Dr. Dean

Will Anything Permanently Remove Facial Hair?

Posting Date: 05/13/1999

Jane: A few years ago, I had electrolysis treatments for 18 months to remove facial hair. I had hairs on my face like the kind men get. The hair disappeared, but most of it came back a few years later.

Can either electrolysis or laser treatments remove hair permanently? What about medication?

A woman from a salon in San Francisco that is doing a hair removal study said there is no such thing as permanent hair removal unless it's done with hormones.

I had a test to check my hormone levels.

Dr. Dean: That's a good beginning, but if you had them checked once, you might check them again because these levels can fluctuate.

Some women are hirsute because of unusually high testosterone levels - a rise in testosterone levels can create new hair follicles.

I recommend that you see a dermatologist. I'm a great believer in specialists for specialty problems. All day long I read medical journals, and what I've read tells me that a dermatologist who is interested in helping hirsute women is the person who's going to do the most for you. The specialist can also point you in the direction of some new medications that might help.

There is no such thing as a one-shot deal that will permanently remove hair, as if I took a scalpel and shaved you forever clean. You will always need a "touch up."

With the old standard electrolysis method when 100 hairs are removed, about 30 percent of them come right back. Then those are removed, and 30 percent of that third returns. One-shot permanent removal doesn't happen, but repeated treatments can be a success for a time.

We are finding with the new laser treatment that hair has not regrown on some people who had it removed years ago. Hair that hasn't grown back in a year ain't coming back; I don't think the follicle can form again.

But one sweep of the laser will not permanently remove all of the hairs. The ones that survived the first sweep have to be zapped again.

What I like about the laser is that it treats a bunch of hairs at once. It costs a little more, but the convenience might make it worthwhile, because the wand can target larger areas.

Laser, however, doesn't have the track record of electrolysis, which has been around a lot longer. I do like to see a method prove itself over five to 10 years.