Tweezing can be an efficient way to rid yourself of unwanted stray hairs. The process is slightly painful and can take a lot of time, so you want it to last. How long you can expect those tweezed hairs to stay away depends on your genetic propensity for hair growth, the type of hair you're tweezing and the stage of growth the hair is in.
Hair Growth Stages
Hair goes through three stages of growth:
- Anagen Phase: This is the active growth stage and lasts two to seven years. The more time hair stays in this phase, the longer it gets.
- Catagen Phase: This is a transitional phase for hair that lasts just a few weeks. It is no longer growing, but changes occur at the follicular level, getting it ready for the final phase.
- Telogen Phase: This is the end phase of hair growth and leads to shedding. The hair is dormant, then eventually breaks free from the follicle and falls out naturally. Hair is in this stage for about two to four months.
Where your hair is in this cycle will influence how long the tweezing will last. As soon as the telogen phase is complete, the anagen phase begins anew. If you pluck a hair that is in the final portion of telogen, growth will be evident more quickly than if you pluck a hair that is in the anagen phase. Also, certain hairs on the body have different lengths of time for each phase. You can't look at a hair and determine what phase of growth it's in, though -- so it's simply luck of the pluck.
Body hair differs from head hair in that it has an anagen phase that only lasts a couple months -- which is why it never gets extraordinarily long, but it also means tweezing won't last as long.
Tweezing is usually reserved for small jobs, such as errant eyebrows or chin hairs. You can expect the results to last about three weeks. Tweezing too often alters the shape of your brows and can make them seem too sparse.
Lasers, sugaring, waxing and electrolysis are better options for larger body parts, including legs, the pubic region, the arms and the chest (if you're a man). Shaving and depilatories can irritate and require a lot of upkeep, but are far easier than tweezing when it comes to the legs. Waxing and sugaring are both effective in removing hair at the root -- with sugaring said to be less painful and longer lasting than wax -- but neither is permanent.
Lasers work by emitting concentrated beams of light into hair follicles, essentially destroying the hair. Electrolysis is sometimes effective where lasers fail; a technician inserts a fine needle into the area of the hair shaft and an electrical current destroys the follicle. Both methods take several sessions and can be expensive and painful, but can lead to permanently smooth skin.
You can use lasers and electrolysis for small tweezable areas such as the eyebrows and chin as well as larger swaths of hairy skin. Threading, an extremely old technique of hair removal, is an option when you have a lot of hair to remove from your brows, chin, hands, feet or beard. The process involves using a thread to form a knot and removing the hair from the root. Threading is less harsh to the skin than waxing and may last six to eight weeks before hair regrows.
Myths abound about hair removal, including that tweezing can result in regrowth that's thicker and more stubborn than prior to its removal. This has not proven to be true. Over-tweezing can result in potential destruction of hair follicles, especially in the eyebrows, making them sparse and thin. Hormonal issues, such as hypothyroidism, can also have such results -- so if you're experiencing an overthinning of hair, consult your doctor.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.