Archive | September, 2022


10 Sep

In the 1980s, when I was a new electrologist, a client came to me who had horrible acne – but only on her chin – the only place on her face she was tweezing hairs every day. This client had been to a dermatologist multiple times for her “acne”.  She never volunteered and the physician never asked if she had been tweezing hair or picking at the area.  Before electrolysis she always had scabs from the digging she had done to extract a hair and her chin was bumpy and deeply pitted. She doubted electrolysis would work but was desperate enough to try it.  She promised to stop tweezing, and within a few months her acne disappeared.  I could not repair the damage the tweezing and picking had done to her skin, but after electrolysis she was left with unblemished, hairless skin.  No more scabs and acne sores.

Not everyone has such bad results from tweezing, but electrologists see it often enough.  The damage occurs when the client picks and digs at ingrown hairs resulting in broken skin that bacteria can infect and damage further.

The first rule to follow when choosing electrolysis treatments is to STOP ALL TWEEZING.  This is very hard for some people.  If hair is visible, or even if it is not visible to anyone else, to let it grow feels like the worst thing that could ever happen.  Clients often relate the nighttime dreams (nightmares!) where they go somewhere with visible hair.  It is horrifying for them.  Shaving feels wrong – women feel masculinized by face shaving, and some believe the myth that shaving makes the hair become worse. However, shaving is not the evil it is thought to be.  Shaving simply cuts hair at the surface of your skin.  Shaving does NOT stimulate more hair to grow, nor does it cause hair to become larger in diameter. 


There are two good things that can be said about tweezing. The first is that it is inexpensive – all it costs is a pair of tweezers.  The second is that the plucked skin is cleared of hair – for the moment. 

The bad and the ugly of tweezing takes much longer to describe. The BAD includes the fact that tweezing must be done from now on – even beyond the age where you can see and grasp the hair; and the UGLY is:  YES, tweezing can damage your skin.

In the book ELECTROLYSIS, THERMOLYSIS AND THE BLEND: THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF PERMANENT HAIR REMOVAL the authors Arthur Hinkel and Richard Lind write that “repeated epilations (tweezing) eventually cause most hairs to regrow more quickly and to become darker, coarser, and more firmly rooted.”  They go on to state, “Only a fraction of all tweezed hairs are ever permanently eliminated.  Thus, a woman who tweezes is simply letting herself in for greater hair problems than she had before she tweezed; rather than solving her problem she is worsening it.” 

Hinkel and Lind list two negative results from tweezing.  The first is that an “increased blood supply is the cause of the accelerated growth of tweezed hair. Each time a hair is tweezed out of its follicle, a good portion of the bottom half of the follicle is torn out.  The damage is not sufficient to prohibit future growth, but it is enough to cause the follicle to reconstruct itself a little sturdier with a better developed capillary system each time.  The difference from one tweezed hair to the next may be imperceptible, but eventually what may have been a few annoying lanugo hairs will have become full-growth terminal hairs, bristling in defiance of their owner’s attempts to evict them.”  (Vellus is the term that should have been used here. Lanugo hair is the downy, unpigmented hair that grows on a fetus around the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy.)

The hair follicle regulates hair growth. The follicle is lined with stem cells whose only job is to divide and become a hair.  The ripping out of the stem cells by tweezing only causes the remaining stem cells to divide more so they can build a bigger hair. Some people’s skin contains an enzyme that acts as a magnet to the hormones that regulate hair growth. Injury to the skin from tweezing will cause an increased blood flow bringing those hormones to feed the dividing stem cells.

The second negative effect of tweezing that Hinkel and Lind lists is infection which can occur when the entire sheath of the follicle comes out after a hair is plucked from a soft sensitive skin.  They write, “The resulting cavity quickly becomes infected with the organisms, usually yellow staphylococci, which normally inhabit the follicular pore.  Deep pustules that result leave a whitish scar or pit.” 

Hinkel and Lind go on to call waxing “as a specialized tweezing method”, with the same issues as tweezing causing increased hair growth, especially because ALL hair is ripped out of the skin, not just the larger diameter ones.  They discuss the fact that some people will have hair loss from waxing in areas like the eyebrows, and women who wax in their 40s and 50s during a time of “glandular changes, which would ordinarily result in a diminishing of hair regardless of hair-removal practices.”

The most disastrous consequences waxing can produce occur on the face.  While there are some fine vellus and accelerated vellus hairs on the face that will respond favorably to waxing most other hairs in the same area will be stimulated to greater depth and coarseness.  Face waxing will often lead to a superfluous hair problem that never existed previously – a face full of scattered, large diameter and terminal hairs.

