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Safely Removing Unwanted Hair


Many Lymphedema therapists recommend that women with lower extremity lymphedema do not use leg waxing. This article answers the question, WHY NOT? There are several important reasons why this, and other unwanted hair removal treatments are not recommended for those with lymphedema.


  • The wax must be warm to melt. Placing heat on lymphedema affected tissues is not recommended.
  • A cloth is dipped in hot wax and then applied to the skin. Here it is allowed to cool and then the cloth is pulled off. In addition to removing the hair, this treatment can also damage the skin.
  • Skin affected by lymphedema is very sensitive and ,ust be treated gently. "Waxing is not a gentle treatment.”
  • The wax gets into the hair follicle (root)and pulls the hair from the root. This potentially opens a break in the skin that could be an invitation to infection.
  • This procedure does not produce permanent hair removal and must periodically be performed reeated.


  • A depilatory is a strong chemical that is used to remove unwanted hair. Since skin affected by lymphedema is fragile, there is always the danger that a depilatory treament, even when performed by a professional, could damage the skin.


  • The removal of unwanted hair through the use of electrical current to destroy those hair follicles is know as electrolysis. As with any procedure of this sort that is performed in a commercial setting, there is always the danger of infection due to contaminated equipment. Also because skin affected by lymphedema is sensitive, there is always the danger of breaking, irritating, or damaging the skin.


  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends, “A laser hair removal system, which has been approved by the FDA, may not claim that laser hair removal is either painless or permanent."
  • This means that although laser treatments with these devices will permanently reduce the total number of body hairs, they will not result in a permanent removal of all hair.
  • Since skin affected by lymphedema is easily damaged, it is prudent to forego having this procedure performed on lymphedema affected tissues.


  • The National Lymphedema Network (NLN) recommends very carefully using a razor to shave affected legs.
  • Another alternative is to shave very carefully with a properly maintained electric razor that is used only for this purpose.
    Maintenance includes keeping it clean and replacing the razor heads as needed.
  • Shaving under an arm that is affected by lymphedema is difficult because of the swelling and unusual folds in these tissues.
    Another factor is the loss of the sense of touch in this area. Rather than taking chances, it may be best to not shave under this arm.

© LymphNotes 2012. This information does not replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.

Got a question or comment? Post in the 'Living With Lymphedema' forum.
Category: Living With Lymphedema Updated: 2012-07-12


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