If you decide that hair removal will be part of your transition:
Start as early as possible
- At the very least, try to get your face to where it’s cleared in one weekly session prior to going full-time. Trying to live full-time before starting hair removal can affect employment, social situations, and relationships.
Do your face first
- Dealing with facial hair while full-time is one more stress in your life, since it is one of the strongest gender cues.
Hormones and hair removal
- Hormones will have little or no effect on existing facial hair.
- Anti-androgens may help reduce the amount of hair removal you’ll need, although they may worsen your pain threshold.
Thinning vs. clearing
- Some practitioners advocate thinning facial hair over several sessions because it’s easier on the skin. For those already full-time, clearing is usually the preferred option. While clearing, it’s usually best to clear an area and keep it clear, then using any leftover time in subsequent sessions to extend the cleared area.
- Schedule hair removal so you’ll be hair-free at optimal times, whether that’s workdays or weekends.
- Schedule enough time to get done in each session.
- Missing sessions /arriving late is the most common and preventable way people waste money on hair removal.
1. Complete hair removal, then go full-time
- I think most people would agree that this is the ideal. Unfortunately, this is rarely possible. For some, this is not an option because of money issues. For some, they cannot stand the thought of waiting that long to go full-time. However, the closer you are to completion when you go full-time means it’s one less stressful thing to worry about, and one less masculine trait to contend with.
2. Get face to where it’s cleared in a weekly session, then go full-time
- This is probably the next easiest option. By the time you are clearing your face in one weekly session, you will look like you have no facial hair. However, anyone who gets very close, sees you in direct sunlight, or touches your face will probably notice hairs as you get closer to your weekly session. Most of the week will be fine, but you will have to deal with concealing hair toward the end of the week. The good thing about this method is that if you time your weekly treatment right, you can either be totally clear over the weekend or for most of the work week, whichever is more important to you.
3. Clear entire face once, then go full-time
- If you can wait to go full-time until you have cleared your entire face once, you will at least be a little ahead of the game. You won’t have the outline of a beard or pronounced five o’clock shadow, but you will need to conceal that hair, shave, or go in several times a week tobe accepted as female, especially if you have dark hair. Some people think, “Well, I’ll just zip down to E2000 or to the laser place, get my face cleared once, then transition.” Keep in mind a place like E2000 books months in advance. Even they usually estimate around 6 treatments spaced six weeks apart. In the interim you will have growth to be dealt with.
4. Go full-time, then start hair removal
- This is a difficult way to do it. It’s not impossible, but it’s certainly more stressful. In the event of financial necessity or other reasons that keep you from doing hair removal prior to going full-time, you will need to pay a lot of attention to how you conceal your facial hair, if being accepted as female is your goal. I don’t know much about concealing facial hair, since I’ve never had to deal with it.
- Crossdressers typically take hours to ready themselves for public outings. Most of this time is spent in trying, with varying degrees of success, to conceal facial hair. Until hair removal has her facial hair under control, the transsexual woman must undergo the same sort of rigorous preparation for even the most simple errand, or risk being perceived as a man.
- Several crossdresser pages have more advice on makeup tips and other ways to conceal facial hair, and as I come across this information, I’ll include links to it in later versions.
5. Complete bottom surgery, then start hair removal
- There are people who feel bottom surgery is more important than anything else. Instead of getting hair removal, they save all their money to get bottom surgery as soon as possible. Usually they say they needed to do it because they wanted to feel like a woman, or they had a strong aversion to their genitals.
- Generally, it can be very helpful to step back and think about why you feel genital configuration is the defining characteristic of femininity. When you are out in public, no one will know what your genitals look like, but everyone will see your face and use it to identify you as male or female. If you are interested in SRS in order to pursue intimate or sexual relationships in a female role, coarse facial hair would be a major difficulty in most intimate encounters where you hope to be treated as a woman.
