A Twist on Thread
This ancient technique is in demand

By Denise R. Fuller

Originally published in Skin Deep, May/June 2009. Copyright 2009. Associated Skin Care Professionals. All right reserved.

If you are looking for a new service to offer and don't want to invest in a lot of products or expensive equipment, a spool of thread may be the answer.

Bollywood brows have overtaken Brazilian bikini lines as one of the hottest depilatory services in salons and spas. The ancient art of threading has skyrocketed in popularity. Spas around the country are seeing this technique as a major draw for new clients. Magazines like Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Vogue have featured the treatment and a cadre of celebrities including Cher, Glenn Close, Liz Hurley, and Brad Pitt are reportedly regular users of threading.

So, what is threading? According to Milady's Standard Cosmetology textbook, "Threading is a temporary hair removal method practiced in many Eastern cultures and involves the manipulation of cotton thread, which is twisted and rolled along the surface of the skin, entwining hair in the thread and lifting it from the follicle.

"Threading the entire face is widespread among Iranians, but it was originally practiced when a woman was getting married or during special occasions. In ancient Persia, (use of) threading was a sign a girl had reached adulthood."

Pros and Cons
The advantages of threading are that it's inexpensive to provide, and for the client it is fast, neat, and generally less painful than tweezing or waxing. It's especially good for eyebrows and facial hair, and, as with waxing, lasts from two to four weeks. The fine, light-colored, short facial vellus hairs can easily be removed with threading. It's also an option you can offer to clients who have shied away from waxing because of pain or skin lifting.

Threading's disadvantages include the time required to learn how to do it or finding skilled professionals to hire. When it's done poorly, threading has the potential to be painful and cause itching. Possible complications include bacterial infection, erythema, folliculitis, hyperpigmentation, and puffiness.

Easing Discomfort
When properly performed, the "ouch factor" is minimal compared with waxing. The pain associated with threading is similar to tweezing, but it's faster. A warm compress can be used before threading to relax the hair follicle for easier removal. Some expert threaders also use a numbing spray.

Noreen Crouch, licensed esthetician in New Hampshire and Vermont, remembers having an expert threader in esthetics school who held classroom demonstrations. Crouch tried it on herself, and while it was more painful than expected, she liked the results. Nita Mangrola of West Palm Beach, Florida, recommends self-threading as a way to practice the technique and develop speed.

State Regulations
Cosmetology boards are redefining the requirements for licensing and qualifications to perform threading. Many states require a cosmetology or esthetics license for any hair removal, threading included. Before adding threading to your menu, check regulations to be sure it can be offered in your area. In California, many spas have been fined because their expert threaders learned the procedure in their native countries, but hadn't been properly licensed by the state. They had to go back to school to become licensed. (Associated Skin Care Professionals covers threading when practiced in accordance with state law.)

Mangrola wanted to obtain her license so she could thread legally, in addition to providing her other esthetic services. She learned threading skills at age 19 at beauty school in India, where she practiced six months to become expert. Not surprisingly, she says "practice, practice, practice" is the key.

The Internet is a great source of information on the threading technique. You can find step-by-step tutorials on to become familiar with how it's done, then pursue further education on your own. You can view DVDs and attend classes. Most estheticians who have taken a threading class say it takes several months to master the technique. You will obviously want to attain a certain skill level and speed before working on clients.

Threading is an ancient art form that's in demand in spas and salons. Learning can be a challenge but once you have mastered it, clients will rave about the results, especially for the precision it offers in cleaning up and shaping eyebrows. For those who don't want to learn the technique themselves, hiring a properly credentialed threader can mean greater profits for your practice.

Denise R. Fuller is a licensed esthetician, author, beauty therapist, and educational consultant. She founded the National Aesthetic Spa Network and teaches the Florida state certification course for body wrapping. She can be reached at

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