• Hair removal

  • Traditional methods for removing unwanted body hair include shaving, waxing, the application of depilatory cream and electrolysis. Depilation by laser is a relatively new technique. It helps not only those with normal hair growth, but also those with excessive hairiness of the body or face, a condition called hirsutism which causes considerable psychological distress.

     

  • Hirsutism affects approximately 10% of women between the ages of 18 and 35. In most cases there is no obvious cause but some patients may have a hormonal disturbance. Hirsutism may also be a feature of the menopause. Unwanted hair is a significant problem for transsexuals and transvestites, and many males with hair on their back dislike it intensely. Children with hairy moles of the face or lumbar spine area are often teased.

    Treatment may be a little uncomfortable – it feels a little like an elastic band snapping against the skin – but some patients prefer to use local anaesthetic cream to numb the area first. Aloe vera gel may also be used during or after treatment for its cooling effect. Some lasers have a cooling system which reduces the discomfort of the treatment.

    After treatment, the treated area may look red and feel warm and tender. This feeling goes after a couple of hours, but in a few patients, particularly those with dark skin, blistering and crusting of the skin sometimes occurs after laser treatment. Some hairs disappear at the treatment session; others, which initially look curled up or “frazzled” may take a few days to fall out.

    Results

    Initial reports of laser hair removal were extremely promising, and some research went so far as to claim that it may be permanent, but this is generally not the case. A few patients do not respond to the laser treatment at all but many will have good results. Regrowth is not only less dense but also less coarse. In the ideal patient, with dark hair and pale skin, the hair usually disappears for two to three months and then slowly regrows. Repeat treatment is usually required several times a year. When laser treatment is carried out it is essential that all those within the treatment room, you and the staff, should wear protective goggles or glasses. Entry to the room is strictly controlled whilst treatment is being given.

    Complications and problems

    Laser light can damage the skins pigment and sometimes the treatment area may become unusually pale or dark several months after treatment. For this reason, it is always wise to carry out a small trial of treatment in an unobtrusive area before proceeding to extensive treatment. The test patch is examined six to eight weeks later for unwanted side effects and to carefully assess success before proceeding to further treatment. Special care is needed when treating patients with black or brown skin.