Banish unwanted hair

December 1, 2006

Eletrolysis, lasers and topical creams to eliminate hair in unwanted places. Read on to find the best option for you

Key Points

What's hiding in your beauty closet?

If it's a stash of tweezers, home electrolysis kits, tubes of depilatories and pots of wax, it may be time to explore some other methods of hair removal.

Almost every woman has hair growing in places she would prefer not to discuss. For some, it's on the chin, above the lip, down the neck, on their breasts or on their backs or bellies. Some of the causes are genetic - women of Mediterranean and Hispanic descent are sometimes predisposed to growing unwanted facial and body hair. Hormones can also work in undesirable ways. Menopause, along with its other annoying symptoms, may also count unwanted hair on its list of undesirable outcomes.

WHAT TO DO? Whatever the cause, there is a lot you can do to get rid of unwanted hair.

Electrolysis can be a permanent option, but has its drawbacks. Hair that has previously been plucked and tweezed is more resilient and often needs many sessions of electrolysis to finally stop growing back. This may be an acceptable option if the hair you wish to eliminate is located on smaller areas such as on your face or nipples.

On larger surface areas of the body, electrolysis may be time consuming, painful and expensive. You also need to find a truly qualified electrologist, one who knows how to follow the path of the hair follicle and destroy it. If that doesn't happen, the hair may keep growing back, and you may see small bumps forming under the skin.

If you choose electrolysis as an option, be prepared to spend some time and money and, even in the hands of a qualified expert, some hairs will merely "go into shock," only to return weeks or months later.

LASERS GREAT OPTION According to Yardley, Pa.-based dermatologist, Richard Fried, M.D., Ph.D., lasers may be a great option for removing hair, but again, it is important to make sure you're in expert hands.

Before letting anyone touch your skin with a laser, ask to see documented proof of his or her training. It is best to have this procedure performed by a well-trained dermatologist or supervised aesthetician, nurse or physician's assistant, otherwise you stand the risk of being burned, scarred or developing pigmentation problems.

You must ask, "Is this laser safe for my skin type?" Dr. Fried emphasizes.

The reason this is so important is that varying shades of skin will respond differently to varying laser wavelengths. A laser called GentleLase, for instance, which operates at a wavelength of 755 nanometers (nm), is better suited for fair to olive skin. The GentleYAG laser operates at wavelengths of 1064 nm and is more appropriate for more darkly pigmented skin.

DRUGS There are drugs to consider as well with the guidance of your dermatologist.

A topical cream called Vaniqa, which is Food and Drug Administration-approved for use on facial hair, will often produce desirable effects.

If unwanted hair is located on your body, you may want to discuss an oral drug called Spironolactone, which binds to the testosterone and androgen receptors on the hair follicle to disallow excess stimulation by the hormones. This drug, however, may produce unwanted side effects such as mid-cycle bleeding, breast tenderness and altered potassium levels, which can be serious if not monitored. Some oral contraceptives have also been used to diminish hair growth, coarseness and color.

If unwanted hair has become a troublesome issue for you, don't suffer in silence. Speak to your dermatologist for solid guidance and help.