Tips to handle follicular activity, from removal to growth alike

June 1, 2012

It is amazing that hair grows fervently in mature men's ears and not on their heads. Ear hair is particularly challenging because it does not respond well to laser hair removal.

Key Points

Q: What can be done about ear hairs?

There are no good options, but there are some electric shavers specifically developed for this area that can trim the hair without cutting the skin. The electric shaver must be used frequently for a good result, as longer hairs are harder to cut than shorter hairs. The same type of device can also be used for nose hair trimming, which can be equally as challenging.

Q: What are the new hair-growth serums sweeping Europe?

A: A number of well-known over-the-counter skincare companies have launched hair-growth products in the consumer market in Europe. These products resemble a serum and are designed to grow scalp hair. Last year, several of these products were imported illegally into the United States and were impounded by the Food and Drug Administration as misbranded drugs.

The active ingredient in the hair growth products is aminexil with a chemical structure quite similar to minoxidil (C5H10H4O). Aminexil is a prostaglandin E2 modulator just like minoxidil, but it is sold as a cosmetic, not as an over-the-counter drug such as Rogaine (minoxidil, McNeil-PPC). It is said to be equally as effective as minoxidil in improving hair growth.

Q: What is the best way to minimize the appearance of poikiloderma changes on the lateral face?

A: Poikiloderma of Civatte is a difficult condition to improve and results from cumulative sun exposure over a lifetime, most notably on the sides of the neck and face with occurrence also on the décolleté. It is characterized by skin atrophy, telangiectasia and dyspigmentation.

The combination yellow, red and brown from the UV-induced damage is hard to camouflage. Facial foundations tend to rub off in these areas and stain clothing. Medical treatment is challenging, with retinoids being the most likely therapeutic choice, but tolerability is poor and improvement is painstakingly slow. Yet patients frequently ask about this condition.

Self-tanning creams are a possibility for camouflage in persons with Fitzpatrick type II and III skin. The erythema that may be mixed with hypopigmented macules can be easily darkened to match the hyperpigmented skin with a sunless tanning cream.

Another solution is to use a bronzing cream. These creams are white when removed from the tube but contain tiny color spheres that burst when rubbed between the fingers or into the skin. The amount of rubbing determines the depth of color and temporarily stains the skin.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a Dermatology Times editorial adviser and consulting professor of dermatology, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C. Questions may be submitted via email to zdraelos@northstate.net
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