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Skin Care: Then and Now--Hair Removal

By: Michelle Goldsmith
Posted: February 28, 2013, from the March 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Prescription drugs can be used to either suppress or inhibit the growth of new hair cells; however, if use of these medications is stopped, hair growth will return to normal. Drugs do this by hindering the production of the enzymes needed to generate hair. For example, oral medications can be prescribed, especially for women who suffer from a medical condition called hirsutism, which causes male-pattern hair growth. Once the production of androgens (male hormones) is slowed with a prescription, the amount of darker, unwanted hair can be significantly reduced.

Advanced hair removal procedures

Permanent hair reduction or removal methods include advanced treatments that are performed by skin care professionals who have been properly trained or certified in these types of hair removal. Two of the more popular and widely used methods are electrology and laser hair removal. While both methods are very effective, the heat induced in these types of hair-removal procedures poses a greater risk of PIH on higher Fitzpatrick skin types. Pigment-inhibiting treatment regimens, such as those suggested above, should be implemented to reduce this risk.

Electrology. Electrology is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved technology that has been in use for more than 100 years. By inserting a very fine probe into the hair follicle, this technique permanently destroys germ cells responsible for the growth of hair. This is a tried-and-true method for hair removal in all body areas; however, it can be expensive and time-consuming, because it is performed one follicle at a time. Electrology can target hair with little to no pigment, such as red, blonde or gray hairs, versus laser hair removal, which cannot target lighter pigmented hairs. Calming, anti-inflammatory treatments can be implemented between appointments to help prevent irritation during the procedure and to soothe any post-treatment irritation.

Laser hair removal/intense pulsed light (IPL). These two methods of treatment began to gain momentum in the United States and many other countries during the 1990s. IPL and laser hair removal technology utilize light directed at the hair. When the light is absorbed by dark pigment, this leads to destruction of the follicle. These have become two of the more popular methods of hair removal, but can be expensive, require multiple treatments, aren’t permanent and will not work on hair of lighter pigment.

Retail and complementary treatments

After any hair removal treatment, hydrating and soothing products should be applied to the skin with ingredients such as 0.5% hydrocortisone, sodium hyaluronate and shea butter. Most importantly, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or 45 must be applied to protect the skin from any UV exposure and potential damage to the sensitized areas.