CAUSES OF EXCESSIVE HAIR GROWTH
Excessive hair growth is classified as either hirsutism or hypertrichosis. Hirsutism is the presence of excess hair in women in a male pattern such as a moustache, beard, or lower abdomen, and may be due to medications, tumours, hormonal problems, or heredity. Hypertrichosis is the presence of excess hair in a normal or abnormal pattern. This may be genetic (inherited), or due to hormones, medications, malnutrition, metabolic problems, or tumours.
HAIR REMOVAL METHODS
There are several ways unwanted hair can be removed such as plucking, radiofrequency tweezers, electronic tweezers, shaving, depilatories (creams), waxing, and electrolysis (inserting a needle into each hair follicle one at a time followed by an electric spark to burn out the follicle). Most of these methods, however, are temporary. Eflornithine (Vaniqa) a topical cream can be used to slow hair growth on the face in women, but must be used continually. Lasers are the only treatment option that offers permanent hair reduction.
TYPES OF LASERS AND HOW THEY WORK
A large area of the skin can be treated at one time making laser hair removal cost-effective and faster than other methods. Lasers send a low-energy beam through the skin which is absorbed by the melanin (dark pigment) present in the shaft of the hair follicles. Because hair goes through cycles as it grows, it is necessary to repeat the treatments. Different types of lasers can be used, for example the Nd:YAG laser can be used for treating darker skin types such as African-American and Asian skin.
Patients considering laser hair removal should talk to a dermatologist & their laser technician who will then assess:
- Hair color
- Medical history including thyroid or ovarian disease, history of abnormal scarring, medications, history of herpes simplex (cold sores) outbreaks in the treatment area, or past isotretinoin use
- Presence of tan
- Presence of tattoos or moles in the treatment area
- Previous hair removal methods
- Skin type (i.e., ability to tan or to burn)
- Thickness and location of hair
After the preoperative evaluation, the proper laser and treatment settings can be determined. The need for multiple treatment sessions, the potential need for maintenance treatments, and the possibility of variable responses to treatment should be discussed with the patient to ensure he or she has realistic expectations for the treatment.
Prior to treatment, patients are told to avoid sunless tanners and tanning. Patients should use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen that is at least SPF 15. Waxing, plucking, or electrolysis should not be performed prior to the laser treatment, although depilatory creams and shaving can be done one or two days prior to laser treatment. A protective antiviral medication can be started a day before the treatment, in order to suppress the possibility of developing a herpes simplex infection in the treated area.
On the day of treatment, the area should be clean and free of cosmetics. A topical anaesthetic cream may be applied prior to treatment. Most lasers have a cooling device that lessens the patient's discomfort. Everyone in the room has to wear protective eyewear during the treatment.
Typically, 3 or more sessions are required at each site to achieve permanent reduction of hair growth. Dark hair responds better to the laser, while light hair (gray, white, or red) is less responsive.
The pulses from the laser feel like a rubber band snapping of or warm pinpricks to the skin. Ideally, the immediate reaction is vaporization of the hair shaft. Minimal swelling and redness around the hair follicles appear within minutes. Ice packs may be applied to the skin following treatment, and over-the-counter pain relief medicine may be taken as needed before and after treatment. If blistering occurs in the treated area, a topical antibiotic cream is applied once or twice a day until the blisters heal. A mild steroid cream can be applied to minimize redness and swelling. Patients are told to avoid exposure to the sun and to wear a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 after the laser treatments. Cosmetics may be applied to the treated skin.
Side effects of laser hair removal treatments may include swelling, pain around the hair follicle, and redness that can last up to three days. Bacterial infections, blistering, and herpes simplex outbreaks may occur. Temporary darkening or lightening of the skin may be seen especially in patients with darker skin, or those with a recent tan. Permanent changes in skin pigmentation or scarring is extremely rare. Lightening of moles or loss of freckles in the treatment area can occur; tattoos may also lighten or darken.
LASER HAIR EFFICACY
The amount of hairs removed during each session varies depending on body locations, areas where the skin is thin (such as armpits and the bikini area) generally showing a better response than areas of thick skin (for example, the chin and back). Approximately 10-25 percent reduction in hair growth can be expected with each treatment. Treatments are repeated every 4-8 weeks. Any hair that re-grows has a tendency to have a finer texture be lighter in color.
LASER HAIR TREATMENTS
This procedure should be performed under the supervision of a dermatologist, a physician who specializes in the medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of hair and hair diseases, and who is trained to help manage hair and skin problems.
We put academic qualifications, many years of combined experience, and training in a variety of special interest areas to work for your healthy, radiant skin. Our providers – Drs. Schachter, Hanna, Curtis, Abdulla, Pollack, and Taradash – welcome new patients for treatment at the Dermatology on Bloor practice on Park Road in Toronto. Our team is here to serve your needs