Laser Treatment in Removal of Facial Hair.
Chris Hart, Rob Trow,
Cristianos Laser Clinic,
The practicalities of living a female role and having male pattern hair growth are both tedious and demoralising. While dealing with arms, legs and chest is relatively easy, the inevitable 6 o'clock shadow is something quite different. It's the Cinderella syndrome. You must get home before the tell-tale blue shadow appears. Even after surgery it is a constant reminder of a pre-operative life. Methods of hair removal such as shaving, depilatory creams, waxing and sugaring offer only very short term relief from the problem. Electrolysis is considered a more permanent alternative, although it is not suitable for large areas as each hair follicle has to be treated individually. I am sure I have no need to explain to you what a time-consuming and often painful procedure electrolysis is. Because electrolysis is such a precise and intricate technique it is very much dependent on the skill and experience of the individual electrologist, pitting and scarring all to often bearing witness to this. The desired results only become apparent after many years of treatment. For many decades a more client-friendly method of long term hair removal has been sought.
The advent of hair removal by laser has brought hope to thousands. So why is information so hard to come by and why are there so many conflicting reports? The answer is because not all lasers aimed at hair removal produce the same results. Out of all the establishments in this country offering laser hair removal only eleven actually offer the optimum system which is the forerunner in the field. This system is called the Chromos 694 Ruby Laser. This is the system which is clinically proven to produce long term results safely and without scarring.
Before we take a look at two less effective lasers we will look at the history and development of the Chromos 694. The effect of ruby laser light on hair growth was first discovered by Professor Mare Clement, Dean of Faculty, Swansea Institute, Wales. Professor Clement and his team worked in conjunction with laser manufacturers SLS Swansea to research and develop the optimum laser for long term hair removal. The resulting Chromos 694 was first used to great effect by Middlesex-based Plastic Surgeon David Gault to help patients who had undergone reconstructive surgery.
As the medical practitioners in the audience will know quite often the perfect donor site for reconstructive surgery many be hirsute e.g. scalp or arm tissue. The Chromos 694 Ruby Laser uses the process known as selective photothermoloysis. To understand how this process works we need to have basic knowledge of the phases of hair growth. On the surface of the skin all hair looks the same but the condition of the hair follicle is vitally important to the success of laser hair removal. The growth and shedding cycle of the hair follicle is divided into three phases. In the growing stage (anagen) the cells at the base of the hair follicle divide and form the new hair which is pushed upward and appears on the skin surface. Once the formation of the hair is complete the cells at the base of the follicle stop dividing and the follicle then moves into the next stage (catogen). The follicle continues to nourish the hair which is still firmly attached. The final stage (telogen) occurs where the follicle no longer nourishes the hair, which in turn is shed. After a dormant period the hair follicle will spring back to life and the process is then repeated. The length of each of these stages varies in different body sites. For instance, scalp hair remains in the growing stage for between 2-6 years whilst hair on the upper lip remains in this stage only between 14-18 weeks.
So back to selective photothermoloysis. This is the principle of using laser energy to selectively destroy a target beneath the surface of the skin whilst leaving the surrounding healthy tissue intact. The Chromos 694 Ruby laser seeks to use the concentration of pigment (melanin) in the hair shaft to absorb the laser light, thereby heating the hair and causing thermal damage to the follicle whilst passing harmlessly through the other tissue components. The pulse length (which is the time the laser light is in contact with the skin) is very specifically pre-set in order that there is sufficient heat to prevent regrowth of hair.
For this process to be effective there needs to be a minimal amount of colour in the skin and a maximum amount of colour is the hair shaft. Plastic surgeon David Gault has reported success rates of 80% reduction of hair growth on the upper lip after 6 months using The Chromos 694 Ruby Laser.
Now lets take a look at two other systems, firstly Q-switched ruby laser. You see not even all ruby lasers are the same!! The Q-switched ruby laser is ideal for tattoo removal. Why? because it has a very short pulse length - that is, the length of time the laser is in contact with the skin. Perfect for breaking up small particles of colour which make up a tattoo. In order to prevent a hair follicle from producing a hair, the pulse length needs to be longer. The most recent report in The British Journal of Dermatology one states "Permanent hair loss is generally not observed in patients treated with Q-switched ruby lasers."
The other system you may have heard about uses carbon based gel to absorb the light from an Nd Yag laser. Whilst these systems which are marketed under various brand names produce very little skin reaction, clinical studies have reported a 40% incidence of infected hair follicles following carbon assisted laser treatment and concern has been expressed that the carbon particles were taken up by the lymphatic system.
Clinical trials carried out at the Washington Institute of Dermatological Laser Surgery U.S.A. actually conclude that these systems "mechanically shock the follicle rather than thermally injure it, which results in short term delayed regrowth."
In a brochure for one such system it states its actual aim is "not to kill the hair follicle but to disable it" and that it "impairs the growth of your hair over time, so that it regrows both slower and finer. It will be necessary to come in for treatment several times a year."
So I come back to my point. Not all lasers are the same - three laser systems aimed at hair removal and all producing very different results. For anyone considering laser treatment it really does pay to do your homework.
I have presented the facts about laser treatments and I am happy to answer any questions that you may have. But first, just a few tips on how to select a suitable clinic if you decide to seek treatment or are referring people for treatment.
Cristianos laser clinic has been established for over 10 years with clinics in Manchester, London, Leeds and Lancashire specialising in all types of laser hair removal inc dark skin and light hair along with skin treatments for the trans community inc active acne, thread veins and Rosacea. Free consultations and test patches. For more information see www.cristianos.co.uk or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Hart, C., Trow, R., (1998),Laser Treatment in Removal of Facial Hair., GENDYS '98, The Fifth International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester England.
Web page copyright GENDYS Network. Text copyright of the author. Last amended 15.03.02, 30.04.08