- People who opt for bottom surgery to the exclusion of everything else may be setting themselves up for a lot of hassle they could avoid otherwise. The Standards of Care guidelines are in place to make certain that people aren’t rushing into something they haven’t thought through. Some people have showed up on the date of their scheduled surgery with all the papers and been turned away because they hadn’t completed hair removal. Pretty harsh, huh? Pretty unfair, right? Well, all reputable plastic surgeons screen out patients they feel have unrealistic expectations, questionable motivations, are poor candidates physically or psychologically, or whose lives they feel will not be improved through surgery. SRS surgeons have standards like weight requirements and HIV screening because they do not want to endanger the patient. Some feel that socialization in your chosen gender, or hair removal, are other requirements they must uphold in the same way. That may be arbitrary, sexist, insulting, and so on and so forth. However, that’s the way it is, and this is just fair warning.
A published study from 2000 corroborates anecdotal evidence that hormone use has almost no effect on trans facial hair. In the study, 21 trans women had their hair evaluated at baseline and after 4, 8, and 12 months after starting hormones. The authors conclude it had some effect on body hair, but not on facial hair: “Though all parameters of hair growth and sebum production declined, facial hair growth continued.”  The question remains whether HRT can help increase effectiveness of laser or electrolysis, but based on these findings, the best one can probably hope for is the halting of potential follicles from converting to hair-bearing follicles.
Bottom line: don’t count on HRT to affect facial hair, but it certainly can’t hurt.
 Giltay EJ, Gooren LJ. Effects of sex steroid deprivation/administration on hair growth and skin sebum production in transsexual males and females. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2000 Aug;85(8):2913-21
Shaving or not
Some feel that shaving is important in the early stages of treatment (and it doesn’t make hair grow in thicker). Electrolysis and laser are most effective on actively growing hairs. Treating your resting hairs is a waste of time and money, it can hurt more (they’re closer to the surface) and increases the potential for skin damage.
Try to avoid shaving if at all possible until your redness and swelling have completely subsided. However, it can be good to shave a couple of days before your next appointment. Any hairs that grow out will be in anagen phase, and they will be in more effectively treated. If you can get in often enough to keep up with this new growth, you’ll save yourself time in the long run. The longer a hair is allowed to grow after it surfaces through the skin, the stronger the root gets. For me that meant going in 2-3 times a week for a while. This is another reason to try to get done before you go full-time.
If you absolutely must shave immediately after treatment, you may find an electric foil razor such as Braun’s less irritating on inflamed skin (a blade razor will probably tear the small ‘pimples’ which often appear when such coarse hairs are epilated).
If you shave between sessions, you may again find an electric foil razor less irritating. If you use a regular razor, make sure it’s sharp, and avoid any shaving creams with menthol and other irritants. Some find a non-spirit-based aftershave like Clinique’s Post-Shave Healer helps. You will need 18 to 48 hours’ growth for treatment so your electrologist has enough hair to see the angle and to grasp with tweezers.
Having said all that, others feel that if you don’t need to shave between sessions, it’s best to avoid it. Once you’re to the point you don’t need to shave between sessions, you can start letting your fine vellus hairs grow. Shaving removes them, and this can make your face look waxy and unnatural. The sooner you can let this fine down cover your cheeks the better (yet another reason to start before full-time).
One of the best feelings about getting electrolysis is looking at dust-covered shaving equipment in a closet. Everyone I know was thrilled that they no longer had to shave, as not having to do so reinforced their private views of themselves as women. Several stated that the morning shaving routine had always reminded them of their maleness.
Two strategies for removing hair
This method involves removing every hair from an area during a session. This has the advantage of leaving an area totally hair-free. Some electrologists feel that treating too many hairs near each other is hard on the skin and can cause excessive swelling and drying in the treated area.
This is a more gradual process of clearing an area of visible hair over several sessions. It’s easier on the skin and allows for quicker recovery. This method may not be ideal if you are already full-time, although it’s possible for those full time to do it this way.
