Stitch in Time

A single strand of cotton in the hands of a skilled artisan can turn into a beautiful garment, tapestry, and more. That same simple thread can also clean up unwanted hair with the flick of a wrist. Known as khite in Arabic, threading dates back thousands of years with an elusive origin in Central Asia or India. It is a longstanding tradition in Indian grooming culture and also a noteworthy facial hair-removal technique throughout the Middle East and China. There, it’s as prevalent as young American girls learning to braid each other’s hair. In recent years, threading boutiques and spa services have migrated west to the U.S. to keep up with the demand for quick, natural hair-removal alternatives. “Our clients are very particular about what is applied onto their skin and any pulling of skin around the eye area,” says Farida J. Lynch, esthetician at Red Door Spa (Westchester, NY). “Threading is great, because it just pulls the hair itself, not the skin.”

American women see hair removal as a key part of being well groomed and are in search of easier ways to do so, according to the Mintel Shaving and Hair Removal Products U.S. September 2014 report. Threading is proving to be an enticing spa offering, because it effectively controls unwanted hair growth with minimal side effects and no contraindications. “Threading does not irritate the skin, it’s quick, and the result is a beautiful, youthful brow,” says Lynch. “It is also less expensive than waxing.” The art of threading can and historically has been used all over the face and body. In the U.S., however, it is mostly sought out for its ability to shape eyebrows into sculptural arches and remove hair on the upper lip and cheeks. For larger areas on the body and bikini, other hair-removal services like waxing and laser tend to be preferred. “We are offering a service that increases the  self-confidence of every woman out there using the best technique of threading but also helping our artisans to gain their self-esteem in the workforce,” says Umbreen Sheikh, owner of Wink Brow Bar (New York City).


Starting Lineup

To remove hair, threaders twist a thick cotton thread, often imported from India or another Asian country, into a loop, place it on the surface of the face, and move it along swiftly, entwining each individual hair and pulling it out line by line. “Threading is a very intricate technique and produces an amazing shape for the brow,” says Lynch. “The client leaves the spa looking fresh, not red or irritated.” Even the finest hairs are pulled cleanly from the root, eliminating ingrown hairs. In as little as 15 minutes, a smooth, hairless complexion or expertly groomed eyebrows are revealed.

Predictable and precise results make it an appealing choice for a broad demographic, including men. “We have clients of all nationalities, and they range in age anywhere from 14 to 80,” says Natashah Torki, COO and manager of Beauty By Dolly (San Diego), a premiere Southern California threading and waxing studio. “However, it took some time for people who had never heard of threading before to warm up to the idea.” There, threading isn’t limited to the face. “Brow-tists” offer threading for a variety of areas—Forehead (starting at $8), Toes ($10), Neck ($8), Eyebrows (starting at $12), Beard Line ($15), and more.

Estheticians who haven’t grown up threading also need time to warm up, and for them, a hands-on course is the best way to master the technique, according to Torki. “It is a skill that needs to be learned extremely well, and we highly recommend you send your employees to a reputable training program that will ensure the success of threading at your spa or salon,” she says. “Providing a service and being the best at it are huge differences that need to be recognized.”


For the People

Any spa-goer with unwanted hair is a good candidate for threading. “As far as we know, there is no type of skin that threading cannot be performed on,” says Torki. “We do threading on skin that has had chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and acne, or has actively been using Retin-A, Accutane, or other skin-thinning medications, aging or loose skin, and young skin that has never had hair removal done.” Threading has the least contact with skin compared to other hair-removal methods. As such, there is no risk of removing the top layer, or worse, more of the skin. No heat is necessary either, so burns and accompanying skin inflammation possible with waxing are nonexistent. “Threading is a service we have available for guests as an option to ensure they experience healthy and comfortable treatments,” says Lynch. “The guest experience is our top priority, and we understand that waxing services may not be suitable for all skin types and conditions.”

Clients with sensitive skin are drawn to the natural and simple method, as are those on prescription acne and anti-aging regimens. “Threading is excellent for guests with sensitive skin, as the technique grabs the hair itself and is not abrasive to the skin,” says Lynch. “It is especially beneficial for those with rosacea and eczema.” Threading doesn’t require any chemicals, so dermatologists often recommend threading for these patients who can’t be waxed.

