EXCESS HAIR: WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
One of the most unattractive ego-deflating beauty problems is the appearance of excess hair. You can whisk it away easily. Here’s how.
One of the most annoying and embarrassing beauty problems that a woman can face, usually from puberty on, is the appearance of excess body or facial hair. Hirsutism is the medical term for this; and, according to Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, M.D., head of the department of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, and his coauthors John A. Parrish, M.D., and Barbara Gilchrest, M.D., also of Harvard, in Between You and Me (Little, Brown), Abundant body and face hair is especially common among Caucasians of Southern European ancestry. The amount and distribution of hair is determined by the sex hormones and by heredity factors. The range of ˜normal is very wide.
Hair patterns, say the doctors, are usually established during adolescence and generally follow normal, individual courses. It is rare that the appearance of excess hair signals a medical problem, although in some cases, it does.
If hirsutism first appears after early adulthood, continue the doctors, especially if it occurs over a short period of time, there may be some internal disorder that is treatable. In this case, you should get in touch with your physician. In the treatment of normal excess hair, there is no role for sex hormones or indeed any medications. How then does one get rid of excess hair? There are five methods recommended by doctors: shaving, depilation, tweezing, bleaching, and electrolysis which you use is a personal choice. Here, some pros, cons, and practical advice about each
Shaving: the majority’s choice. Most women shave and for obvious reasons it’s easy and fast. You can shave legs, undearms, around the bikini line; but NEVER shave arms or upper lip or hairs on your breasts (you can snip these with a scissors). The reason is not that shaving causes hair to grow in thicker and darker- because it does’nt but that shaved hair grows in rough, not smooth.
Safety razors are best they get closest. Electric razors are tricky for clean shaves; they usually leave some stubble. Re using a safety razor: never shave skin dry. Always use soap and water, shaving lather, or a gel cleanser. A light moisturizer is good, tooâ€”anything, in fact, that helps the razor glide over skin, prevents nicks.
Tweezing strays. Tweezing works best, obviously, on brows, where you’re plucking only a couple of hairs. Never pluck hairs on the breasts or hairs growing out from a mole only a doctor should remove the latter. If tweezing eyebrow hairs hurts, try desensitizing skin with an ice cube. Pluck in the direction hair grows. And have on hand these essentials: astringent or rubbing alcohol for cleansing skin, tweezers, a good magnifying mirror which prevents mistakes. A word here about electronic tweezing, which has recently come under new FDA regulation. It is not permanent; it is also costly. Best to skip.
Why depilatories? On the pro side, depilatories have a lot going for them. They’re painless, easy to use, keep hair off for weeks. Chemical depilatories have in them an active ingredient that dissolves hair away by breaking down the structure of the protein that gives hair its strength and texture. You can use depilatories almost anywhere arms, legs, underarms, the bikini line. If you’re going to use one on your face be sure the package says it is safe for facial use.
Facial depilatories are the only ones, by the way, you should use on your hairline
whether it’s around ears, forehead, or the nape of the neck. If you’re going to do your bikini line, wear a pair of old panties to gauge what needs removing, and be careful of getting too close to your vaginal area. Never use depilatories on your breasts. Or your eyebrows. And do a patch test first for sensitivity.
What about wax? Waxing’s not permanent, but for people who can’t use a depilatory and want a method that lasts longer than shaving, waxing works. Waxing is painfulâ€”less so when itâ€™s done by an expert. Regulars know this; but, if you’re a novice, be sure to let your hair grow out before having it waxed, so that wax grips onto something stronger than stubble. The nice thing about waxing is that it works anywhere, can last up to eight weeks.
Electrolysis: how permanent? The success of electrolysis depends upon who’s doing it. In the hands of a skilled operator, you can really see results. The most important thing, though, is finding a qualified technician. Licensing requirements vary from state to state.
Some states require at least two years of apprenticeship, others only three hundred hours of training. For the price of a shingle, says New York electrologist Lucy Peters, almost anyone can be an electrologist today. The best way to find a good electrologist is through your dermatologist’s recommendation. A friend who’s had a good experience is another source. Lack of permanent hair removal is not the only problem you face in the hands of a poor electrologist. Scarring, pain, disease transmittal can be problems, too.
One of the breakthroughs in electrolysis in recent years has been the development of a new probe, which, it is claimed, gets to the hair root of the problem faster and with better accuracy.
We can remove hair almost everywhere, says Lucy Peters upper lip, chin, brows. We can even out a hairline, remove hairs safely on the breasts. Excess hair on the belly, the upper and lower bikini line everywhere except the vaginal area. The problem with electrolysis is that people go for treatments week in and week out sometimes for years and improvement is slow. Lucy Peters, who works with New York’s top dermatologists, has a great track record with the new probe. Some people can be finished in about six months. How? Hair grows in cycles”and a complete cycle takes about haIf a year. We can kill the roots of all visible hairs, says Lucy Peters. Then, during the next six months, you come back for monthly maintenance treatments to remove cycling hairs that were dormant during the initial cleaning but independently break the skin surface over the next five and a half to six months.
Electrolysis, says Ms. Peters, is really a saving grace for women who have coarse, thick, dark hair along the panty line. If they shave, it never looks nice or feels good; stubble appears the very next day. Waxing works, but it’s if an ingrown hairs and pimples are two common complaints.
A lot more men have been opting for electrolysis, too. If a man has a heavy beard, especially along the throat and the collar line, it can be very irritating and can produce pimples. We can thin the beard in that area and help to reduce the discomfort. Bushy brows and stray hairs that are visible in the nostrils and ears can also be treated. If a man has a lot of hair on his upper body, it can be annoying because hair tends to hold perspiration. And if that’s a problem, we can remove some of that hair, too.
On the subject of electrolysis and teenage girls, Lucy Peters sensible advice is:
Wait”until the young girl has been menstruating regularly for at least a year. And I always ask for a doctor’s note, too.
What else is essential if you’re considering electrolysis? A consultation, says Ms. Peters a good one that lasts at least a half hour. We want to know such things as whether you’ve just had a baby or are discontinuing the Pill. In either case, you’re in a hair- growing period that is temporary and will stabilize you don’t need electrolysis. We ask about medication some produce hair as a side effect. Also about medical problems. If you have cardiovascular trouble, healing may be slowed. People with allergies tend to remain slightly red for a longer period of time after a treatment.
-Mags Kavanaugh for Vogue