Frequently Asked Questions
What Causes Unwanted Hair Growth?
There are many factors which could contribute to unwanted hair. Heredity, hormonal changes, medications, stress, and external factors can all play a significant role.
It’s in your genes
If members of your family have unwanted hair, the odds are likely that you will too.
Hormones – a balancing act
At various times in a person’s life, changes in hormonal balance can cause unwanted hair growth. The hormones responsible for this are called androgens; they are often referred to as “male” hormones because they are present in larger quantities in men, but there are certain amounts present in women as well.
Both women and men normally experience increased hair growth during puberty, due to an increase in androgens; women also undergo these hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause.
In some individuals, excess hair growth can indicate an underlying medical condition which may involve a problem with the endocrine (hormone-producing) glands. Disorders of the thyroid, pituitary, adrenal glands, and the ovaries can often cause hormonal imbalances; for the sake of the individual’s health, these conditions must be evaluated and treated by a physician. The side-effect of excess hair growth will not be resolved until the cause itself is.
Certain medications, such as cyclosporin, dilantin, minoxidil, cortisone, and birth control pills can also affect hormonal balance.
Believe it or not, stress (both emotional and physical) can also result in hormonal changes. In women, stress can even go so far as to cause menstrual irregularities
The outside world
The body often produces hair in response to irritation from outside sources – for example, injuries which lead to scarring, broken or sprained limbs which require casts or splints, severe sunburns, and even things like prolonged and extensive waxing. Because irritation naturally causes an increase in the blood supply to the skin and hair follicles, it can also stimulate new hair growth.
What Areas Can Be Treated with Electrolysis?
Hair can be removed from almost any part of the body, with the exception of the inside of the nose and the ear canal.
For women, areas commonly treated include the hairline, nape of the neck, eyebrows, ears, top of the nose, cheeks, sides of the face, upper and lower lip areas, chin, throat, neck, shoulder, back, underarms, chest, breasts, abdomen, bikini line, arms, fingers, legs and toes.
For men, areas of concern frequently include the hairline, eyebrows, top of the nose, mustache-line, cheeks, ears, sideburns, cheeks, beard-line, neck, shoulders, back, chest, and bikini line.
In the state of Oregon, electrologists must receive a doctor’s written consent in order to remove ingrown eyelashes or hairs growing out of a mole, as well as for situations involving a pacemaker, neuromodulator, or other implantable devices. Hair may not be removed from inside the nose or ear canal.
How Long Does Electrolysis Take and Why Do I Have to Come Back?
Because most of the follicles are dormant at any one point in time, we can only treat the ones that are active at the time of the appointment. This is why a series of treatments over a period of time is necessary in order to successfully eliminate the unwanted hair. If you start seeing new hairs coming in only a week or two after your last treatment, it is important to remember that they are not from the same follicles that were just treated.
In general, it takes about a year for all the follicles to have a chance to go through their life cycles. This estimate is based on a pattern of consistent treatment, in the sense that treatments are scheduled often enough to keep up with the new growth. Although this may sound like a long time, you will start to see significant results long before then, as the hair growth begins to thin out and slow down.
Being consistent with your treatments will definitely produce the quickest and most satisfying results. As you continue your treatments and make progress, your sessions will become shorter and spaced further apart.
Does Electrolysis Hurt?
This is a common concern, but most people are pleasantly surprised to find that the discomfort of electrolysis is not as bad as they had feared.
Sensitivity differs among individuals, and can even vary within the same person from one treatment session to the next. It can be affected by things like stress, medication, and caffeine. Sensitivity will also vary between different areas of the body.
At Alter Image, every treatment is individualized, and topical anesthetics are available to maximize your comfort. You can even bring in your favorite music to help you relax. You can also apply long-acting anesthetics – usually lidocaine-based – which are available over the counter or by mail. Customized mixtures can also be obtained through a compounding pharmacy, usually by prescription only.
Are the Hairs Coming In After My Treatment New Growth or Regrowth?
Most follicles are eliminated the first time they are treated, so most of the hair you see coming in after treatment will be “new growth” (from follicles that have not yet been treated.) A small percentage of treated follicles (10-20%) will produce another hair (“regrowth”), but it will be significantly finer than its predecessor.
What Should I Do Between Electrolysis Treatments?
This will be of greater or lesser concern depending on the individual, as well as which area is being treated. For example, someone doing hair removal from the underarms may be less worried about how things look than someone who is working on the face, which is out on display all day long.
There are a number of ways to deal with the hair between appointments.
The simplest, of course, is to just leave it alone entirely. (If the hair is very thick or long, it can be hard to work with, and might slow down treatment speed. In this case, it’s best to shave the area a few days before your electrolysis treatment.)
Aside from leaving the hair alone completely, the two best options are either shaving or clipping, because these methods won’t interfere with its growth cycle – they allow the hair to stay in the follicle and alert us to its presence. The follicle can then be treated as soon as the hair is long enough to grab with a pair of tweezers.
In the case of shaving, 1-2 days’ worth of growth is usually enough (contrary to popular belief, shaving does not make the hair come in thicker); the mechanics of clipping with scissors are such that it’s almost impossible for you to cut it too short to be worked with, so it can even be done the same day as your electrolysis treatment.
If you pluck or wax between appointments, you will have to wait until the evacuated follicle(s) produce another hair before it can be treated. If this is the only method that you’re comfortable with, that is certainly understandable, and you can continue with it – just be aware that it will affect the overall length of treatment: the total amount of time you spend getting electrolysis will be the same, but it will be spread out over a longer period of time.
Bleaching is not recommended because it makes the hair hard to see; but again, if this is the only method you like, go ahead and do what makes you most comfortable – the electrolysis can still be done, but it might take a little bit longer.
What Is an Ingrown Hair and What Can I Do About It?
In the world of hair growth, here is what normally happens: a brand-new hair, seeking to make its debut into the world, grows upward through the follicle, and toward the natural opening at the surface of the skin.
If, however, there is something blocking the pore (e.g., dryness, irritation), then the hair might not be able to make it to the other side. The hair does its best to push through (“…. must … make it … to the light …”), but sometimes it just can’t, at which point it sadly gives up and begins to travel in any direction it can, which is usually either back the way it came, or sideways, parallel to the surface of the skin. The bad news is that the wayward hair is now in a previously-restricted area, which usually causes more irritation. Which then causes the same problems for other newly-emerging hairs in the vicinity – they will turn around and do the same thing, which can then easily turn into a vicious cycle.
Whether or not you choose electrolysis as a way to deal with these hairs, there IS something you can do to improve the situation. The hairs are blocked by skin, and the only way to get to them is to remove the blockage. This is usually accomplished either all at once (digging the hair out with a sharp object) or gradually over time, through exfoliation.
Digging a hair out is fine if the hair is right under the surface, but if it lies too deeply under the skin, you can do damage, which can sometimes end up in a permanent little scar. If you can cultivate some patience, you might consider exfoliation, which can be done either mechanically (loofahs, scrubs) or chemically (various products.) Exfoliation helps to speed up the process of surface skin cell turnover (shedding the old and replacing with new) and gradually brings the hair closer to the surface.
One of the best products for dealing with ingrowns is called “TendSkin”. It works by tossing off surface skin cells to allow for new ones to come up, which bring with them smoother, calmer skin, as well as the elusive hair tips, which can then be grabbed and dealt with. It will dry out the skin, so be prepared, but it is well worth the effort in the long run.