Remove Facial Hair on Portraits How to get rid of facial cheek hair - various methods

dust and scratches - remove facial hair

You know the situation where the customer wants to have the facial hair removed. Shaving before the shooting is one option but in most cases you have to deal afterwards with this problem. I will introduce you to a few techniques how to get rid of facial cheek hair on female portraits.

It always depends on your personal (or the customer`s) preference how much is too much. I personally prefer to keep a natural look but since we are often only service providers I am required to get the results as desired.  The described techniques work on every image and requires testing and adjusting the settings to match your level of required removal and also the actual image size. You need different radius settings for a 1000px closeup and a 5000px closeup. There`s no way to generalize this due to the fact that each skin texture and photo is different.

So let`s start with the obvious (left image is the original):

#1 Dust and Scratches (1 min – quick and dirty method)

This is maby the fastest way to get a huge difference. Spend a minute to play around with the radius and threshold values. The filter also remove a lot of skin texture we would like to keep so be careful with it. You can also workin  2 steps by just reusing the filter twice with different settings. Those depend on your image size and how much details you want to keep or remove.

dust and scratches - remove facial hair



#2 Frequency Seperation – Highpass replacement (5-10 min – experimental method)

This is a more advanced technique as we are using the advantage of frequency seperation. If you don’t know what this is just google that. There are hundreds of tutorials how to do it. To get you a rough idea: It seperates your image into 2 layers: structure+contrast (high pass) and luminosity+color if you break it down to the basics. Anyway – this requires you have another model shot without facial hair (or already retouched). Seperate frequencies on both images and move the highpass layer from the no-facial-hair model to the facial-hair model. Mask accordingly. We simply switched the skin texture.

frequency seperation skin texture switch


#3 Frequency Seperation + Dust & Scrachtes (2 min – average method)

Similar as Dust and Scratches we seperate the image informations via frequency seperation into structure and luminosity+color. By using the dust and scratches filter only on the highpass structure layer we can achieve different results instead of applying it to whole image. While we have more control this way it can be a good and quick option to get an acceptable result.



#4 Blurring and adding Noise (1 min – not recommended)

This is definitely one of the NOT RECOMMENDED techniques but since I see it here and there I`ll include the technique in this post for the sake of completeness. Copy your layer -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur… Find a value where the hairs are not visible anymore. To get some kind of “structure” again simply add “noise”. That`s a horrible way because noise is not related in any way from its structure with skin texture. I have no idea why people do this but I see it sometimes – even on commercials. Please don’t do it.

facial hair adding noise


#5 Layer Mode: Darken (5 min – average method)

Copy your layer, set the mode to “darken” and move that layer a few pixels to any direction so you create an offset to the original layer. The mode darken will overwrite the light areas with the darker areas thus the light tiny hairs will get darkened by our offset layer. Take care that you don’t get visible patterns and clone effects. Mask your offset layer accordingly.

darken mode layer


#6 Clone Stamp Tool (5-10 min – average method)

Set your clone stamp tool to 30%, play around with mode darken\lighten and do it manually. That way you got good control how much you remove. You decide via opacity and stamping the level of removal. The attached image is just one version to give you an idea. I would classify this method as average for time and quality. Take care with your stamps softness – it quickly gets blurry if you are working with reduced opacity.

facial hair clone stamp tool


#7 Dodge and Burn (30+ min – advanced method)

With dodge and burn you can also remove facial hair by adjusting the contrast and even out the darkest and lightest areas. Similar to the clone stamp you have perfect control with this method. Though it takes time it`s maby the most accurate method if you are used to dodge and burn. (the colored dots on the right is my dodge+burn mask so you see where I worked it in – just a bit to give you an idea.)

dodge and burn



You can use all techniques and see what fits your needs, lower the layers opacity to soften the effect and use another method. Just please don’t use bandstop filtering or blurring. Play around with described techniques (feel free to save the image and try it for yourself). If you got questions or think I missed the holy grail technique here – please leave a comment.  In most cases it depends on the customer’s budget so with this info here you have a few options from super quick to time consuming. Adjust it to your personal needs and have a chat with the make up artist BEFORE the shooting to point out these issues. I always prefer to IMPROVE images instead of rescue an image.

Compare each technique:

compare techniques


This post was inspired by the community | Photo: Joachim Lindner


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