hair.

Hello friends! This is the first of two posts on the subject of hair. The second will be more frivolous and fun but here is a post about the literal bane of my life.

If you asked me ‘what is the first thing you could change about your appearance?’ I would probably say I would like super-white, straight, Hollywood teeth. But it wouldn’t really be true: my teeth are fine. I don’t think about them much. The real answer, which I would never tell you because I find it so profoundly troubling, would be ‘I would never grow a single hair between my neck and my eyebrows’.

It’s not a secret that I have a lot of body hair- you can often see it in photos I choose to post online. I don’t shave my underarms, I maybe shave my legs twice a year, my forearms are covered in dark hair. But that’s not all: I have hair everywhere. Basically anywhere it is physically possible to have hair, I have it there. I would probably go as far as to say that the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet are the only places that I’ve never found dark hair.

The underarm hair, the leg hair, I can deal with, and have actually embraced. I like the way underarm hair looks on me, I don’t feel like it undermines my appearance or compromises a feeling of looking good. The hair in other weird places, I basically just ignore or shave every so often. So far, so good.

The face hair, though? It ruins my life. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but if you fully understood (which I will probably never enable anyone to understand because I will never show you) just how much thick, dark hair I could have on my face if I didn’t keep it under control, you might get it. On the very odd occasion I’ve spoken about it, people have reacted with disbelief when I gesture towards a man with stubble to try to demonstrate how much hair I would have if I didn’t remove it. Even typing this post is making me feel panicky at the thought of acknowledging what I actually look like and how much I hate it- it makes me feel weak that there’s something about my appearance that causes me so much anxiety and shame.

It doesn’t matter why it’s there. I was tested for PCOS as a teenager and it was inconclusive. My dad has a lot of thick dark body hair so it’s more likely to be that, but whatever the cause, I’m stuck with it. Very pale skin and very thick dark hair.

I’ve been in the world for 28 years and there are a lot of things I’ve come to terms with about the way I look, but this will never be one of them. I just can’t, and it makes me feel vain but I just hate it so much. I used to shave it, every other day. I had to: that’s how fast it would show up again. But then (and maybe hormonal contraception made it worse) it was resurfacing after a day and a half, which basically meant I had to shave it every day so I was never in public with dark hair. It was taking over my life, and I hated it.

I actually hated it so much that finally, this year, I decided I had to try something. I’d had a course of laser hair removal at a clinic when I was 17 but didn’t carry on the top-up appointments after the course finished because I moved cities temporarily. I wasn’t particularly convinced it had worked- going once a month or so just didn’t feel like it was making a huge difference. And in the 10 years between getting the initial course at a clinic and this year, it got so much worse. So I used some money I’d saved and bought an at-home IPL machine. I did research (there are a lot of models out there, and many by the same brand) and asked around on social media and finally made a decision and coughed up.

I use a Philips Lumea Face & Body, in a model that isn’t available anymore but I’ve linked to the closest currently-available model. If I followed the instructions I would use it once every couple of weeks, but I went rogue and just used it every time I had to shave. At first this was my normal amount, so I was literally using the Lumea every couple of days for several weeks or even months, but over time, I found that I could go for days and days without shaving, and when I did feel like I had to, there was hardly any hair there to shave.

I’ve been using it since January and while I still feel like I need to use it, and still need to shave the hair that’s left in order to use it, it’s really been a huge change for the better.

The way I would explain its effect on me, someone with an extreme amount of very strong, tenacious dark hair, is that it’s reduced 80% of the hair by 100%, and the remaining 20% is about 70% gone. There are really only a few patches that are still hanging in there, ruining my life, and they’re generally on areas of my face like my jawline that are curved, so it’s harder to shave them right down to the root, and harder to get the Lumea fully flat against the area.

It’s always said that laser hair removal works best on people with pale skin and dark hair, which is theoretically me, and I think it’s just testament to how thick and aggressive my hair is that even after 11 months of using laser hair removal on my face multiple times a week, it’s not totally gone.

I guess I wanted to write this post to properly confront the only thing I truly hate about my appearance, the thing I will always hate, but also to say that using the IPL machine has seriously improved things. It’s really, really expensive, but kind of the way people feel about laser eye surgery, it can make such a huge difference that long-term it kind of works out.

Anyway, solidarity with other femmes who are extremely self-conscious or self-loathing because of their facial hair. I wish I was strong enough to just get over it, but I’m not, and using the laser machine has really made a difference to my self-esteem.