Can hair break beneath the skin surface?


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Feb 11, 2016
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The first few years of waxing and epilation was great - textbook outcome, smooth skin for a few weeks, legs with beautiful sheen etc. However, for the past 8 years I noticed a significant change. I was getting BAD results. Stubbly skin (probably because my epilator was snapping the hairs rather than pulling them out by the root), ingrowns, infections - so I started plucking the hairs, one by one, and as for the ingrowns - I was attacking them with tweezers+needles. Little did I know I did more damage than good. At its worst, my legs looked like a plucked chicken, alot like a case of Keratosis Pilaris (only it wasnt) - I simply picked, scratched, plucked and tweezed to the extent that I was giving myself huge scabs and wounds. It took over a year for this to heal.

The problems I am having with waxing/epilation are many, but I believe they ll stem from one issue - that my hair snaps. I’ve tried to outline a few important points below:

  • My skin is stubbly, hairs grow back within a couple of days.
  • Hair breaks/snaps rather than coming out at the root. But get this; hairs that seemingly DON’T snap, hair that seemingly DO come out from under the skin still have no roots. I assume these hairs have been snapped *underneath* the skin’s surface, and that the rest of the snapped hair still lies in the follicle (could explain all the ingrowns). This gives my waxed area a horrible texture.
  • Even when I tweeze the hair breaks/snaps!
  • I'm more prone to ingrowns than I was the first 2 years.
  • Some hair has become so fine that it can't even push through the surface and instead is growing parallel with the skin just below the surface! I cant touch or reach it even with needles, but I can see it! Scary!
  • When hair grows back - it grows back patchy, some grow back tapered, others grow back blunt.
  • The wax won’t stick to my hairs. Sometimes, not even the tweezer can yank them out, it’s like my pores hold onto hair for dear life and then the hair snap when I pull.

I’m pretty sure that the hairs are breaking rather than the next growth cycle coming through. What’s interesting, they break in two different ways.

  • They snap at the skins surface. This always happens with the finer hairs (legs, thighs, arms)
  • They snap just beneath the skin's surface (legs, underarms, bikiniline, vulva, labia
The reason I believe the hairs snap beneath the skin’s surface is because my hairs have no roots! This goes for the hairs that I can clearly see being yanked out from underneath the skin’s surface. And since these hairs have no root, some of these even seem tapered (rather than having blunt edges like the hairs that are being snapped of ABOVE the skin’s surface) - I must assume they are snapped beneath the skin’s surface, still in their hair follicle.

And you know what’s more? Sometimes, when I tweeze out a hair I can see an “old” hair coming out from the same follicle, almost as if that old hair has been lying in that follicle for months after having been snapped, and then eventually migrated to the surface. I know it sounds insane, but I don’t know how to best explain this!

I don't experience any pain when waxing my legs (probably because the hairs are being snapped rather than pulled out at the root) which also adds to my suspicion. In contrast, whenever I wax or epilate my underarms, the pain is excruciating but the results are a lot better, I can see some of the hairs with their roots (not all). Worth mentioning is that this area is the place I’ve waxed the least, so the hairs are still very coarse.

I’ve read that waxing can disrupt the follicle that helps guide the hair from the root to the surface, so when a new hair tries to grow from the root, it can get stuck beneath the surface, causing an ingrown. All the snapping could explain why I get so many ingrowns now, when I never ever used to before.

I'm wondering if my constant waxing sessions have made the hairs thinner and finer, thus making them more prone to breaking? Has my waxing for a decade been all in vain, counterproductive? Everybody says the positive side of waxing is that the hairs become finer and lighter, and that’s supposed to be a good thing, but what do you do then the hairs become so fine that they snap, eventually causing infections, scars, and a really ugly apprearance, and too light which makes you a bad candidate for laser treatment?

I'm turning desperate. I've started to “tweeze-only” rather than wax/epilate areas such as the bikini area. but this is time consuming and painful for my neck, hands, fingers and back. Tweezing eyebrows works, but have you ever tried to tweeze out hairs, one by one, on your entire legs?! It-takes-hours! Yes, tweezing works better than epilating and waxing but even with tweezers my hairs snap :( My upper lip? It’s IMPOSSIBLE to wax, epilate, or pluck. The hair here is so fine it just snaps at the surface.

I don't think there's anything wrong with my waxing technique because I tried on other people and their waxed area is smooth for weeks!

