THE CAUSES OF EXCESS HAIR by Mary Healy*
“Electrology is the only proven method to remove hair permanently.”
Excess hair has been an esthetic problem for thousands of years; affecting millions of people. Women are usually more concerned with excess hair, although many men also suffer from the problem.
The distribution of hair varies according to race. Negroids, Orientals, Mongolians, and American Indians have less hair than Caucasians. Caucasians of Mediterranean race are more hirsute than Nordic or other light-skinned Caucasians.
Hirsutism is a term usually reserved for females. It is the growth of excessive hair on the face and body which is characteristic of masculinity. It is caused by an overabundance of the hormone androgen in the blood. The dormant follicles are stimulated to grow hair, and existing vellus (primary hair) and terminal hairs will grow larger in diameter.
Hypertrichosis is not characterized as masculine. The vellus and terminal hair of the arms, legs, feet, and sometimes the neck and back increase in quantity but not necessarily in diameter. Both men and women may be characterized as having hypertrichosis.
WHAT CAUSES EXCESS HAIR?
All hair growth, normal or abnormal, is regulated by hormones. It is the oversecretion of male hormones that causes excessive hair growth. Research has established that most excess hair is due to the combination of too much androgen, and an enzyme in the follicle that is very sensitive to the increase.
As a person becomes an adult, the secondary sex traits appear. The adjustment of hormone levels at this time can result in excess hair and acne.
As a woman ages, her reproductive organs change, resulting in an increase of the male hormones testosterone and androgen. Excessive hair will often begin to grow as this happens. Many males will also begin to grow excess hair in mid-life on the back and ears.
It is not uncommon for a woman to lose hair on her head during pregnancy and, at the same time, develop superfluous hair on the face and chest. After pregnancy, as the hormone levels return to normal, the hair on the head will usually regrow, but the superfluous hair rarely disappears.
Hirsutism caused by drugs in technically called iatrogenic (eye ah tro JEN ik). Birth control pills are one of the more common drugs that can result in excess hair, as well as drugs to treat high blood pressure, kidney disease, and low blood sugar. Chemotherapy can cause excess hair growth on the faces of female patients, and antibiotics used to treat tuberculosis can cause excessive hair growth in children.
Any disorder of the endocrine glands can result in an imbalance in the male and female hormones, and cause excess hair to grow. Tumors, especially on the ovaries, are often to blame. Other more common disorders would be those of the growth hormones of the pituitary, diabetes disorders of the adrenal gland, or Cushing’s syndrome.
Awareness of these symptoms help the electrologist be more sensitive to the patient’s needs. The electrologist is not expected to diagnose the problem, but may suggest that the patient consult a physician or an endocrinologist. The medical specialist would then correct the cause, and the electrologist would correct the result. Excess hair once present, rarely if ever, goes away after the hormonal problem is corrected.
Here is some helpful information about PCOS (PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome) which affects approximately 10% of women in the reproductive age group and is another common cause of excess hair:
Learn about treatment, how to read test results, PCOS and the pill
It is quite common for the electrologist to notice excess hair on female patients when they are under severe stress. It is thought that the adrenal gland secretes larger amounts of androgen at this time.
Both obesity and anorexia nervosa can result in excess hair. Scientific studies indicate that obese individuals develop a synthetic hormone that causes stimulation of the follicles. Anorexia nervosa stimulates the adrenal glands so that excess hormones are produced.
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT EXCESS HAIR?
Excess hair can be removed in a variety of ways. There are temporary methods such as waxing, shaving, tweezing, even abrasion. If the person wishes to remove hair permanently, electrology is the only proven method.
Electrology treatment is divided into three categories. The first is cosmetic correction. This type of treatment is strictly for cosmetic effect and the hair treated is not considered abnormal hair growth. Treatment of hairline, eyebrows, underarms, and sometimes the legs and arms, and even fine hair that can hardly be seen fall into this category. The secondary category is psychological cosmetic correction. This type of treatment attempts to relieve the anguish that a patient develops due to perceived hirsute disfigurement.
The third category is surgical correction. This includes the delicate treatment of eyelashes, ingrown lashes, and the removal of ingrown hairs in an area where the skin must be broken first. This is, of course, the most difficult of all the treatments. The practicing electrologist must ensure that they comply with state regulations and insurance requirements, and perform such treatment only after medical consultation. Patient safety and quality treatment is always of primary concern to the electrologist.
Excess hair will continue to be a problem in the future, but medical technology combined with the electrologist’s expertise will ease the minds of millions of patients and remove the mystery of the cause of excess hair.
*Information in the article was supplied by Fino Gior, practicing electrologist and former president of the International Guild of Professional Electrologists Inc. (IPGE). Mr. Gior has recently completed a book on standard electrology practices entitled, “Modern Electrology: Excess Hair, Its Causes and Treatments,” available from Milady Publishing Corp.