There you are, standing in front of the bathroom mirror with your razor in your hand, ready to do the same annoying thing you’ve done (almost) every day since the last day of puberty: Shave your face. Considering that the average man shaves 20,000 times in his lifetime, it’s safe to say that, if you’re tired of it all, you wouldn’t be the first to seek out an alternative to dragging a sharp metal blade across your supple skin every 24 hours.
Naturally, you might think, why not wax it off, and not worry about shaving it for a month or two? Heck, people have been waxing their legs, brows, bikini lines and nose hairs for ages — why not facial hair, too?
Let me stop you right there. You might think you’ve happened upon a glorious shaving loophole, but there are a few problems with your little plan, says dermatologist Dr. Anthony Rossi. “Sure, people, particularly women, wax hair off their face all the time — eyebrow hair, upper lip hair and other areas of unwanted facial hair. However, for a man, it may be very painful to wax beard hair,” explains Rossi. “These hairs are more coarse terminal hairs and there is a larger density of them. It may be quite painful, and leave erosions.”
Terminal hairs, you see, are not like the hairs growing around the edges of your ears, or springing out of the tops of your toes, which is called vellus hair, i.e., peach fuzz. That hair is generally lighter in color, less coarse and most importantly, not influenced by hormones like testosterone.
Terminal hair is the opposite. It’s dark, thick, mature hair that mostly men get starting with puberty. It’s also very strong, found in denser patches than vellus hair and deeply rooted in the second layer of skin, known as the dermis. In other words, it’s hair that you don’t want to rip out with wax if you don’t have to. That’s because, as Rossi explained, doing so could result in something called “erosions.”
“An erosion is when the epidermis, the top layer of skin, is removed. It can lead to scar or color changes when healed,” Rossi says. “It is also quite painful.” Just google “skin erosion” if you need a visual reference, but I recommend you take the doctor’s word for it.
In the end, given the painful and potentially scarring results of trying to wax off your facial hair, it’s definitely not worth it. Shaving is, still, the undisputed king of removing hair from one’s face, even if you have to do it every stinking day. But don’t let it get you too down — there are ways to make shaving less of a drag. Or you could grow a beard.
Bottom line: Just take our word for it and don’t wax your face, okay?