For as long as I've had a body I've had hair, like, everywhere. In fact I'm sure that the only reason I have a body is so that the hair can have something to attach itself to.
I tend to think that I was born into puberty and somehow skipped that happy decade or so when children run freely about the beach/playground/park, all carefree and blissfully unaware of hormonal brutality biding it's time before mercilessly striking those poor innocent kids with blows of puppy fat, acne, and shrubs.
So, having had my childhood cruelly wrenched from me at birth I've had a lifetime of trying to pretend to be hair-free and carefree. When laser hair removal first hit the market over a decade ago I frequently imagined myself standing in a booth while NASA laser beams zapped me from the shoulders downwards, blitzing every last blasted follicle, giving me eternal smoothness and freedom from endless hours in the bathroom ripping, scraping, bleaching, dissolving and contorting myself into positions which would certainly have given me a provisional audition with Cirque du Soleil.
Alas, lasers are both painful (even more than waxing I dare say) and painfully expensive. They work, but require commitment and a hefty bank balance, neither of which I possess. In the brief period of my life when I could benefit from laser hair removal I saw results but without that commitment it all came growing back.
Why am I telling you this? Because you have to understand where I'm coming from to understand the solution to the problem. If you've never had problems with dark, stubborn body hair that tends to in-grow, then you probably won't need to read this. If you can wax your legs and it lasts 4-6 weeks before you need to wax again, then lucky you. If you can shave and not still see the hair under the skin, be cursed with razor bumps and ingrown hairs, then great. But not me.
A leg wax usually leaves me with smooth legs for about 7 days, 10 days max. Shaving lasts me 12 hours, and I can't shave two days in a row as it causes me terrible razor bumps. A whole summer in dresses was something I could never contemplate... until this summer.
Here is the crucial bit of info that has changed the way I depilate:
HAIR GROWTH HAS 3 PHASES: ANAGEN, CATOGEN, TELOGEN.
The one that concerns us here is the ANAGEN, or GROWTH, phase. In order to maximise the effects of your chosen hair removal method you need to ensure that most of the hair is in the anagen phase, that's when the hair starts to grow, hair that just appears on the surface of the skin, not hair that's been there for a while.
My mistake all these years was to get my legs waxed, and then epilate inbetween with an electric epilator which uses the rotating discs to pluck out the hairs. The problem with this was that I was never smooth. Ok, I didn't look like George of the Jungle, but my legs were never in a good enough state to be exposed, always covered in swollen follicles, hairs about to burst through but not quite, and worst of all, patches of hair that had surfaced but were still under the skin. I'm not painting a pretty picture here, huh?
Salons always tell you never to shave your legs, right? But about 6 months ago, when I was still in Brussels, I got my legs waxed and the therapist was despairing that all her hard work was going to waste. She had waxed off all she could, but you could clearly see a whole new 'generation' of hair about to sprout. This leg wax would last me about 3 days before I would have to cover up again. She told me not to use the epilator, but to start shaving and to keep shaving until all the hair had caught up, and only then should I wax again.
Well, what can I say? It seems so simple, and yet, it works.
Like I said previously, shaving alone is not enough for me, my skin is too pale and my hair too dark, meaning that you can still see the cut-off hair under the skin, even if my legs feel as smooth as silk. So, after two months of shaving, I booked my appointment for a wax here in London just before my holiday in May. I told the therapist that I had been shaving to get the hairs to the same stage and she was horrified saying that she had never heard that before and that shaving was 'the worst thing'.
But what do you know? My leg wax lasted me two weeks. Ok, some hair came through but it was so fine I didn't even have to shave it off. After about three weeks I started to shave again, and I could still wear skirts. In fact, that was back in May and now it's the end of June and I'm still shaving and wearing skirts. Because I had waxed previously, there aren't so many black 'spots' left when I shave meaning that I retain that smooth look for longer. Now it's getting to that stage where more follicles are reaching the anagen phase, meaning that there is more hair and that soon I'll have to wait a week of two without shaving and then wax again. But what this means to me is that out of three months I'll only have two weeks in which I'll be George of the Jungle and 2 1/2 months of California beach babe.....
And another EXTREMELY IMPORTANT piece of advice:
EXFOLIATE LIKE MAD. I started from about the 3rd day after my wax and scrubbed myself every other day. I used the free Rituals body scrub that came with Easy Living two months ago (a-ma-zing), and then St Ives Apricot scrub after that, but use anything that you like. Just do it, and moisturise generously afterwards. My holiday tan stayed smooth and even and didn't flake at all, which was a big bonus. But more importantly, the amount of ingrowns had reduced considerably.
So let me put it in a nutshell for simplicity:
1) Shave legs until most of the hair is growing at the same time
2) Let hair grow for roughly 1-2 weeks, or until long enough to be waxed
3) Get a professional leg wax
4) Start exfoliating every other day from the 3rd day after your wax. Make sure you moisturise after.
5) When the hair starts to grow and become noticeable begin to shave again, DO NOT EPILATE.
6) Continue to shave until legs no longer look smooth. This means most of the hair has started to catch up and you can start think about letting it grow in preparation for your next wax.
There you have it. My little discovery. It may not be that thrilling, or that new even, but for me it's a bit of a revelation, and maybe for someone else it will be too.
PS: I'm sorry the only pictures in this long post are of a gorilla and a nutshell, but this particular subject matter does not lend itself well to pretty pictures.....