Hi. I’m wondering if you can help me. I’m 16-years-old and suddenly hair is growing where it shouldn’t (below my underarm, almost next to my breast). Can I shave it? I’m scared that if I do it will get worse! Do you have any advice? Also is it normal to grow hair there? ELLA
Before anything else, there’s no need to worry or panic. What you are experiencing right now is perfectly normal. Being a teenager means going through many changes—both physically and emotionally. It seems like your body has changed practically overnight, and yes, that might include hair growing in areas where they didn’t grow before. The body you once knew has begun to change, and it will continue to change in time.
Before you do anything drastic, you must know that your underarms are actually very sensitive. They have a weaker barrier function than the skin in the rest of our bodies. We also tend to sweat more in that area which makes it prone to bacteria (of course, you already know to use an anti-perspirant/deodorant to remedy this). The reason why I mention all these is to remind you to be gentle with your underarms, and properly care for it so that it doesn’t darken or get irritated.
Now, with regards to your question of whether or not you should resort to shaving: There are pros and cons. The advantage of shaving is that it is quick and relatively easy. The downside to this is that hair grows back in just a day or two, and over time it can cause ingrown hairs, darkening of the underarms (due to razor burn or friction—we tend to remove 1/3 of our skin when we shave) and if you’re not careful, get nicks and cuts. I wouldn’t recommend shaving your underarms unless it was absolutely necessary (say, you had to wear a sleeveless top or swimwear and had no other means to remove the hair but with a razor). Like I said, it is the quickest way to remove unwanted hair but it can make the area unsightly in time. Not to worry though, there are other ways to go about removing hair on your underarms. These may take a bit of an effort (and may cost more than a razor), but will definitely produce better results.
Get a wax. Though you may find do-it-at home waxing kits at your nearest drugstores or department stores, I still suggest you go to a professional to get this done. There is a proper technique for waxing that you might not be able to do on your own. In this case, a waxing technician will know exactly what to do, and will leave your armpits smooth and hair-free for a good week and a half to two weeks. Another plus is that hair that is waxed tends to grow back less dense than before, and will be less painful the next time you go for a wax.
Go for laser hair removal. This procedure used to be quite expensive, as the technology was still new a few decades ago. But now, practically every dermatology clinic and aesthetician center offers this, at an affordable price or payment scheme. This uses laser beams to literally zap away underarm hair, until it finally falls off after the second or third session. Depending on the machine used, it can feel something like a quick slap on the skin to absolutely nothing. Results can be seen in about five to six sessions. Of course, being that you’re only 16, you will probably need permission from your parents to undergo this treatment. Some clinics may need to wait until you are 18, so check on this. This is, however, the most effective hair-removal treatment there is, as it guarantees that you’ll be hair-free (on your underarms) for life.
This article was published in the Lifestyle Section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on September 5, 2013.