Crystal Hair Removers Are All Over TikTok, But Do They Work? | Glamour UK

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Crystal Hair Removers Are All Over TikTok, But Do They Work? | Glamour UK

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By Nicola Dall'Asen and Annabelle Spranklen

Another day, another TikTok-hyped beauty product. This time: crystal hair removers. But what are they… exactly?

Science has achieved so many things we never thought possible. Space travel. All-knowing cell phones. Clones. Why, then, haven't we been able to come up with a pain-free, affordable alternative to razors and waxing for body hair removal? We have the technology, folks.  Those of us who do remove our body hair probably can't estimate exactly how many dollars we've spent on (admittedly wasteful) plastic razor replacement cartridges or how much hissing we've done through gritted teeth while literally ripping out our down-there hair with sticky goo and fabric strips. But TikTok, of course, claims it has found that alternative in crystal hair removers.

You've probably seen them on social in some capacity (even if you aren't on TikTok) these hair removal gadgets are popping up everywhere.Though they vary in colour and shape depending on the brand, crystal hair removers are all pretty much the same thing: small handheld devices with one flat side covered in etched glass. They look a little like your Tangle Teaser. Apparently, after wetting the glass, you can rub it on the skin in circular motions to quickly, easily, and painlessly remove hair (keyword: apparently). TikTok is so obsessed with them that the hashtag #crystalhairremover has accumulated more than 60 million views.

Grab that bikini ahead of this weekend's heatwave.

By Alexia Delecroix and Megan Cornwell

I swear to God, every other advertisement I've seen on the app for the past six months has been for one of these things. Amazon is flooded with them. Even Superdrug is stocking a version by a brand called Tweezy now You know what I'm going to ask: Do they actually work, though? And, more importantly, are they safe? 'Cause, um, rubbing etched glass across the skin seems like something that would be irritating, no? That’s exactly what I asked a couple of experts.

‘Crystal hair erasers look a bit like a hand-held hair brush but without any bristles," says skin and aesthetics expert, Nina Prisk. "They’ve got a huge following on TikTok with many people claiming that they offer pain-free hair removal. The devices have one side which is coated in what feels a bit like sandpaper but is described in a number of ways online, including ‘miniscule glass fragments’, or ‘nano-crystalline technology’ as it is sometimes called. Apparently the idea is that when this is rubbed against the skin, the tool breaks hair and removes it. They are billed as natural, pain-free ways to achieve hair removal.’’

Even the basic mechanism by which crystal hair erasers work is unclear. "I've read and listened to a lot of advertisements about this and, I'm still dubious on the mechanism of action," says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Hamden, Connecticut. "Most claim that an etched crystalline surface makes the hair clump and fall off. When etched glass hits the skin, I think 'cutting' instead of 'clumping' is the more accurate verb."

In fact, Gohara thinks the mechanism is pretty much the same as a standard razor. "This surface cuts the hair down at the follicle opening." Shari Marchbein, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, is even more skeptical of their mechanism. "It is touted to use 'crystal nano technology,' whatever the heck that means, to physically clump hair and literally tear it at the skin's surface." As she points out, pretty much all the information that exists about crystal hair removers come from the companies that make them, and there are few real-life anecdotes about their efficacy aside from some reviews on Amazon. Suss.

Even though you could swear you just plucked that sucker...

I can confidently tell you, though, that these often-generic devices do come with some risk of irritating the hell out of your skin — especially if you use them on sensitive areas such as your armpits or inner thighs. "This seems like an incredibly abrasive and aggressive way to remove hair that can lead to significant redness of the skin, irritation, and in-growns," says Marchbein.

An example of what literally every single crystal hair remover looks like. The etched glass on the flat front surface feels kind of like a glass nail file.

Gohara concurs: "The claims that razor bumps and irritation are reduced don't jive." As she points out, though, that's a risk that comes with pretty much any hair removal process. "Any method of hair removal is unfairly removing it from its home, the follicles; that process can create inflammation regardless of the method." Still, etched glass. Rubbing. Against skin… You know what I'm going to say.

Prisk is also hesitant about the claims. “Whilst I don’t know how effective they are at removing unwanted hair, my first concern as a skin expert is the impact that they will have on skin. Rubbing an abrasive surface such as ‘etched glass’ or ‘nano-crystalline technology’ directly onto skin poses obvious risks of damaging the natural skin barrier and the protection that this provides against infection. When the skin barrier is damaged skin can be more prone to inflammation, itching, redness, as well as serious infection. Rubbing the skin with an abrasive material in this way could pose the risk of removing too much of the outer skin cells, or the epidermis, stripping away the skin’s natural oils and causing sensitivity.”

The good news is that it's not a life-and-death matter if you do decide to try one out for curiosity's sake. If you do, Gohara simply recommends that you stave off any body exfoliation before you use it and follow it up with "tons of barrier repair cream after to lubricate and protect the skin."

Speaking of buying one out of curiosity, my roommate actually did that (before I could offer my warnings and advice as a Good Beauty Editor Friend should). Her thoughts? "There was some light skin exfoliation but definitely not worth it. If anything, you're gonna irritate your skin with how much you're rubbing at it," she says. I'm pretty sure she used it twice, and it has been sitting in our bathroom cabinet, unused, for many weeks since.

Elsewhere, the reviews are mixed. On Amazon, one recent buyer wrote: “Was very skeptical about this product and thought how on earth will this item remove hair and dead skin from my legs. Oh my word, needn't have worried, absolutely the best item I have used on my legs to remove unwanted hair and make my legs feel lovely and smooth.”

Another wasn't so impressed: “Product works well the first time, taking off dead skin cells as well as the hairs. Needs to be used everyday, but doesn't take hair completely off on multiple uses.”

One user said that initially it feels pain-free but the irritation was delayed. “The skin where I rubbed it was very irritated and it hurt…Thank goodness I tried it on a small area. The other thing is that you don't realise that you are irritating the skin because at the moment it doesn't hurt and it didn't get red…”

Marchbein says: "The bottom line is that the crystal hair remover is a total gimmick, like so many things we see on social media," she concludes. “I say, do yourself a favour and pass on this fad.”

"I would advise people to tread with caution if trying this trend and to stop immediately if skin starts to feel sensitive, red or irritated as this could be the sign of a problem. There are many other safe and effective hair-removal alternatives out there," says Prisk.

Crystal Hair Removers Are All Over TikTok, But Do They Work? | Glamour UK

Skincare Wand A version of this article originally appeared on Allure.