent breakouts.
Common misconceptions: ”Clients expect waxing to be an extremely painful experience and they tend to tense up,” says Evans. “The key is to relax. We try to make clients as comfortable as possible and reduce the tension by making them laugh and engaging them in conversation. Once they ease up, they find it to be less painful then they thought.”
Although threading has only recently gained popularity in the Western hemisphere, the roll-and-pluck method dates back hundreds of years as an ancient Middle Eastern method of hair removal.
Why clients choose it: “Threading is especially appealing to sensitive-skinned clients, who may be prone to irritation from waxing,” says Eva Kerschbaumer, owner and master esthetician for ESSpa.com and the Delray Day Spa, in Delray Beach, Florida. “It’s a more natural and simple method, with no chemicals involved—just string. It’s perfect for clients who use retinol, as it doesn’t remove layers of the skin the way waxing can. The re-growth process is also slower [about four to six weeks], making for easy upkeep.”
Pre-and post-care recommendations: ESSpa esthetician and star threader, Marilyn, advises clients to thoroughly cleanse the area being threaded prior to treatment. “Post-treatment, I just tell them to keep cool compresses on the area and avoid applying makeup for the next couple of hours or so.”
Common misconceptions: “People imagine threading will be an extremely painful experience,” says Marilyn. “But, it’s really not unlike waxing or sugaring in that the level of pain depends on the client. Also, many estheticians hold the thread in their mouth, which can be off-putting to someone who has never had the service, as it can seem unsanitary, even though the part of the thread that has had contact with the mouth never touches the guest’s skin.”
Laser is firm hair-removal favorite and has become so popular that home devices are increasingly popping up, promising the same results as a professional salon. However, “If a service requires a license, that means it’s a treatment people shouldn’t be allowed to perform at home,” opines Annie Temple, spa coordinator for Blue Spa in Sherman Oaks, California. “Consumers won’t get the same results at home that they would with a professional.”
Why clients choose it: What’s so great about laser hair removal? According to Temple, “What’s not so great about it?” is a more appropriate question. She explains, “It’s such a worthwhile investment, because clients generally pay for five to eight treatments, but then if they time them right, they may never have to spend money on hair removal again! It also eliminates unsightly in-grown hairs, as it targets the root follicle.”
Pre-and post-care recommendations: ”I advise clients to shave the area that’s being lasered,” says Temple. “What typically happens is that the client may see a little hair re-growth in the days that follow, but the hair eventually falls out. Also, because the laser picks up the pigment of the skin, we tell clients to keep the area to be treated as close to their natural skin color as possible. No spray tanning before the service, for instance. After the treatment, lasered skin should not be exposed to direct sun or hot environments (such as a sauna or hot tub) for up to 48 hours.”
Common misconceptions: “People often think that only one laser treatment will suffice,” says Temple. “On average, clients need five to eight treatments spread four to six weeks apart for the method to be effective. If more than 10 weeks pass in between sessions, it restarts the hair-growth cycle, and they have to start the process all over again.”
Despite its sweet star ingredient, sugaring is quite a potent and effective method of hair removal. The all-natural, paste-like formula typically consists of sugar, lemon juice, corn syrup and water. “Sugaring removes hair by the root, so it’s not as thick when it grows back,” says Gregory Cartwright, owner of Koru Touch Spa in Statesville, North Carolina. “When performed regularly, sugaring will thin the hair and eventually stop re-growth altogether.”
Why clients choose it: “Clients love that this service is non-irritating and doesn’t leave them with in-grown hairs,” says Cartwright. “Typically, hair grows back after about three weeks, but it’s light and more feathery.”
Pre-and post-care recommendations: ”The success of sugaring depends on the exfoliation and hydration of the skin,” explains Cartwright. “Sugar adheres to dead skin cells, and we want to make sure that only the unwanted hair is removed. Often I’ll advise clients to book an exfoliating body treatment two days before the hair removal service.” Post-sugaring, activities such as tanning and working out are blacklisted for 24 hours, as they can cause irritation to the treated area.
Common misconceptions: “Many clients book this service in the belief that it’s a magical formula that simply dissolves or melts off hair,” says Cartwright. “I have to explain to them that sugaring is not like applying a hair-removal product from a bottle.”
While not quite as popular as lasering, electrolysis still attracts a loyal fan base. Targeting one hair follicle at a time, this treatment is effective in dramatically reducing hair growth after all sessions have been completed (the number of recommended services varies with each client, according to factors such as hair type and re-growth cycle).
Why clients choose it: “Many guests liker this treatment because it’s not dependent on the color/pigment of the hair, like laser often is,” says Shelly Chilton, owner of Simply You Wellness Spa in Massena, New York. “Electrolysis targets the follicle and deactivates the root. The service tends to be cheaper than laser hair removal, so clients who can’t afford laser often opt for electrolysis.”
Pre-and post-care recommendations: “I encourage guests to moisturize the treatment area and make sure they’re relaxed when they come in for service, as the thought of the electrolysis needle probing their skin can be daunting,” says Chilton. “After the treatment, the skin might become a little red or swollen, so I advise them to apply aloe vera, vitamin E, lavender or coconut oil to soothe and calm the skin.” Sun exposure is also off-limits for the next three to four days, Chilton adds.
Common misconceptions: “I think it’s important for clients to understand that this—or any hair-removal method—won’t make the hair disappear forever. Yes, electrolysis does reduce hair growth, but it’s not permanent. Many factors can contribute to eventual re-growth (hormone levels, for example), and clients may need to treat the area first before seeking hair-removal services.”