Appeared in the High Point Enterprise, Monday, September 17th, 2000
Trudy Brown, LE, CPE,CLS
In today’s world it is important to look your best. It could mean a career advancement or being socially acceptable. Men and Women alike are looking for the best way to have smooth, sleek hair free skin. Ingrown hairs and razor bumps are not appealing and not appealing and can often be irritating and painful. Bushy eyebrows, hairs on the ears and unwanted hair on the back can be embarrassing for men. Many women often bleach or shave hair on their face and upper lip. A mustache on a woman is not considered appealing or sexy except maybe in Europe.
What causes superfluous hair?
Congenital Causes: The genetic blueprint you inherited from your ancestors determines the amount, location, and timing of the hair growth in women and men. Normal changes in the hormonal system occurring during puberty, pregnancy and menopause may increase the level of androgens or decrease the levels the female hormone estrogen, resulting in sudden new hair growth on the body or face.
Abnormal Systemic Causes: There are occasions, though rare, when a tumor or an inherited glandular defect may stimulate the growth of superfluous hair. Menstrual irregularity, abdominal pain, signs of virilism, and abnormal appearance of secondary male sexual characteristics in a woman, in combination with new hair growth, signal a need for immediate medical evaluation.
Other Causes: Medications such as steroids and birth control pills, or the surgical removal of sex glands may stimulate abnormal hair growth.
How does hair Grow?
Hair forms in a pouchlike structure below the skin called a hair follicle. What we see as hair is actually the hair shaft, which is the keratinized, hardened tissue that grows from this follicle. People have more hair follicles per square inch than chimpanzees and gorillas. Because most of the hair is fine and pale it usually isn’t visible to the naked eye. The thicker, fully pigmented hair most people consider “real hair”, is called terminal hair. Hair grows through three distinct growth phases. 1. Active growth phase called the Anagen stage which can last several years. 2. Regressive phase called the catagen stage which lasts about two weeks, during which the hair stops growing but is not yet shed. 3. Resting phase called Telogen stage which lasts about 5-6 weeks, at the end of which the hair falls out and a new hair begins to form.
What can be done about unwanted hair?
The method you choose for dealing with unwanted hair will depend on the number and location of hairs and how great a problem you perceive them to be. Temporary methods such as shaving, depilatories and bleaching are popular but not very satisfying. Other methods such as waxing and tweezing last only 20 to 90 days and can cause ingrown hairs and trauma to the skin.
Electrolysis is the only permanent method of hair removal. This process involves a very fine sterile probe inserted alongside the hair in the hair follicle. A very slight amount of current is applied through this probe, which destroys the hair root, ending further hair growth. The skin is not punctured or harmed in any way, and for most people the entire process is no more uncomfortable than tweezing. A series of treatments is necessary since the hair grows in cycles and at any given time only a percentage of the hair growth is visible above the skin and actively growing. Electrolysis is effective on all colors of hair and can be used to treat any area of the face and body.
Laser hair removal is the newest method. A laser produces a beam of highly concentrated light. Different types of lasers produce different colors of light. The color of light produced by a particular laser is the key to its effect on hair follicles. The light is absorbed by the pigment (melanin) located in hair follicles (melanin pigments give hair its color) and hair shaft. The laser pulses for a fraction of a second, just long enough to vaporize the pigment, disabling several follicles at a time to eliminate or significantly impede the hair’s regrowth. The length of a laser session may be a few minutes to an hour or more, depending on the size of the area being treated. A series of treatments is necessary since the laser tends to treat hair follicles that are in an active growth phase. Laser treatment itself may cause a tingling sensation but most patients tolerate the procedure well. Laser works well for large areas of dark hair such as a man’s back and shoulders, and women’s legs, underarms and bikini lines. The way we look often reflects the way we feel about ourselves. Excessive hair growth can cause emotional stress and take away from our self esteem. Consult with a specialist experienced in different methods of hair removal to get the best advice on what will work for your skin type and hair color.