In 1981, Julius Shapiro published ELECTROLYSIS BEAUTY AND CONFIDENCE THROUGH PERMANENT HAIR REMOVAL.  In his chapter on Temporary Methods of Hair Removal he describes tweezing in this manner: “Success:  you have plucked a hair.  But, at the same time, you have also set into motion the wheels that will perpetuate this sequence of events. You have begun a never-ending cycle which will tend to hasten the rate of regrowth.  It will also build the thickness, strengthen and deepen the regrowing hair, thus making it darker as well; it will also increase the possibility of irritations and infections of the follicle which result in pitting and scarring.  Finally, you will undoubtedly have made permanent hair removal by electrolysis more difficult to accomplish by creating distorted follicles with the additional possibility of ingrown hair.  And all this from just one simple, innocent pull of the tweezer.”  While “I” love his descriptive writing, I disagree about “one simple, innocent pull of the tweezer” but I do agree that repeated extractions of the hair via tweezing will result in the list of problems he described.

In 1985, Dr. Robert B. Greenblatt wrote UNWANTED HAIR – ITS CAUSE AND TREATMENT – ANCESTRAL CURSE OR GLANDULAR DISORDER?  Greenblatt does not discuss tweezing, but he does remind us that there is a thing called “multiple follicular hair units”, which means where you see one hair, there are often multiples appearing to come from one follicle.  He also states that deep and coarse hair on women can be brought about “by personal tampering through plucking, shaving, waxing, and depilatories.”  I disagree with shaving and depilatories being on this list since they remove hair at the surface of the skin and there is no follicular extraction. Keep in mind that depilatories work to dissolve the hair, which can be very irritating to the skin.

I mention Dr. Greenblatt’s book because another thing can occur when women tweeze frequently.  Women who tweeze daily often believe that they are tweezing the same hairs every day when there exists multiple follicular hair units.  The only time this could be true is when the tweezing technique results in breaking the hair off under the skin.  This can be seen in very large diameter hairs – you know them by the “plink” sound they make when you unsuccessfully extract them.

In Fino Gior’s 1987 book MODERN ELECTROLOGY: EXCESS HAIR, ITS CAUSES AND TREATMENTS, we are warned that “follicles can become distorted and thickened from constant tweezing or waxing.” Gior writes, “Ingrown hairs can be another drawback of waxing.  This happens when the hair is pulled apart inside the hair follicle.  Instead of growing up and out of the follicle, the hair curls under the skin causing a cyst-like projection.”

In the Richards and Meharg 1991 book on COSMETIC AND MEDICAL ELECTROLYSIS AND TEMPORARY HAIR REMOVAL, A PRACTICE MANUAL AND REFERENCE GUIDE, it is stated that “Plucking experiments have shown that repeated plucking can damage some hair follicles. Some react by producing a thinner hair, others develop a coarser hair.” And they tell us tweezing “can lead to distorted follicles, pigmentation, folliculitis, ingrown hairs, and scarring.”  I am certain we have all known someone who tweezed their eyebrows to the point they have little or no brows.  Eyebrow hair is a different because eyebrows are not influenced by hormones like chin hairs are.  In my own practice I have had clients whose prior waxing resulted in loss of hair. 

In the 1992 book PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF ELECTRICAL EPILATION, Sheila Godfrey writes, “The tweezing of individual hairs tears out the lower follicle.  The reconstructed follicle is usually stronger, with a better blood supply.  Vellus and fine hairs are frequently removed at the same time, so aggravating the condition.  Hairs that have been waxed or tweezed invariably leave behind distorted follicles, so hindering electro-epilation.”

In the 1993 I had a 67-year-old client who had been waxing her upper lip since she was 16.  She had been waxing for over 50 years!  The center of her upper lip had no hair.  The reason she came to me was that the large diameter hairs now growing at the corners of her upper lip were so stubborn she could no long pull them out!  My conclusion was that the waxing worked on her center upper lip but made the outside corners of her upper lip worse.  This client was willing to contribute to this article in the OLDER KANSAN TIMES.

In 2004, Helen R. Bickmore writes in Milady’s HAIR REMOVAL TECHNIQUES, A COMPREHENSIVE MANUAL, that after tweezing, “the hair may grow back thicker, more pigmented, and faster the more it is tweezed.  Tweezing hair also causes hair follicles to become distorted.  These distortions make it difficult for an electrologist to remove hair permanently later.”  Under the pros and cons (the only pro is minimal cost) she lists that tweezing “can be painful, can be time consuming in areas of heavy growth, and may cause hair below the skin to break, in turn causing bumps to occur in those follicles as blunt edges try to push their way through small follicles.”


Tweezing facial hair becomes a never-ending cycle of self-grooming.  Hairs become larger in diameter over time which makes them more difficult to tweeze and more difficult to extract during an electrology appointment.  Tweezing also contributes to skin damage from picking skin with ingrown hairs and infection from non-sterile tweezers. 

If you are reading this while looking for information on electrolysis, know that your electrologist can tell when you’ve been tweezing.  If you do tweeze then your first goal will be to stop tweezing.  My retired colleague, Jeannie M. Bush, CPE from Wisconsin, was the first person I heard say, “Tweeze only the hairs you want to keep!”