Threaders work with skin held taut by the client, so the skin stays smooth. As a result, the process doesn’t cause bumps or irritation, which are common side effects of tweezing. “There are no contraindications for threading, but extra care should be taken with very mature skin,” says Lynch. “Skin must be held taut during threading to avoid a cut, and mature skin requires a bit of extra attention.”


No Pain, No Gain

Threading does have an ouch factor by nature of the procedure. Numbing products can help reduce pain and provide a more comfortable experience for spa-goers. For example, Clean + Easy Numb Anesthetic Solution, a five percent benzocaine  formula, and GiGi Numbing Anesthetic Spray, a four percent lidocaine mist, desensitize the skin and decrease pain prior to threading. “Giving clients the option to use a numbing solution will put them at ease,” says Regina Rodriguez, brand manager for GiGi. “Not only is it a great upsell, but it is reassuring for new clients or those with sensitive skin.”

Though rare, folliculitis, a bacterial infection in the hair follicles, is a possible side effect. Antibacterial products can help soothe and protect the follicles after hair removal. “Finipil should be used after threading, because the process pulls out most hairs by the root, leaving an empty follicle,” says Latoya Turner, owner of Eye Deux (Virginia Beach, VA), a beauty boutique focused on lashes and eyebrows. “Finipil penetrates into the empty follicle and deposits antibacterial properties that soothe, cool, shrink, and protect it from irritation.”


Share the Wealth

Because threading is a newer hair-removal option for American spa-goers, educating guests is an important first step to get them to book their first threading appointment. Sharing the benefits, lack of side effects, and value are all effective marketing messages, according to spa directors. Many threading businesses and spas have taken their message to the streets. “In the beginning, we marketed our threading services by attending city functions and performing free threading anywhere we could,” says Torki. “Also, we always handed out coupons and did referral programs. Now, we owe much of our success to the reputation we have built.”

The upfront marketing effort pays off. “Threading is very profitable,” says Torki. “It can be done relatively quickly and uses only a piece of 100-percent cotton thread, therefore, overhead is generally lower than other types of hair-removal services.”   

Threading can also make your spa stand out, as it is not as commonplace as waxing and other hair-removal services. Red Door Spas (multiple locations), which first opened more than 100 years ago, have also included threading since the beginning. For example, Chin Threading ($24), Eyebrow Arch Threading ($30), and Full Face Threading ($58) are available at The Red Door – Union Square (New York City). “Though we do not offer threading at all of our locations, we have almost always offered this modality of hair removal on our menu of services based on the availability and talent of our technicians,” says Lynch.

When ESPA at The Joule (Dallas) opened in October 2013, threading was among the initial offerings and still has a place on The Primp menu, which also features lash and brow tinting, lash extension, and makeup application services. Spa director Virginia Acosta says it is definitely a growing trend, because it’s cost effective and reaches a wide range of clients. Acosta says they have found success with simply listing the service on the menu and performing complimentary services at local events. For these pioneering spas, the menu is incomplete without threading. Says Torki, “Threading is so versatile, it captures clientele of all ages, nationalities, and genders.”

Facing tough competition in the hair-removal market, wax manufacturers have stepped up their games to compete with threading and laser options. New formulations aim to provide a more comfortable experience for clients and easy, efficient application for estheticians.—J.N.

  • Wax beads in Cirepil by Perron Rigot Homme melt quickly and easily into an ultra-fluid texture ideal for removing thicker hair and grooming men’s shoulders, chest, back, and bikini areas.
  • Speed is key to gaining and retaining hair-removal clients, and the portable, quick-heating Waxxxpress Mini Dipper Wax Heater makes brow and lip services a breeze.
  • Seaweed shines in Repêchage SeaSmooth Artisan Wax. Says founder and CEO Lydia Sarfati,“Itnourishes the skin while providing an antibacterial effect.“
  • Kava kava extract naturally reduces pain in GiGi No Sting Wax. “In the Pacific islands kava kava is used in remedies for pain, stings, and muscle fatigue,” says Rodriguez. “It is very soothing and calming.”
  • Satin Smooth Pebble Wax enables a more precise pour to better customize a service, according to director of marketing Susanna DiSotto. Natural fruit extracts, such as cherry, add a pleasant aroma and improve the experience.