The following article was published in the Daily Telegraph on 26th January 2007:
There’s nothing quite like stumbling across a long, dark facial hair to make a woman feel her age. The one consolation is that it happens to all of us and something can be done about it.
Tackle the problem in January and, with any luck, you’ll be hair-free in time for summer.
Occasionally, excessive facial hair is caused by an underlying health issue, especially for women in their twenties and thirties. PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is one of the most likely.
If in doubt, consult your GP or a dermatologist before embarking on a costly hair-removal campaign. “The reason this is important is that we can use some medications to help,” says Dr Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist at the Cranley Clinic.
These medicines are often prescribed in conjunction with topical treatments and can prove very effective.
In spite of the occasional celebrity underarm left as nature intended (Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore have both been snapped thus), body hair remains resolutely unfashionable.
From teenage years, most women remove it at all costs. Fashion aside, unwanted hair, especially around the face, is upsetting and unsettling. It undermines confidence, makes women feel unfeminine and old, and in some cases causes deep psychological problems.
So it should come as no surprise that it’s one of the most common problems dermatologists are asked about. The question is how best to get rid of it. Waxing, threading, shaving and depilatory creams are all very well, but the hairs inevitably grow back.
More permanent methods for face and body are a real possibility. These include laser, pulsed light systems and the more traditional electrolysis.
Hair removal can never be completely permanent though. ”A lot of hair is in the resting phase of the hair cycle at any one time,” says Lowe, ”so hair will probably start to regrow.” Repeat treatments are a must and with laser or pulsed light (IPL) the skin must have no tan, not even a fake one.
Here is the lowdown on the most effective treatments and where to go for them:
Best for: ”Small numbers of coarse, light, white coloured hair,” says Nick Lowe.
What happens: A whisker-thin needle feeds an electrical current down the hair, killing the hair follicle. Anaesthetic cream may be applied first.
After-effects: A little redness and possibly slight scabbing if the follicle treated becomes infected.
Cons: Painful and slow, so unsuitable for larger areas. If an area is treated too often, small, “ice-pick” scars may form.
Where to go nationwide: A qualified practitioner at a reputable beauty salon or clinic. Contact the British Institute and Association of Electrolysis (BIAE) (0870 128 0477; www.electrolysis.co.uk).
Where to go in London: Margaret Medhurst at Urban Retreat Medispa, Harrods (£20 for 15 minutes), 020 7893 8333; Gina Charalambous at Richard Ward Metrospa, 82 Duke of York Square, Sloane Square, SW3 (£30 for 15 minutes) 020 7730 1222.
LASER HAIR REMOVAL
Best for: Face, upper lip, legs, bikini line and underarm.
What happens: A hand-held trigger releases the laser, which kills the hair at the root. A cooling mechanism minimises discomfort and anaesthetic cream may be applied first.
Generally, facial hair needs treating every four to six weeks and the body every six to eight weeks, with a minimum of five sessions.
After-effects: Skin is pink after treatment and sometimes develops a bumpy rash, but this should resolve itself in a few hours.
Cons: Not effective on white or light hair. Potentially painful (ask for anaesthetic cream to be applied an hour before treatment starts). If the wrong laser is used, a loss of pigmentation can occur.
Where to go nationwide: A registered consultant dermatologist, or a skin clinic specialising in laser hair removal carried out by a medically supervised nurse. Sk:n, which has clinics around the country, charges from £29 (0800 028 7222; www.lasercare-clinics.co.uk).
Where to go in London: Dr Nick Lowe at the Cranley Clinic, 3 Harcourt House, 19a Cavendish Square, W1 (020 7499 3223 for prices); Dr Mario Russo at the Rejuvenation Clinic, 43 Devonshire Street, W1 (0870 243 2230), from £75 for smaller areas; the Private Skin Laser Clinic at the Royal Free Hospital, NW3 (020 7435 7521), from £80.
INTENSE PULSED LIGHT (IPL)
Best for: Face and body, especially effective on underarms, less so on the upper lip unless the hairs are dark.
What happens: Pulsed light waves target hairs through a hand-held device. They burn the hair at the root, causing it to fall out.
A cooling gel is applied before the light “shot”, which feels like an elastic band flick. A cool pack takes out the heat and a soothing gel is then applied.
After-effects: Slight tingling, a bit like mild sunburn, that lasts for a short time. Possibly a little redness, but this will go down after an hour or so.
Cons: Can cause burning or blistering if used at the wrong wavelength for the skin type. Best on darker, thicker hairs, although the Aculight system (0870 900 5959) can treat lighter hairs. Generally weaker and less precise than laser, so requires more treatments.
Where to go nationwide: A dermatologist or a qualified practitioner. Crystal Clear offers the treatment in salons across the country (0151 709 7227; www.crystalclear.co.uk).
Where to go in London: Dr Rita Rakus, 34a Hans Road, Knightsbridge, SW3, from £80 (020 7460 7324); Victoria Walker at Michaeljohn, 25 Albermarle Street, W1 (020 7629 6969), upper lip, £480 for course of 10 treatments.