The treatment of hirsutism can be divided into medical treatments, which reduce the effect of androgens on the skin, and mechanical treatments, which physically remove unwanted hair.
Medical treatment. A visit to a medical specialist such as an Endocrinologist or Ob-gyn, can provide reassurance to women about normal patterns of hair growth, investigation to rule out serious underlying problems and a discussion of medicines which can be combined with removal methods to reduce the amount of hair.
Mechanical treatment. There are more choices of hair removal methods on the market today than ever before and there is no one method that is “best” for everyone. Temporary methods include waxing, tweezing, shaving, sugaring, threading and depilatories. These methods are usually inexpensive and readily available in salons or in drug stores for home use. They do not permanently remove hair. Continued home use of these products or salon appointments are necessary. Each of these methods has associated pros and cons which any consumer should consider. Temporary methods which remove hairs by the roots (waxing, sugaring, threading) are considered risky by some professionals due to the possible induction of bacteria into the blood stream. Sanitary procedures should always be followed to avoid infection.
Manufacturers advertising permanent hair removal solutions abound. For our purposes, we will only consider those methods cleared by the FDA for labeling as “permanent hair removal/reduction”. The methods currently classified as permanent are as follows:
- Needle Electrolysis
Needle epilators were “grandfathered in” when the FDA enacted the statutes in 1976. With “120 years of proven results”, the FDA determined that needle epilator manufacturers did not need to submit clinical studies to prove efficacy. All needle epilator manufacturers are allowed to advertise their devices as permanent hair removal.
- Laser Hair Removal
To date (1/99), only one laser manufacturer has obtained clearance from the FDA to label their device as permanent hair reduction. Laser technology, used for hair removal, is a recent advance and more clearances should be upcoming. Again, all laser manufacturers must submit clinical studies to the FDA in order to obtain clearance to market as permanent hair removal/reduction.
There is much debate among professionals as to the effectiveness of each of these methods. Many prefer to disregard the rulings of the legislated authority in the U.S., the FDA, and argue in favor of their favorite method and against all others. Consumers, bombarded by conflicting statements and misleading information, opt for “magic remedies” which promise them “fast, cheap and painless” permanent hair removal. Televisions and web pages hawk devices for less than $100.00 which manufacturers claim will deliver all three (3) of these goals. 30 day guarantees are offered (useless when considering the length of the human hair growth cycle) and consumers are willing to take the risk because the promise of “pie in the sky” is too tempting to resist. The address of the FDA website is http://www.fda.gov and information abounds there. Hair removal devices are located in the “Medical Devices/Radiological Health” section and listings are available in each category (KCW-needle, KCX-tweezer, GEX-laser). Each consumer must take the initiative to research equipment available and determine which product, service or equipment will be the best solution for them individually because the hair removal industry, as a whole, is not forthcoming with this information.
As an assortment of types of businesses have started offering hair removal services, more and more males are taking advantage of these services. In fact, 30% of all hair removal consumers are male. Again, society dictates beauty and lots of body hair is simply not in vogue. Males opt to take advantage of hair removal services for an assortment of reasons. These reasons include lack of adequate time to shave, job requirements (body building, weight lifting, wrestling, etc.), sports activities (wet suits and hair do not compliment each other – ouch!), aesthetic preferences of sexual partners, sexual transition, and others. Males no longer need to go to traditional “beauty salons” or even to female hair removal practitioners to get the services they want. Barber shops, spas, and laser centers now offer these services as well as an increasing number of doctors and medical facilities. They can additionally purchase home-use electrolysis equipment for private, personal and sometimes even painless hair removal.
Do your homework before you purchase any equipment or practitioner services. Sadly, hair removal equipment manufacturers and practitioners are not willing to accept responsibility for your lost moneys and emotional distress. There are laws in place to force these manufacturers to comply to advertising standards and avoid product misbranding and adulteration. The FTC enforces these laws even on the Internet. If permanent hair removal is your goal, do not purchase equipment or services that do not have clearance unless you personally know someone who has had successful results. Ask the manufacturer to mail you a copy of their 510(k) clearance letter from the FDA or to supply you with their 510(k) number so you can look it up at the FDA website. The FDA website also includes a list of local offices that you can contact for information. Although you may feel embarrassed and even desperate to remove the unwanted hair, do not allow these feelings to make you an easy target for unscrupulous manufacturers and uncaring practitioners. Consumer… Beware!