Rip, Razor or Clip?

January 30, 2015
Rip, Razor or Clip?

Nothing says "new-to-road-riding" quite as quickly as hairy legs.

You can be the strongest rider in the bunch, but if you’re combining Lycra with fur then you’re committing a grave cycling sin. It’s almost a surprise you’ve not been banished by the bunch (or handed a can of shaving cream).

4 Compelling and Scientific Reasons to Remove All Hair from Your Legs

  1. It’s all about marginal gain. That hair is dragging you back, figuratively and literally.
  2. They say that calf implants are a bit of a surgical rage? Well that’s something you’re never going to need given all the cycling you do – you’ve got calves of well-sculpted steel. It’s just you can’t see them for all the hair.
  3. Would you like some hair in your gravel rash? Apparently shaving isn’t first and foremost about looking good on the bike – it’s to do with gravel rash. Cleaning debris from wounded legs is easier when hair’s not involved.
  4. Name one pro rider with hairy legs. If the last three points haven’t got you running for a razor, I can almost hear you say “if Gerro jumped off a cliff that doesn’t mean I’d have to follow”. No – but Gerro looks the total goods. Yep – it’s a superficial finish, but a convincing one…

So hopefully (for your bunch’s sake) you’re now faltering; you’re thinking that maybe, just maybe you should acquiesce and go for the shave. And if that’s the case – you have options. It’s not just about the razor. Keep reading.

The Blade

Pros

It’s quick and easy. Do it whilst you’re having a shower and the job’s over in no time.

  • It’s cheap. Even if you opt for an electric razor it’s still a relatively inexpensive buy. My advice – invest in a quality brand and don’t keep the one razor for months. Keep an eye on the blade and once it starts feeling even slightly blunt, it’s time for a replacement (and this is where the brands usually sting you a bit more).
  • There’s little chance of stuffing this up, short of accidentally nicking your skin if you’re in a rush.

Cons

  • You’re never going to have a perfectly smooth result – because the blade cuts the hair above the pore level, it means there’s always just a fraction that remains.
  • The pesky buggers are back already – again because the follicle is not removed at the root it doesn’t take long for it to return (especially in warm weather). Prickly.
  • Folliculitis (can look like small red bumps or white-headed zits around the hair follicle) – a common condition in which hair follicles become inflamed.
  • Old Wives suggest that shaving with a razor will see hairs return darker and thicker than they were originally.

The Rip

Not nearly as easy as the Karate Kid makes it out to be (“wax on, wax off”), waxing is basically removing hairs by applying a molten solution to the skin, waiting for it to cool down and solidify, and then having it yanked off with gusto, ripping out hair follicles as it goes.

Pros

  • Leaves legs feeling really smooth.
  • Takes some time for hairs to return.
  • Those same Old Wives who were nattering on about shaving also have a few things to say about waxing, suggesting that this process sees hairs return lighter than they were originally.

Cons

  • Make sure you get someone who knows what they’re doing. Rookies and hot wax should not go together, especially anywhere near your legs. Think potential burns and scarring.
  • If you can smash your muscles to within an inch of their lives on the bike, but you can’t handle the thought of a tweezer, then chances are you’re not going to be one for waxing. Imagine having all the hairs in your legs yanked out (not exactly a creative analogy). If you can do this, then you’ve nailed how it feels to get a wax.

Laser

OK so now we move into the more serious, and more potentially long-term, hair removal options. We start with Laser because it hurts a little less – let’s ease into this.

Laser basically sends pulses of light down to the hair follicle to destroy it. It’s suggested that the paler the skin and darker the hair, the more effective this treatment will be. So if you’re a chalk white brunette like me – bingo. If you’re super blonde or dark skinned the laser is apparently less likely to be effective.

This process involves a series of visits at intervals – it’s not a one-hit wonder.

Pros

  • No more weekly (or more frequently) maintenance routine. Instead you just have to commit to a series of single sessions every month or couple of months.
  • Not sure if this is a pro or a con, but successful results usually mean hair disappears for months on end, if not several years.

Cons

  • This process is apparently referred to as ‘permanent hair reduction’ versus permanent hair removal. So don’t go into it thinking your legs will be hairless for life!
  • Ker-ching. Longer term results mean bigger budgets.
  • No accidental sun whilst cycling! Any skin burning before a laser treatment will delay the laser session, for obvious reasons.

Electrolysis

OK this is when you’re going to need a fairly robust pain threshold. A more invasive hair removal process, electrolysis sees a needle inserted into skin and either a chemical or heat applied to destroy the hair follicle. There are two types of electrolysis methods; galvanic (using sodium hydroxide) and thermolic (using heat). Often mild anaesthetic is used (no surprises why!).

Pros

  • Apparently this is considered the most effective permanent hair removal method – so out of all these ways to get you aero, smooth and looking the part, this is number one. However….

Cons

  • It may be the most effective permanent hair removal method, but even electrolysis isn’t in fact permanent! From what I’ve read, the going rate is about 35% of hairs which are permanently removed. Personally I am not sure the pain/destruction ratio works for me…
  • As for laser – ker-ching!
  • Each hair follicle needs to be treated individually. So that means you experience a needle inserted into the hair follicle each and every time. I’m imaging discomfort and I’m also imagining a laborious process.
  • Some treatments have resulted in permanent skin pigmentation changes.

And now for the super obvious disclaimer – this is not a list of recommended hair removal options. Seek advice from your GP and/or investigate options more thoroughly before going ahead with hair removal.