Why do I have excessive hair?
- For most people, this is due to genetic or familial factors. There is no underlying medical cause for the excessive hair growth.
- Rarely, excessive hair may be due to underlying medical problems. These conditions are associated with hormonal disturbances resulting in extra hair growth. Besides excessive hair, these patients may have other signs and symptoms of hormonal disturbances such as weight gain, deepening of voice, pimples, and menstrual irregularities.
- Occasionally, excessive hair growth may be due to medical and surgical treatments. Certain medications, such as cyclosporin A which is used to treat various medical conditions or prolonged use of potent topical steroids, may cause excessive hair growth as part of its side effects. Certain surgeries, such as tissue grafting, may result in excessive hairs at unusual locations due to the use of hairy grafts.
Your doctor will go through the medical history and examination with you thoroughly to rule out underlying medical problems.
Why should I remove excessive hair?
The extra hair can indeed be left alone. Most people want to remove the extra hair for cosmetic reasons. For some people, the extra hair may cause embarrassment and psychological distress.
How can excessive hair be removed?
There are various methods available for hair removal; some of them only result in temporary hair loss while some other methods result in more permanent hair removal.
The temporary methods remove the hair shafts but leave the hair follicles and hair roots intact. The commonly used temporary methods include shaving, waxing, application of depilatory creams and plucking.
The permanent methods target areas regulating hair growth resulting in destruction of the follicles and hair roots.
- Laser hair removal makes use of an intense light source of a specific wavelength to heat up and destroy the hair follicle selectively. The laser energy is absorbed by the pigment within the follicle and the heat generated in the process is enough to “burn” the hair follicle without causing much injury to surrounding tissues. Current lasers have epidermal cooling systems incorporated to allow for use of higher fluences whilst reducing pain and side-effects especially in darker skin types. At NSC, the Long Pulsed Nd YAG (1064nm) is used as it is safe for all skin types especially those with darker skin.
- IPL uses a very bright light which is converted to heat energy which travels through the tissue of the skin until it strikes the hair shafts or the bulb (root) of the hair and destroys them.
- Eflornithine hydrochloride (13.9%) cream has been FDA approved for reducing the growth of unwanted facial hair. It improves the effectiveness of laser hair removal when used in combination and can reduce the number of laser sessions required to achieve clearance of hair.
Advantages of Laser Hair Removal
- Cause selective destruction of hair follicles.
- Achieve long-term hair reduction after multiple sessions of treatment.
- Cause some minor side effects such as swelling and pigmentation of skin in a minority of patients. These are more common among patients with darker skin.
Lasers DO NOT
- Achieve permanent hair destruction after one single treatment.
- Work equally well for all patients. Generally, patients with dark hairs and fair skin respond best to laser hair removal.
- Remove white hairs.
What precautions do I need to take before laser hair removal?
Before the laser treatment, you should:
- Avoid waxing and plucking of hairs for two weeks.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure four weeks before treatment. Your doctor will want you to lose the tan if you had prior sun tanning. This is to avoid damage to the overlying skin as the tanned skin will also absorb the laser light.
- Shave the hairs short three to five days prior to laser treatment.
- Some antiviral medications maybe needed if certain body areas, such as the lips or bikini lines are treated, especially if the patient has a prior history of herpes infection.
After the laser treatment, you should:
- Continue the medications prescribed and complete the course of treatment.
- Continue to practise sun protection.
- Take good care of the treated sites to avoid any possible infection. Your doctor may prescribe you with emollients to soothe the skin.
What can I expect from my laser treatment?
You will need multiple sessions of treatment to achieve significant hair reduction, for example,
- Four to six sessions for armpits
- Four to six sessions for bikini line
- Five to seven sessions for lower legs
The treated areas may not be completely empty after laser hair removal treatments. However, the remaining hairs may be lighter in colour and finer in texture.
There may be a small risk of pigmentation of skin after laser treatment, this will usually resolve with time if you practice proper sun protection.
DEDICATED TO EXCELLENCE IN DERMATOLOGY
By National Skin Centre (Singapore)
Copyright (C) 1995 - National Skin Centre (Singapore)