Facial hair can be great for a number of things from framing your unique features to providing a medium for creative expression—unless, of course, you just don't want it. Then any related benefits simply become moot and the unwanted hair is a constant point of frustration. Sure, getting rid of a stray eyebrow or two isn't all that bad, but when you're talking about coarse hair that runs down the side of your face, well, that’s a different story. Let's be clear: Sideburns and other facial hair are completely natural and totally normal, but understandably annoying if you're after a smooth, fuzz-free complexion or flawless makeup application. So, if you find yourself in a constant battle against hair growth, we've got you covered.
We talked to the experts to see what works best for women to remove sideburns—from shaving to lasers. Keep reading to see the most effective ways to deal with your sideburns and other unwanted facial hair.
Meet the Expert
- Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist known for his minimally invasive skin treatments. He is also the owner, founder, and Chief Medical Officer of PFRANKMD
- Jodi Shays is an esthetician and hair removal expert. She is the owner of Queen Bee Salon & Spa in Culver City, CA.
Put Down the Razor
"If you’re a man yes, for women, no! Our skin is way more sensitive," says Shays. Shaving can irritate the sensitive skin on your face, leading to bumps or ingrown hairs. It also doesn't remove hair from the root, so you may be stuck shaving on a regular basis to keep hair from turning into a five o'clock shadow. Frank also recommends staying away from shaving your sideburns, as it can lead to annoying and regular stubble.
Reach for Bleach
If you don't want to deal with removing hair, you can also bleach it. Bleaching sideburns will lighten the hair, making it less noticeable. But, be sure you're using a bleach that's made for facial hair as other hair bleaches can be too harsh on the skin and result in burnt or irritated skin.
Use a Hair Removal Cream
For a longer-lasting treatment that you can do at home, try using a hair removal cream. You simply apply the product to the area you want to remove hair from and let it do its thing for 10 to 15 minutes. The hair removal cream works to dissolve the hair so it's either at or right below your skin's surface. Depending on how fast your hair grows, results can last up to a few days. But, Frank says that these kinds of products work best on thin hair—meaning it could be more difficult if your hair is thicker or coarse in texture.
For very precise areas like the sideburns, it's best to tie back any loose hair you don't want to remove so it won't make contact with the hair removal cream.
Thread for a Quick Fix
For a solution that removes hair from the root, try threading instead of tweezing. While the results are similar, threading can pluck out several hairs at a time rather than having to grab each one individually—making it a great solution for removing sideburns or other, larger areas of unwanted facial hair. This process uses a thin strand of cotton thread to pull hair and is a great alternative if your face is too sensitive for waxing. Similar to waxing and tweezing, over time, your hair may grow back finer and less noticeable as the follicle is damaged. Plus, it generally lasts for a few weeks.
Waxing the sideburns gives you a clean result that helps makeup go on evenly, and you won't have to deal with stubble or marks from tweezing, notes Shays. And since the hair is pulled out from the root, it may start to grow in finer over time. Shays estimates she typically sees people anywhere from every four to 10 weeks for a wax, depending on how quickly or thickly their hair grows back. If you have oilier skin, she recommends washing with an acne wash 24 hours after a wax to help avoid a breakout.
Consider Laser Hair Removal
For more permanent sideburn support, you can go to an expert for laser hair removal. The process uses, you guessed it, a laser to damage hair follicles and prevent hair from growing back. Frank is an expert in laser hair removal, and says that it's the only true way to permanently remove hair. "Laser hair removal is great for all skin types and can permanently remove the hair in three to four monthly treatments," he says.
At his office, he also offers a laser treatment called Motus AX. This machine not only removes hair in fewer treatments than a traditional laser, but it can also remove light hair and is safe to use on darker skin tones. "This laser is unique because it treats and heats the area very slowly instead of the classic stamping technique of hair removal," he explains.
Opt for Electrolysis
Although less popular, Electrolysis is another, more permanent, hair removal alternative. Electrolysis uses a fine probe, inserted into the hair follicle, and zaps it with heat or chemical energy so it can't produce any more hair. Treatments can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, and the number of sessions varies. Similar to tweezing vs. threading, this process targets each individual hair follicle whereas laser targets larger areas all at once.
No matter how you choose to remove your hair, remember to avoid any irritants like exfoliants or harsh ingredients immediately after a treatment. You don't want to get rid of your hair only to get bumps, rashes, or other irritation.
How can I remove sideburns on natural hair?
Since natural hair tends to be curly and/or kinky, shaving can possibly cause ingrown hairs. Instead, opt for waxing, electrolysis, or professional laser hair removal.
Why is it bad to shave your sideburns?
Shaving can cause excess irritation, stubble, and ingrown hairs—all things that can negate the otherwise positive results of removing the hair.
What type of hair removal cream should I use?
Reputable brands like Nair and Sturgi-Cream are great—but you want to make sure you have fine, thin hair (coarse hair can be difficult to remove), and you're using a cream that's designed specifically for your face. (Other hair removal creams can be too harsh for the face.) As with any product, do a patch test on a small area of skin to make sure it won't irritate or cause an unwanted reaction on your face.