by Kyla Rudyk-de Leth
(Excerpt) As women, we have an exhaustingly complex relationship to our body hair. Over the years, my inner fourth-wave feminist has teetered between letting it all grow and having every last hair from my eyebrows down burned off for all eternity. Do you wax? Do you shave? Scour Groupon for deals on laser?
These days, I say none of the above. I’ve discovered the most underrated way to deal with body hair is to simply (are you ready for it?) bleach it. I find myself joyfully humming Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” under my mask as I stroll down the drugstore aisles in search of my umpteenth tub of Jolen Creme Bleach. It never fails to put a little pep in my step. Plus, I can do it all from the comfort of my home, a huge upside in these unpredictable times.
I’m not the only one hopping on the bandwagon. Amy Finnegan Burns, head of training and education at Waxon Laser + Waxbar, started researching bleaching as an alternative to waxing and laser at the start of the pandemic and tested it out for herself. “Normally, we would be so pro-waxing, laser and other more effective methods that remove the hair right from the root, but we’ve been in a pandemic, so we’ve had to pivot and find new ways to deal with unwanted hair,” she says.
The pros: Body hair bleaching is quick, easy, inexpensive and best yet, utterly painless. No more bracing for impact as an aesthetician comes at you with a strip of hot wax. “Any of us can do it—you don’t need to be a pro,” says Finnegan Burns. If you have $8 and 15 minutes, your dark body hair can be turned into virtually invisible (and dare I say adorable) peach fuzz. “The other thing I liked about it was that you can do frequent touch-ups. It’s not something you need to wait to do monthly—as long as there’s no irritation.”
Indeed, redness or sensitivity can be potential downsides to bleaching. “Does it make the hair lighter? Absolutely. But the problem is that it can be irritating, especially on skin that has been recently exfoliated or has a windburn or sunburn,” warns Dr. Lisa Kellett, dermatologist and founder of DLK on Avenue.
That’s because bleaching works by using hydrogen peroxide to break down the melanin in the hair and lighten the pigment. It’s not nearly as concentrated as the stuff found in, say, a Clorox bottle or what your hairdresser uses to do your highlights, Finnegan Burns assures. But still, if you have super-reactive skin, you’ll probably want to steer clear.
And even if you aren’t on the sensitive side, Finnegan Burns and Kellett both recommend trying a test patch if it’s your first time using a product, just to be safe. The average bleach kit comes with a cream, an activator, a spatula-like applicator and a tray. Mixing up the components feels very fun and science-y. Just make sure to follow the instructions to a T.