Hair removal procedures have been around for thousands of years. There are many reasons someone may want to remove body hair, from personal preference to self-consciousness. In the twentieth century, even more methods of hair removal have been discovered, with procedures like laser hair removal boasting longer-lasting results. Numerous methods have been used throughout history, such as plucking, shaving, and depilatories have been used for body and head hair removal to reflect the styles of the time. Here are a few methods of hair removal and their pros and cons.
Manual plucking is an easy way to remove signal hairs. However, plucking can stimulate new hair growth by inducing the active growth phase in a hair follicle. In some cases, plucking can create post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Shaving is an effective and fast way of hair removal, especially in clearing larger surface areas. It is also the most temporary method, as it only cuts the hair at the surface of the skin and does not reach the hair follicle. Skin lacerations, ingrown hairs, and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation are som disadvantages to shaving.
Waxing or Sugaring
Waxing or sugaring is a popular method of hair removal. This method can be used over smaller areas such as the face or bikinis area, and larger areas such as the legs or arms. Skin irritation, hyperpigmentation, and scarring are common adverse effects. Thermal burns and scarring from hot wax can happen if poor technique is used.
Depilatory preparations contain chemicals that dissolve hair by disrupting the disulfide bonds that hold hair cells together. Skin irritation, or allergic contact dermatitis is the biggest adverse side effect for this procedure, possibly resulting in itching or rash.
Chemical bleaching using hydrogen peroxide is a method that can be used to hide or disguise the presence of hair, but it does not actually remove hair. This works best for those with fine, dark hair.
There are two types of electrolytic therapy. One is galvanic electrolysis, in which a negative electrode (anode) is inserted into the hair follicle and a weak direct current is passes through a positive electrode (cathode). This causes the formation of sodium hydroxide, a free radical, resulting in destruction of the hair follicle.
The second type of electrolytic therapy is electrothermolysis, which uses alternating current to thermally districts the hair follicle. The two types are often used in combination with each other, with long lasting results. However, each hair must be treated individually, and this may be painful. Pain, scarring, and hypo or hyperpigmentation are all side effects.
Medicated Treatment with Eflornithine
Eflornithine 13.9% cream is a prescription only cream that was FDA approved in 2000. This may permanently by inhibiting ornithine decarboxylase activity in the skin, which in turn permanently reduces the rate of hair growth. The most common side effects are acne, skin irritation, pseudofolliculitis barbae (an inflammatory reaction of the hair follicle), and rash.
Laser Hair Removal
The ultimate goal of hair removal is long-term removal with minimal adverse effects. Laser hair removal is a more recent invention, and it has become a well-established treatment for body hair. This first became available for use in 1996. Since then, many advances have been made in the procedures, and different types of lasers are available for use. Selective photothermolysis, or the selective destruction of a follicular unit, is the basis for hair removal. Laser hair removal works best on dark hairs. Some adverse effects includes the risk of hypo or hyperpigmentation, scabbing, or blistering. Individuals with higher amounts of skin melanin are more at risk for adverse affects.