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Earlier it was only women who were concerned about excessive body hair and its removal. They visited the friendly neighbourhood parlour to get their eyebrows shaped and moustaches removed. Times have changed; now both men and women want to get rid of unwanted hair – from face, arms, legs, chest and back. A hairy torso (male or female) is no longer considered attractive!
In men excessive body hair is often, paradoxically, paired with male pattern baldness. This excessive hair not only looks cosmetically unappealing but can result in excessive sweating, and infections in the hair follicles.
Excessive hair growth in women is usually familial or due to obesity. Such women may have hair in areas such as the face, chin and back.
Women produce both male and female hormones. If the balance is disturbed, and more male hormones are secreted then the woman can become very hairy. This can occur during the teens or in later life. It may be due to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), congenital adrenal hyperplasia, if excessive steroids are administered or produced in the body as in Cushing’s syndrome, with some anti depressants and medications like danazole. In rare cases, it may be due to male hormone secreting tumours. If the hirsuitism is accompanied by deepening of the voice, loss of scalp hair and acne, it is called virilisation.
Shaving is a time tested method to remove hair from the arms, legs, axilla [armpits] and face. Shaving facial hair does not make it grow back thicker, coarser or faster. Apply shaving gel or foam first to soften the hair. Poor technique can cause ingrown hair.
A few unwanted hairs can be plucked using tweezers but it is painful. Pulling in the direction opposite to hair growth can cause ingrown hair and scarring. Apply ice immediately to the tweezed area to reduce swelling and redness.
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Hair removing creams are available OTC (over the counter). The chemicals dissolve the hair shaft. Allergy can develop to the chemicals so it needs to be tested on a small area first. It can burn the skin if it is left on for too long.
Hot or cold wax can be used to remove hair. This can be done professionally in a salon or at home. It is messy and painful. Infection and burns can occur. It should be avoided if acne creams are also being used.
Twisting thread and then pulling the hair out is called threading. It is a technique done in parlours. It can cause pain.
Laser treatments have become very popular in recent times. Beauty parlours and spas offer such treatments. Only a licensed pro-fessional should do it. A physician should be available on the premises to tackle any side effects. Lasers suitable for Indian skin need to be used. The sittings need to be scheduled at the correct intervals 8-10 weeks apart. It does not get rid of unwanted hair permanently. After repeated sittings, hair growth is reduced by upto 80 per cent. It can cause scarring, keloid formation and pigment changes. That is why it should be tried on a small area first.
Hair can be removed permanently with electrolysis. A professional uses a needle to apply an electric current in the hair follicle. There may be tingling and pain. The process is slow and time consuming but is permanent. It can cause pigment changes. Several sittings spaced out over a period of months are required.
Resources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)