Genetically, I don't think I inherited the hirsute gene from my lineage, as I went through my entire puberty and teens without sprouting a single hair in my armpits. Unlike Julia Roberts, today I have about twenty hairs there in total. I also never tweezed my eyebrows. They were always the right shape and thickness for my face. My arms and thighs? Not much hair growth there, either. But being born Mediterranean, in an area of the world where the hairiest women proudly cluster and boast sugaring hair-removal techniques (halawa) which were probably invented by Cleopatra, I was nonetheless trapped in the feminist battlefields of the centuries-old Hair Wars.
You see when I was 13-years-old, my family moved to Greece, home to some of the hairiest of them all; and one of my first friends was our landlord's daughter who lived in the same building. When I met her, she had some noticeable upper lip hair, but one day, it was gone along with all the other hair on her body! Of course, I wanted to try this waxing thing that the pubescent Greek goddesses were doing, even though I had no upper lip hair at the time. My dear friend obliged in giving me instructions, and the rest is history. I've been paying for this mistake all my life. Ever since that one time, the more I waxed, the more hairs came out, and they were more determined to be fruitful and to multiply with each plucking. It was a vicious cycle, and I was doomed.
So throughout my adult life, I've had to do this monthly routine of waxing my upper lip, until it became a bi-monthly routine, and eventually become a weekly routine. So as I tired of constantly waxing and tired of the the fear of being away from my tweezers for more than 24 hours, I decided to try electrolysis. I tried it at a dermatologist and I tried it at home. It was daunting and didn't work. Then when laser hair removal was introduced in the 1990s, I tried that too. It didn't work, was expensive, and each session gave me unsightly blisters and dark spots. Additionally, because of the requirement to SHAVE before each session, the hairs on my upper lip got stronger and increased in number. This was bad, so I quit the laser and went back to waxing and tweezing. By then, I had to wax or tweeze almost every other day to keep up with the rapid hair growth.
After exhausting many options and in desperation for a solution, I turned to history in search of the early traditions used for hair removal. Posted on my favorite folk medicine website, Earthclinic.com, I found information about the use of ALUM by Asian women to stop hair growth. This made me extremely curious and led to deeper research. It's claimed that when a mixture of alum and rosewater solution is applied to freshly removed hair pores, eventually hair will stop growing in that area. Apparently in India, this is done to girls early in puberty, and by the time they reach their teens, they would be hair-free in all the right places. So, I decided to give it a try for a year and see what happens. Being in my late-forties already, I knew I was getting a very late start on this, but I had nothing to lose, and I had tried everything else (except this new product I just found, which is used in a similar way). And now that it's been exactly a year since I started using alum, I'm going to report the results of this personal experiment here on the Broo.
1/2 teaspoon of alum (I got mine at Amazon)
1 teaspoon high quality pure rose water
(quantity needed for upper lip area)
In a sake-sized cup, mix the two ingredients thoroughly until most of the alum is dissolved. It's hard to dissolve it completely, so do your best. You can use an art paintbrush to mix and apply the solution to the skin. After about ten minutes, the alum will dry and grain. Reactivate it by spraying some rosewater on the skin and leaving it on for an additional 10 minutes. Wash all the alum off under running water and pat the skin dry with a towel. The epilated area must be washed very well, especially if it's on the face or near the eyes. Alum can sting and damage eyes. I found alum to also have a nice post-waxing cooling effect. The Executive Shaving Company even sells it in the form of an after shave balm.
Finally, moisturize the skin with coconut oil.
I did this for 6 months, then I decided to add another step to the method to encourage the alum to more efficiently go into the hair pores. To get this effect, I wiped the skin with a cotton round saturated with hydrogen peroxide before applying the alum solution. It bubbles and cleans the pores deeply, making them more open to receive the alum solution. Hydrogen peroxide not only made a wonderful sterilizing agent for the pores, but I feel like it might have helped the alum solution to further slow my hair growth in the second 6 months of this trial.
- I have 70% less hair on my upper lip today than I did a year ago.
- I only need to wax about once every ten days, as opposed to every other day.
- I can easily skip the magna mirror and tweezing routine a couple of days a week.
- The hairs that remain are much thinner and no longer have dark strong roots.
- I have much less ingrown hair problems in the area.
- It didn't cost time or much money ($15 total)
- I see less wrinkling on my smoker's upper lip. I don't know if this is from the alum-- since it's also known for it's tautening effect, or from the fact that I'm less frequently waxing and yanking at my skin, but I definitely see less wear and tear on my upper lip. In some African and Middle Eastern countries, alum is used to restore female virginity by tightening the vagina! So who knows?
Since I haven't yet reached the point where I can throw away my tweezers, I plan to keep this up for another six months and see what happens. Until then,
Keep your ears on...