Caustic preparations of lime, arsenic, and potash have been used for this purpose with the above results."
--Madame Lola Montez, The Arts and Secrets of Beauty (1853)
This year, two women I know separately confessed to me that they shave their faces daily to get rid of unwanted hair. I was shocked. My first thought was, there must be a better way!
Then I did a little research and found out that face-shaving has been picking up speed the past few years as a method of exfoliation. So maybe it makes sense to kill two birds with one stone. I don't have this particular beauty concern (I get my eyebrows waxed but that is mainly recreational), but I would go with permanent laser removal. Friends who have had it done for other areas are ecstatic. Lasers for home use recently became available, but I recommend a professional:
"More and more women realize that many of the things they formerly had done at beauty shops can be done at home. This is true. There are many things you can do at home, as well as some things you should try not to do."
-- Hazel Theresa Gifford, Fundamentals of Beauty (1944)
Does getting lasered sound too sci-fi for you? It's utterly benign compared to all this:
"I have recently seen many women who had undergone X-ray treatment to have the hair removed from their upper lips. The hair was gone, to be sure, but the center of the lip had a curious dead look...
The other method for removing superfluous hair is still something of a curiosity. It is a punching procedure, by means of a hollow cylinder, which resembles an old-fashioned watch-key with a sharpened end. These cylinders are attached to rotating tubes, something like a dentist's apparatus. When such a machine is put into motion, by electricity, the cylinder rotates around its axis with great velocity. One grasps the handle of the tube, places it on the hair which is to be removed, and presses it vigorously into the skin. The hair together with its root, is separated from the surrounding tissue and can now be pulled out. This method, which can be learned easily, is almost painless (the skin may be anesthetized with ethyl chloride) and from 250 to 300 hairs can be removed at one sitting. But it has the disadvantage, to put it mildly, that large parts of the tissue is removed too."
--Helena Rubinstein, The Art of Feminine Beauty (1930)
(The title of this post comes from this sad tale of a hirsute goldrush card dealer. The photo is a 1965 cover featuring Italian actress Verna Lisi. It was recently recreated, somewhat less strikingly, by Jessica Simpson.)