Once you’ve decided on thinning versus clearing, the following methods are usually used. Most people need several sessions to clear their face for the first time. For instance, I had 48 hours of treatment before my face was cleared the first time. The basic strategy is to start in an area and keeping that area clear. Any leftover time is used to expand the cleared area.
The most common way is to work toward the jaw either from the cheeks down, from the throat up, or from both directions. For instance, I had extremely coarse hair just under my jawline, so I started on the throat and worked up to the jawline. I think that this approach is somewhat less noticeable to others, too, since the work is being done in an non-prominent area. Once the area under the jaw was staying cleared, I started down from the cheeks, leaving a thinner and thinner strip of hair along the jaw.
I had that Abe Lincoln/Captain Nemo/Judge Ito look going for a couple of weeks. Eventually the strip of hair was thin enough that we started moving down from the ears toward the chin. This was a tricky part for me– I had to book several sessions that week, because I wanted to get the strips gone and leave me with a goatee. I think it took three two-hour sessions to get to the goatee look. Once I was there, I didn’t have to worry about comments from people at work about my weird facial hair pattern.
A less common method is to do the upper lip first. I don’t recommend this, because it’s the most difficult part. You’re probably better off experimenting with pain management techniques, and tackling the upper lip once you’ve found an effective strategy.
No matter what, you should do your face before you spend time and money on other areas. The face will be where most people decide your gender, and it’s the area hardest to conceal with temporary methods.
Day of week for treatment
At first you may be going several times a week for electrolysis. Once you’re down to one weekly session, it’s good to go the same day and time each week. Setting a regular appointment can be easier to remember and schedule and budget for.
The day you choose depends on your schedule and what you want as your optimal hair free night. I was in a self-imposed hermit mode, spending my weekends doing fun things like writing about hair removal. Because I’m not out at work, I want things not to be noticeable Monday through Friday. A friend of mine likes to do hers on Thursday so she can enjoy Saturday without redness or hair. However, I should point out that I’ve gone back to work right after sessions and not had anyone say anything. The best thing to do is experiment a bit till you find a good routine, then stick with that as best you can.
If you don’t get done during your session
One of the most depressing things to have happen is not getting done before your session is over. This is especially difficult if you’re already full-time (another reason to start NOW!). Keep in mind a session is not wall-to-wall hair removal. There are usually a few minutes of prep time up front, as well as cleanup time at the end. This can add up to a significant percentage of your total time, especially if you are only getting a half hour or 15 minutes. The shorter the session, the less actual zapping. Ask your electrologist throughout the session if it looks like you’ll be able to get it all. If he or she doesn’t think so, have them either get the coarsest ones, skip the area below the jaw or chin, or see if you can get additional time. Ask the next person if you can finish things up. Any cool transsexual who has been in the same position will probably help you out, unless they have their own time concerns or need to get back to work or something. Perhaps you can wait until an opening later. Your best bet is prevention, though. Try not to book just enough time to get done. If you give yourself an extra half an hour, the session won’t feel as stressful (see pain management), and there are always hairs you can get somewhere else if you get your face done. Some weeks you will have more growth than others, so if it looks like it’s going to be a bad week, call in advance and arrange extra time.
Plan for busy times
Most people are concerned about having their face clear during the work week, whether they’re out or not. That means Friday evenings and Saturdays are the busiest times for most electrologists. There are also seasonal and holiday fluctuations. Christmastime and before Valentine’s Day can be tricky, and there’s usually a surge in the spring as people prepare for shorts and swimsuits. My electrologist also has a huge surge before Labor Day because of a huge local drag pageant. If you need work done around those times, try to book it earlier than usual, or better yet, keep a standing appointment.
Ask if your electrologist plans to be out of town. If so, try to book time as close as possible to his or her departure and return. Do the same if you plan to be out of town. If you will be gone for an extended period, you may want to find an electrologist where you’re going. Do that the same way as you found your main one– ask other TG women in that area, or get a referral from your electrologist or a professional association.