Hair removal can be defined as any means by which unwanted hair is removed from the face or body. This includes different methods, such as IPL, Laser, electrolysis (epilation), threading, waxing, shaving and depilatory creams.
The removal of hair can be either permanent or temporary. Different methods have different indications, procedures, effects and side-effects.
The chosen method will be dependant on different individual factors, such as convenience, budget, time and personal preference.
There are three types if hair:
- Lanugo hairs are found on foetuses. They are fine, soft and unpigmented. They are shed in utero and are replaced by secondary vellus hairs around the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy. Lanugo hair on the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes are replaced by terminal hair.
- Vellus hairs are fine, downy and soft and are found on both the face and body. They are often unpigmented, rarely longer than 20mm and there base is very close to the surface of the skin. If these hairs are stimulated by any temporary means of hair removal, the shallow follicle of the vellus hair can grow downward to become a follicle that produces terminal hairs.
- Terminal hairs are longer and coarser than vellus hairs and most are pigmented. They vary greatly in shape, diameter, length, colour and texture. The follicles from which they grow are situated deep within the dermis (second layer of the skin) and have well developed bulbs (this is the reason why these hairs tend to bleed when removed during waxing/threading). Terminal hairs can be subdivided into asexual, sexual and ambisexual hair.
There are three types of hair growth:
- Anagen is the actively growing stage of the hair, the follicle has reformed; the bulb is developing, surrounding the life-giving dermal papilla and the new hair forms, growing from the matrix in the bulb.
- Catagen is the stage when the hair separates from the papilla. Over a few years it is carried by the movement of the inner root sheath, up the follicle to the base of the sebaceous (oil) gland. It will remain here until it either falls out or is pushed out by the new hair growing from the follicle. This phase can be very rapid, with a new hair growing almost immediately; or slower with the papilla and follicle degenerating and entering a resting stage (telogen).
- Telogen is the resting stage in which hairs may be loosely inserted in the shallow follicle. One could say that the follicle is dormant in this stage.
It is vitally important to consider these three hair growth phases when considering waxing, threading or epilation, as different hair are in different stages of growth. This is the reason why most waxers will advise you to make three appointments, 2 weeks after one another to ensure that all three phases are removed.
Re-growth after waxing or threading is usually due to:
- There being more than one hair present in a follicle
- Hair being in the telogen phase at the time of its removal
- The therapist being unskilled
IPL and Laser hair removal are also influenced by these stages as they both only coagulate protein of follicles in the anagen stage. The anagen stage of any individual can be any where form eight to fourteen months apart.
When considering which method of hair removal to use, you also need to consider the following factors:
- Do you perhaps have a pre-existing condition causing the abnormal hair growth in certain areas, such as hirsutism and hypertrichosis or is it superfluous hair.
- Hormonal problems such as an over or under active thyroid.
- Which other methods have or have not worked well for you in the past.
These are all important things to consider as they will, with all the other factors already mentioned, influence which method will work well for you.
No matter which method you choose, it is always important to evaluate all your options and weigh the pro’s and con’s of each.
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