The arrival of bathing suit season brings a return of grooming habits you might have put on the back burner for winter. Many people are dusting off their razors or making waxing appointments. If you live with psoriasis, it’s important to be careful how you handle hair removal.
Even a minor injury, like skin irritation from a hair removal cream or nicks from a razor, could cause a psoriasis flare in areas where you didn’t have lesions before. This injury-flare cycle is called the Koebner phenomenon. Because of it, you need to take extra care with hair removal.
Read on to learn the pros and cons of different hair removal techniques for people living with psoriasis.
Shaving cuts your hair at the skin’s surface, but leaves the root in place. It’s often a quick, easy, and budget-friendly way to get rid of unwanted hair, but the results usually don’t last for more than a few days.
Shaving can irritate your skin and leave little nicks and cuts behind. In areas where you do cut yourself, you could see new psoriasis flares pop up 10 to 14 days later.
You can safely shave with psoriasis, but take these extra precautions to avoid cutting your skin:
- Apply a gentle moisturizer or shaving gel first. This creates a smoother surface and reduces the chance of cutting or nicking your skin with the razor.
- Consider investing in an electric razor, which is less likely to cut you.
- Toss disposable razors or change the blade after five to seven shaves to reduce skin irritation.
- Shave slowly and with a light touch to prevent nicks.
- Move the razor in the same direction your hair grows.
- When you finish shaving, apply a mild conditioner designed for sensitive skin.
Applying wax to your skin and then quickly removing it pulls the entire hair out with it. On the plus side, waxing often keeps you hair-free for a few weeks or more. The downsides are pain and skin irritation, plus a possible burn if the wax is too hot.
Because irritated skin is more likely to develop flares, this is one hair removal technique you might want to skip for psoriasis skin. If you decide to try waxing, here are some ways to do so safely:
- Test out the wax on a small area of skin first.
- Avoid using antibiotics and retinoids before waxing. These medications thin your skin, which can make it tear more easily when you pull off the wax.
- After you wax, apply a gentle oil-free moisturizer to soothe your skin.
- If you get a waxing at a salon, make sure your aesthetician doesn’t dip the wooden stick into the wax more than once. Double-dipping could spread bacteria to your skin.
Threading rolls a piece of twisted thread over your hairs to pull them out. It usually offers the precision of plucking, but it can be much faster. The results can last for 4 to 5 weeks.
This technique may often work best for small areas like the eyebrows. Threading often leaves the top layer of skin intact, so it might be less irritating than waxing. Still, it can injure the skin enough to trigger the Koebner phenomenon. If the beautician’s hands or the thread are unclean, a threading session could also spread germs to your skin.
If you want to try threading, make sure your aesthetician has experience. Ask a friend for a recommendation or check the salon’s reviews. Make sure the aesthetician washes their hands and uses a clean piece of thread to prevent infection.
These creams use the ingredient thioglycolic acid to break down unwanted hair so that it can dissolve off the skin. Depilatories are often quick to apply and can keep you hair-free longer than shaving.
The scent of these products might be a big turnoff for some people, since it often compares to rotten eggs. Plus, depilatories can be irritating to the skin.
Try these tips to help protect your sensitive skin if you use a depilatory cream:
- Try out a quarter-sized amount of depilatory cream on a small area to see how your skin responds. Any redness, discoloration, burning, or pain is a warning to avoid the product.
- Wash your hands right after you apply the cream.
- Follow the package instructions for how long to leave the cream on your skin.
- Apply a gentle, fragrance-free skin care product afterward.
This hair removal method shocks the hair follicle with an electric current. The current destroys the follicle, which can make the existing hair fall out and usually prevents new hairs from growing.
You’ll commonly need several sessions to rid yourself of almost every unwanted hair. But once the hair is gone, it can be gone for good.
The process might be uncomfortable for some people. In the wrong hands, electrolysis can leave you with a burn, infection, or permanent scars.
A board certified dermatologist, or a specialist known as an electrologist, can perform your electrolysis. A board certified professional with experience can reduce the chance of stirring up a psoriasis flare and may provide results that work for you.
A laser vaporizes hair with a beam of light. When done professionally, the process can take about six sessions, and results may last for months or years. However, home laser hair removal tends to take a bit longer.
Laser hair removal often only works on dark hair. When done by someone without experience, it can leave burns and other skin damage that could set off a psoriasis flare.
You can have great results and the least risk of injury with laser hair removal if you:
- Contact a board certified dermatologist who has experience in laser hair removal. They can help you determine whether you might be a good candidate for this option.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions on how to care for your skin afterward.
- Avoid the sun until your skin heals.
Psoriasis might complicate hair removal by making your skin more sensitive. A great way to avoid flares afterward is to talk with your dermatologist before trying a new technique. Ask which method can be safest for you, and how to remove hair to avoid damaging your skin.