Let’s be clear: Upper lip hair is normal and totally natural. Nevertheless, it may not be something that you want to occur on your own upper lip area. For that reason, we chatted with a few dermatologists for the best ways to diminish the appearance of upper lip hair.
Before getting into all the tried and true methods of prevention and removal, let’s first go over what causes upper lip hair growth.
According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, the excess production of androgens (male hormones) is often responsible for upper lip hair growth. "There can be a number of medical conditions why people are experiencing an increase in hair growth, but these conditions are usually related to hormonal imbalances," she explains, noting that PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and hirsutism (a condition in which women produce high levels of male androgens, which leads to excessive hair growth) can be to blame. While those are the two most common causes, she says that disorders of the pituitary gland, adrenal gland, or thyroid gland can all also play a role, as well as medications to treat endometriosis, androgen-secreting ovarian tumors, severe insulin resistance, hormonal changes linked to menopause, and the use of anabolic steroids or corticosteroids.
With all that in mind, keep reading for eight dermatologist-recommended tips for diminishing the appearance of upper lip hair.
Despite urban myth, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Robyn Gmyrek says that the hair will not grow in thicker or darker in you shave. "It might feel a bit thicker, but that is only because you cut it in the middle of the hair which is a bit thicker than the tapered tip," she explains. While shaving won’t remove hair from the root, it still has its perks. “This is disadvantageous because it will grow back quickly and many will have to shave every day or every other day,” she admits. “It is advantageous, however, because there is less risk of getting any ingrown hair since you are not pulling the hair out of the root.”
For best results, Gmyrek recommends using a razor designed specifically for the face, as they tend to have small blades that can easily cater to the contours of the face.
Of course, you have options.
If you’re comfortable with a straight razor, Gmyrek recommends the Tinkle razor.
If you’re uncomfortable with a straight razor, you can opt for a body razor designed for sensitive skin (ideally one with a moisture strip), which will still allow you to provide extra care for your complexion.
Lastly, if you despise traditional razors, Dr. Jennifer L. MacGregor, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in Manhattan, says to opt for an electric shaving device. They gently clip the hairs close to the skin and there’s much less risk in potentially cutting yourself in the process.
Consider Applying a Depilatory Cream
Depilatory creams use chemicals to dissolve hair from the surface of the skin. Given their make-up, you might be weary of applying them to your face—and hey, it makes sense. According to Gmyrek, depilatory creams can be irritating— they have strong odors, and can, in some cases, cause allergic reactions. On the upside, if you don’t experience any of those adverse effects, you can look forward to your upper lip hair being at bay for longer than a few days, as these creams sink deep down to dissolve beyond the surface of the skin (though, not quite to the root).
If you’re feeling optimistic about this method, Gmyrek says to buy a formulation that is designed specifically for the face and, if possible, one that’s labeled for sensitive skin. “Do a test patch first to be sure you are not allergic and follow the directions exactly,” she instructs.
Try Threading for Deep Removal Without the Damage
Just as threading is beneficial for your brows, Dr. Jennifer L. MacGregor, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in Manhattan, says that it’s a great way to remove upper lip hair without damaging the skin.
Slow Down Growth With Eflornithine
If your upper lip hair seems to be growing at a super-fast rate, MacGregor recommends consulting your doctor or dermatologist about prescription Eflornithine. This medicated cream slows down the hair growth cycle and, subsequently, can thin out the hair. That said, she points out that it doesn’t actually remove hair on the spot, it just slows down future growth.
Try Laser Hair Removal for Dark Hair (Especially Before It Turns Gray)
Laser hair removal can be performed all over the body, including on the upper lip. To MacGregor, it’s quite simply the best way to permanently reduce hair growth.
The trick is to seek laser removal for the right type of hair, at the right time. That’s because, as Gmyrek points out, it’s only effective on darker hair, as the laser specifically targets the pigment of the hair. So if you have blonde or light brown or red hair, or if your hair has turned gray, it likely won’t work for you.
Effectiveness aside, cost is worth mentioning. While the treatment itself only takes a few minutes, Gmyrek says that each treatment typically costs between $200 and $500, and that to thoroughly remove the hair, it often requires five to seven treatments. In other words, it's pricey. But given it’s the most effective form of hair removal, it’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s worth it. Just remember that it does come with its risks. Namely, skin discoloration, blistering, and scarring—though, they’re rare.
Try Electrolysis for Permanent Removal
Electrolysis is, in a way, a combination of laser hair removal and depilatory creams. That’s because, according to Gmyrek, it removes individual hairs by destroying the growth center with chemicals or heat.
“A fine probe is inserted into the follicle and then the chemical or heat is able to target and destroy the follicle,” she explains. “This is a permanent hair removal option and is a good option for small areas such as the upper lip.”
That said, it’s worth noting that this treatment isn’t performed by derms, but by those certified in electrolysis. “The pro is that it’s permanent,” Gmyrek says. “The cons are that it must be done follicle by follicle so treatment sessions can last 30 minutes or more for an upper lip. Plus, multiple sessions are needed to reach each hair, and scarring can occur if the heat or chemical gets onto the skin surface and not deep into the follicle.”
Consider Dermaplaning for Ultra-Fine Hairs
If you’ve never dermaplaned before, you’re in for a treat. The treatment—which can be performed in-office or at home—uses a blade to not only shave off the hair but also exfoliate away any dead skin cells on the surface.
“The advantage is that you get a very thorough hair removal and it is not painful,” Gmyrek says. “The disadvantages [if you get it performed in-office] are that it is not permanent and it is more expensive than doing it yourself at home.”
While an in-office treatment will cost you around $100 in a metropolitan area like New York, you can perform the treatment safely at home with one of Sephora’s best-selling tools. After using it just once, you’ll be peddling it to your friends and family.
Try Waxing (if You Absolutely Feel You Must)
Last but not least, we have waxing. And truly, this should be the absolute last resort on your list of attempts. As MacGregor sees it, waxing is the worst option. “It rips the top layer of skin off and can be catastrophic,” she warns. Think: major redness and irritation.
That said, there are two sides to every debate and, according to Gmyrek, waxing is affordable and effective at removing the hair in a way that will last longer than other at-home options. “However, it can be painful and some people will experience redness or even irritation of the follicles for several days after,” she warns, noting that the best way to avoid adverse effects is to use the strips as directed.
Up Next: Discover everything you need to know about mole removal, according to dermatologists.