I've tried everything! Sugaring, hot/cold wax, Veet wax straps, home made sugar wax, Veet wax. Always pull parallell to the skin, exfoliate, scrub, moisturize etc etc.

I’ve put off writing this post for years! For years this has been troubling me and I always thought it was probably the epilator (bought a new one, top of the line, problem persisted), the wax, my techinique or something else. But then I began closely watching inspecting the hairs that were pulled out and I came to the above mentioned conclusion.

Please help! I dont want to have chicken skin!
Can I sugest you go to a professional and let them wax your legs and see if they have better luck because I know waxing myself is not an easy thing and if this is causing you so much stress it has to be worth a go, let a profeesional take control of your legs for a few waxing sessions and just see if the problem persists, if not then it's probably your technique on YOURSELF, waxing others is different to waxing yourself, you can get a much better stretch on someone else than you can on yourself and the removal angle can be awkward to get right too.
I Agree with Baggybear above. Visit an experienced therapist who can help you through these problems.
Poor technique and an inferior wax ... and waxing/tweezing/epilating/picking/scratching too frequently.
As already suggested you need a good waxing professional and top quality wax.
And you need to leave the hairs alone in-between your wax appointments.
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I'm not sure how to word this and I really hope you don't take offence because there is honestly none intended.

You post comes across as if you have devoted a lot of research, time, effort and expense to this issue. Picking, plucking, scratching and tweeting your own legs, to the point where you've got huge scabs and wounds, is not 'normal' (for want of a better word), neither is spending hours tweezing each individual hair, examining it, analysing how and why and where the hair snapped, etc. It seems a bit obsessional/compulsive - that's just what I get from your post.

If you visited me for an appointment with your skin and body hair in the condition you've described, I wouldn't carry out a treatment, I'd probably advise you to go see your GP as a first step to see if you need antibiotics/medicated cream/something else.

My own advice to you other than see your GP would be to do nothing except for some very gentle exfoliation and moisturising and other than that, LEAVE IT ALONE, and come back in 6 weeks.

I hope you get it sorted because it's obviously causing you some distress xx
Thanks for the replies!

For those of you who say it's the technique, I dont believe so because it doesn't explain why I get the same bad results with tweezing and epilating. WhenI tweeze my eyebrows it works fine, i see the bulb, when I tweeze legs the hairs seem to have no root at all (or they just snap). I am starting to believe this has something to do with the hairs rather than the technique.

KrisKross - Yes I know it's a compulsive behaviour, and it bothers me because I am wasting time on something that could be easily done. Like I said I've waxed for ten years, the first few years with textbook outcome, so I can't understand this change.

The compulsiveness comes from a "all-or-nothing attitute" - you see, once I have dedicated time into cooking my wax, prep work, waxing the legs, and still see a bunch of hairs, I feel like I need to tweeze out those hairs that the wax didn't manage to pull out, otherwise all the time I spent with the wax would've been in vain and I couldve just shaved in stead. But then, since so MANY hairs are left after waxing, I have so many to tweeze. Well - you see the dilemma here...

I don't have huge wounds anylonger (this was at its worst, which was a few years ago - then I stopped the exessive picking and just left the hair alone, and then again decided I'd give waxing/epilating a try). But the thing is, even when I don't pluck (and only wax/epilate) I seem to get "chicken skin" - it's as if the hairs are not able to poke through the skin (only my theory), and so I get all bumpy, coarse skin with horrible texture and red spots. Exfoliation, leaving the hair alonge (for months!), moisturize, you name it, I've tried it all. =(

I've seen my GP and even four dermatologists about this, the dermatologists and docs here dont care for that kind of issues. Once I was told by a dermatologists that "there are people with cancer and you book an appointment for some spots". That was kind of harsh to hear.

Thanks so much!
I've got to jump in here in the agreement of the OP.
I have tried therapist after therapist to get a good result waxing my legs. It works jisr kind of ok the first time, then thereafter I'm left with exactly the same problem as the OP. the hair breaking off at the skins surface or just above. I've even has a therapist tweezer some out after waxing and your follicle is so deep under the skin it could be why most of them snap.

My leg hair isn't coarse and will grow quite fine resulting in the hair snapping - leaving me to go back to a razor. Defeated.

Op I really feel your pain! Like me, you may have to give up the idea of waxing. :(
@Chiara22 and @squidgernetball could one of you please move to Norwich :)

I've tried 5 different therapist so far and the same thing always happens :(

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