Developing hair in unwanted places is a very distressing problem for many women and some men.
The most common complaint by women seeking a professional, confident appearance is prominent
hair on the upper lip, chin, cheeks, and sideburn area of the face. There are many causes for
hirsutism (excessive hair). Physiological changes such, as pregnancy or menopause, can lead
to unwanted hair, as can polycystic ovarian disease and medications containing anabolic
steroids. Additionally, heredity, stress, or glandular disturbances in one's endocrine system
may be responsible for unwanted hair growth.
The demand for electrolysis arises from severe anxiety for some people who have struggled
endlessly against the problem associated with unwanted hair. Those people who make the
decision to visit a professional electrologist, do so after unsuccessfully trying to solve
their hair problem with a variety of temporary or ineffective devices (electronic tweezers) or
products. The prospective client is interested in a cure for their unwanted hair, not just a
"Band-Aid" type treatment.
Hirsutism and hypertrichosis:
The amount and type of excessive hair growth is described by one of two words: Hirsutism and
hypertrichosis. Hirsutism is excessive growth of male-pattern coarse (terminal) hair on a
female due to abnormally high androgen production.
Hypertrichosis is excessive growth of finer, lighter (vellus) hair, not following a male
pattern. The ultimate goal is to permanently remove the hair from any of the following areas:
Eyebrows, cheeks, upper lip, ears, chin, neck, arms, underarms, hands, fingers, breasts,
chest, abdomen, "bikini line," legs, feet, toes, shoulders, back, and the hairline of the
forehead or neckline.
Many people attempt to remove the unwanted hair on their own. They shave, tweeze, wax,
and use depilatory products. The drawbacks to these "solutions" are usually some degree of
irritation, ingrown hair, and they provide only temporary relief from the unwanted hair.
Dr. Charles Michel, an ophthalmologist who was looking for a method to correct ingrown
eyelashes, discovered electrolysis in 1875. He discovered that a small amount of electrical
current (galvanic current) could be applied to the hair follicle using a fine needle or "probe"
inserted alongside the hairshaft. The current causes a chemical reaction that destroys the
growth cells of the hair follicle. This discovery led the way to the science of electrology,
the first permanent method of hair removal
Some other methods:
Although electrolysis originated with Dr. Michel's discovery, two other methods, thermolysis
and the blend have been developed since the 1920s which have also proven to be permanent.
In the process of thermolysis, a fine filament is inserted into the follicle alongside the
hair down to the papilla and short-wave current, which produces heat, is discharged through
the filament. This thermal action cauterizes and disables the papilla without damaging the
out layer of skin. The blend method is a combination of both galvanic and short-wave currents.
Each modality uses a very fine and sterile probe. It is important to understand there is no
such thing as "needle-free, painless" permanent hair removal.
In any case, these three electrosurgical methods utilized in the hands of a skilled
electrologist provide not only smooth hair-free skin, but also a cure for an unwanted hair
problem. Each of the three methods are skill related procedures (as are most other medical
procedures), and they are effective because the live, growing, reproducing cells of the matrix
and papilla at the bottom of the hair shaft are destroyed. It is this destruction of live
tissue that causes physicians to classify electrology as a surgical procedure. Depending on
the severity of the situation or the size of the area being treated, the electrologist must
review the variables affecting each client's case history to determine an appropriate treatment
plan. One way for both the patient and electrologist to monitor the effectiveness of the
procedure is by the resistance of treated hair to removal with tweezers. During treatment,
the hair should slide easily out of the follicle without resistance. The patient should not
feel the hair being removed from the skin. The technician's insertions must be "dead center."
There is, literally, no room for error. There should not be any sensation of tweezing or
pulling during treatment. Since skill does play an important role in the process, care should
certainly be taken when selecting an electrologist.
There is the "new technology" of laser hair removal, as well as other advertised methods such
as electronic tweezers. Research done by several laser companies tried to determine if laser
can be effective for hair removal. Thus far, none of the lasers marketed for hair removal
have been approved by the FDA as a method of permanent hair removal. The anxiety associated
with hirsutism makes a person extremely vulnerable to any suggestion or offer of a device that
"claims" to permanently remove hair, and manufacturers know that the potential exists to make
a huge profit. Therefore, it is recommended that a patient either wait until the laser
technology develops to a point of proven permanency, safety and affordability; or take
advantage of a "tried and true" method, which has for over a century proven effectiveness
End-result is rewarding:
Permanent hair removal by thermolysis and electrolysis is a process that takes time and
patience to achieve the results. The complexities of the hair growth cycle also affect
treatment time. Some pain associated with the treatments can be a deterrent to patients
seeking permanent hair removal. Topically applied local anesthetics such as EMLA
(a five-percent lidocaine/prilocaine cream) can significantly reduce the discomfort associated
with electrolysis. However, the overwhelming majority of patients find the procedure to be
very tolerable and rewarding.
Madelaine Bobbitt and Carol Toothman are professionally trained and certified electrologists
in Colorado Springs. They actively participate and support the Colorado and American
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