There are literally a myriad of reasons why many men and women choose to remove unwanted body hair. It might be a cosmetic, social, or cultural reason, or possibly a medical reason. Unwanted pigmented hair is an extremely common problem for both men and women. Many methods are available for temporary or permanent hair removal, and each method has advantages and disadvantages. In this month’s newsletter, we will review the various methods of treating and removing body hair.
Although excessive hair growth commonly occurs in the normal healthy population of individuals, at times it can be a manifestation of an underlying hormonal disturbance. For this reason, every patient who desires hair removal should first have a complete medical history and physical examination. If the doctor suspects that a hormonal problem may be contributing to or causing the excessive hair growth, a referral to an endocrinologist or a gynecologist is warranted.
Removal of body hair with a razor blade on wet skin using shaving cream or another lubricant is one of the most common methods of removing unwanted hair. The main advantage of hair removal by shaving is that it is fast, easy, and inexpensive. However, as every man knows, the results are temporary, lasting at most three days and often only one day. Because shaving removes hair at the skin surface, it is the most temporary method of hair removal.
Plucking, Waxing, Sugaring, and Epilation:
Epilation means the removal of the entire hair shaft. It is the most effective method for temporarily removing a hair. Epilation includes waxing and plucking, as well as some other methods that can be used for removal of the hair shaft. It is not known whether repetitive epilation results in permanent changes in the hair being removed. Epilation lasts longer than shaving because the hair is removed from below the surface of the skin.
Manual plucking is an easy way to remove single hairs and is useful for removing small amounts of unwanted hair. When the area of skin to be treated is too large for plucking, waxing techniques are more useful. Waxing involves the application of warmed wax to areas of hair bearing skin followed by removal of the wax and the associated embedded hairs.
Sugaring is similar to waxing and is an alternative to waxing for people who are sensitive to wax. A syrupy sugar mixture is prepared by heating lemon juice, water, and sugar. The syrup is then applied to the skin, after which it is quickly stripped away, removing the unwanted hair in the process.
Chemical depilatories remove part of the hair shaft, and are easy and painless. Depilatories work by breaking down the protein in the hair shaft, causing the hair to break in half, and allowing the hair to separate from the skin. They work best on the legs, bikini line, face and underarms. For a good result, the hair should be neither too long nor too short. Since some people are allergic to the chemicals found in a depilatory, a small spot should be tested prior to use to determine whether the product is safe to use in that person.
This drug is used in a topical cream available only by prescription. It was recently approved by the FDA for the reduction of unwanted facial hair in women. The drug works by reducing the rate of hair growth. It can be used in conjuction with other methods of hair removal to prolong their efficacy. Eflornithine is generally used twice a day for six months. Unfortunately, once the drug is stopped, facial hair growth returns to pretreatment levels within 2 months.
Electrolysis involves the insertion of a thin needle into the hair follicle, after which a pulse of electric current is passed through the needle to damage and eventually destroy the hair follicle. Generally, multiple treatment sessions are required. During electrolysis it is important to insert the needle accurately into the follicle, and to choose an appropriate intensity and duration of the electric current.
Only hairs that are actively growing should be treated with electrolysis. This can be determined by shaving the area to be treated, then treating a few days later only those hairs that are visible on the skin surface. With electrolysis, each hair must be treated individually and the process is slow.
Laser Hair Removal:
Laser hair removal first became available in 1996, and since that time many advances have occurred in the technology. Lasers can treat large areas of skin at one time, making laser hair removal a cost-effective and efficient method of hair removal. Commonly treated areas include the legs, armpits, upper lip, chin, and bikini line. The effects of laser hair removal can last for several months to several years. Laser hair removal works by using laser energy to destroy the hair follicle, thereby inhibiting future hair growth from the follicle.
For the hair removal laser to be effective, the hair pigment should be darker than the surrounding skin pigment, so that the hair absorbs more of the laser light. If the skin is darker than the hair, the skin will absorb more of the laser light, potentially leading to adverse tissue reactions following the procedure. For this reason, it is important that patients undergoing laser hair removal not come to the office with a tan.
Over the last several years, laser hair removal has become very popular because the results are superior to hair removal using more conventional treatments such as waxing, shaving, and electrolysis. Approximately 80% of all patients respond well to laser hair removal. Patients may expect approximately a 30% decrease in hair with each treatment. For this reason, multiple treatments are generally necessary to achieve the desired reduction in hair in a given body area. In general three or more treatments are required at each site to achieve permanent hair growth reduction. Typically, treatments are spaced 1-3 months apart.
In our office, Karen Ballantyne performs the laser hair removal treatments. Karen is a registered nurse for fifteen years, and she has extensive experience in laser hair removal. Any of our patients who would like to undergo laser hair removal are invited to call the office and make an appointment with Karen.
Disclaimer: The image above is intended to serve an aesthetic purpose only and is not meant to reflect the practice of our office in any way