Unwanted hair: the most effective treatment
Unwanted hair is a common problem in women and men. The traditional methods of removing hair such as shaving and tweezing, depilatories, waxing, and electrolysis only produce temporary results and can generally only be carried out in relatively small areas.
Permanent hair removal can now be achieved using intense pulsed light technology (IPL). IPL systems are similar to lasers, but with a larger, smooth light beam and a long pulse for safe, fast and comfortable treatments.
Pulses of filtered light are directed onto the skin and absorbed by the colour of the hair and transmitted into the hair shaft. The heat from the pulsed light is then transmitted by the hair, damaging the stem cells within the hair follicle so that re-growth is not possible.
Treatment is particularly effective for dark hair, which most efficiently absorbs the IPL light. Four treatments, spaced several weeks apart, are required because of the hair growth cycle.
Top up treatments are usually necessary after six to twelve months to treat any new hairs that may appear.
Traditional methods for removing unwanted body hair include shaving, waxing, the application of depilatory cream and electrolysis.
Hair removal by intense pulsed light (IPL) is a relatively new technique. It helps not only those with normal hair growth, but also those with excessive hairiness of the body or face, a condition called hirsutism which causes considerable psychological distress.
Hirsutism affects approximately 10% of women between the ages of 18 and 35. In most cases there is no obvious cause but some patients may have a hormonal disturbance.
Hirsutism may also be a feature of the menopause. Unwanted hair is a significant problem for transsexuals and transvestites, and many normal males with hair on their back dislike it intensely.
Children with hairy moles of the face or lumbar spine area are often teased.
Hair biologyHair grows in cycles, alternating between a growing phase (anagen) and a quiescent phase (telogen). Catagen is the period of transition between the two.
Cells half way up the hair follicle are thought to be responsible for hair growth. The depilation laser delivers a particular wavelengh of laser light which targets the pigment in the hair.
This light penetrates up to a millimetre beneath the skin where it is absorbed by the pigment in the hair and kills the stem cells.
The stem cells responsible for hair growth are thought to be located at the attachment of the erector pili muscle to the brown hairs contain most pigment and are easiest to treat.
Grey or blonde hair has little pigment and is unlikely to respond to treatment.
Treatment may be a little uncomfortable. Client sometimes describe as feeling a little like an elastic band snapping against the skin. Some IPL systems have a cooling system which reduces this mild discomfort.
After treatment, the treated area may look red and feel warm, like a mild sunburn. Some hairs disappear at the treatment session. Others, which initially look curled up or frazzled, may take a few days to fall out.
Most clients will have good results with IPL treatment. Growth of new hair which is finer and less dense may occur’ requiring repeat treatment once or twice a year. Those with hormonal dysfunction may require more frequent top-ups.