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Causes of Hair Growth

It is very important to establish how long the problem of unwanted hair has existed as it may give a clue to the cause of the hair growth e.g an onset of hair may have coincided with a pregnancy, the menopause or even some strong drugs. Understanding the cause of the hair growth will enable the electrologist to proceed with the treatment most effectively.

Causes of unwanted hair growth can be divided into 3 categories

Topical

Hair that is forcibly removed or pulled out often grows back more strongly as methods such as tweezing or waxing tear out the lower follicular area stimulating the blood supply and resulting in a stronger more determined re-growth.

Other topical causes could be

The application of some steroid creams applied to the skin for certain conditions such as eczema.
Irritation and friction caused by a Plaster cast. Once removed, however the hair usually disappears in time.

Hereditary/Racial/ Genetic

Upon questioning, some clients may divulge a family tendency to have excess hair and so the cause can be clearly attributed to inherited genes. For others there may be a pre disposition to acquiring hair at a certain time of their life, where there is no previous family history and is considered where all other avenues of investigation has failed to reveal a cause. Finally racial background has a great influence on the presence of hair in certain areas e.g. Asian women tend to have dense but fine facial hair which extends from the ear/jaw line area to neck, chin and upper lip, even the forehead.

Systemic

Hair growth that has been caused by a hormone disturbance or a bodily influence is referred to as a systemic cause. Hormones are natural substances transported in the blood, which act as chemical messengers targeting specific cells and tissues of the body.

In general, hormones are responsible for the following, they:

  • Regulate growth and development
  • Help to keep the body in a constant steady state known as Homoeostasis.
  • Help to cope with stress.
  • Help to regulate how the body deals with foods to produce energy.

All women have low levels of male hormones in their circulation, these are made in the ovaries as an intermediate step in making female hormones but sometimes the levels can become imbalanced resulting in certain manifestations such as excess hair growth.

Systemic Causes can be divided into two categories

There are normal as well as abnormal hormone disturbances.

Primary (normal) causes

Conditions considered normal hormone disturbances are puberty, pregnancy, menopause and even stress. There are certain stages in a women’s life where hormones become imbalanced naturally:

Pregnancy

During pregnancy a women may experience a sudden onset of hair growth which may disappear just as suddenly in the months post partum. Provided the pregnant client is not contra indicated she may wish to proceed with the treatment of the hair, even with the knowledge that it may recede. Treatment will not exacerbate the problem but provide the client with the means to lift her self esteem.

Menopause

In menopausal women the male hormones or androgen levels, become disproportional compared to the falling levels of the female hormones and hair may develop or existing hair may become darker. For these clients electrolysis offers a means of getting rid of the hair, in some cases, where hormone output is not adjusted, electrolysis controls the growth rather than eradicating it.

Puberty

Some pubescent females will develop a growth of darker but usually fine, excess hair particularly on the upper lip and neck. This usually disappears once the hormones find their levels and should not cause alarm. However, young girls are especially self conscious and it is often with anxious mothers in tow that they choose to seek out the help of the electrologist. Treatment of the hair is highly successful and offers a far preferable alternative to topical methods of hair removal, which only serve to exacerbate the problem. For girls under 16 years of age, parental or G.P. permission must always be sought before treatment can commence and once permission has been given a parent or guardian should accompany the young client on every visit.

Stress

The endocrine system, is the system of the body, that is responsible for producing and distributing the hormones and is very finely balanced. Its functions have an effect on all the other systems of the body, particularly metabolism. Stress increases the levels of adrenalin produced and this in turn has a knock on effect on the other hormone levels produced. In extreme cases it is possible for prolonged stress to cause a manifestation of unwanted hair. The solution is of course to remove the source of the stress and treatment with electrolysis will help alleviate any anxiety caused by the hair itself.

Drugs/ Medication

It is known that certain drugs can stimulate hair growth. Medications containing hormones such as some oral contraceptives may cause hair to grow in a masculine pattern. In some cases it is clear that the onset of unwanted hair coincides with the taking of medication but where a client has to take medication for life, permanent hair removal may not be achievable. However treatment with electrolysis offers a means of controlling the hair growth.

Drugs That Cause Unwanted Hair Growth

The following, are drugs with reported incidences of unwanted hair growth as a side effect. It should be noted that only a small minority of people will be affected by these drugs and caution should be exercised before attributing blame to the drug.

Hormones

Oral contraceptives – if hair growth has arisen since starting them
Oestrogen or Progesterone Therapy (Provera)
Cortisone (Cortisyl)
Prednisone and its derivatives (Deltacortril, Prednisolone, Precortisyl, Prednesol)
Dexamethasone (Decadron)
Topical Steroid Creams (Hydrocortisyl, Betnovate)
Testosterone (Restandol, Sustanon, Testoviron Depot)
Clomiphene (Clomid, Scrophene – both are fertility stimulators)
Thyroid Hormones (Synthrosis, Eltroxin)
Growth Hormone (Norditrophin)

Anti Convulsants

Clonazepam (Rivotril)
Carbamazepine (Tegretol, Temporol)
Phenytoin (Epanutin)

Anti Depressants

Fluoexetine (Prozac)
Clompramine (Anafranil)
Sertraline (Lustral)
Venlafaxine (Efexor)
Bupropion (Wellutrin)
Trazadone (Molipaxin)

Topical Skin Preparations

Topical Steroids (as above)
Topical Anti-bacterial (Neosporin)
Topical Anti-fungus (Nizoral, Daktarin)

Miscellaneous

Roaccutane anti-acne agent
Fenfluramine – weight loss agent (Ponderax)
Minoxidil – blood pressure reducer and hair growth stimulator (Regaine)

Secondary (abnormal) causes

Abnormal causes are where there is an imbalance of hormones caused by glandular disorder or disease such as:

  • Cushings Syndrome
  • Adrenogenital Syndrome
  • Archard Thiers Syndrome
  • Stein Leventhal Syndrome

The most common abnormal disturbance likely to be encountered in dealing with electrolysis clients is called Stein Leventhal Syndrome but is probably better known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

This is a condition where the ovaries contain many small cysts, which lie just under the surface of the ovary. The cysts are the remains of egg follicles that have not grown large enough to release an egg.

Facts about Polycystic Ovaries

  • Polycystic Ovaries tend to produce too much male hormone which can cause hair to grow more strongly in a male pattern.
  • Male hormones, or androgens, also increase the activity of the sebaceous glands, which can lead to acne.
  • Polycystic Ovaries can affect any woman of a reproductive age.
  • It is estimated that up to 20% of women have Polycystic Ovaries to some extent or another.
  • Most common symptoms are excessive hair growth, heavy irregular periods or no periods at all.
  • Polycystic Ovaries can be hereditary.
  • Being overweight can affect the balance of the hormones in the body and trigger the symptoms of Polycystic Ovaries and can make them worse.

Very often, the electrologist is the first person to be alerted to the symptoms of Polycystic Ovaries and whilst she should never attempt to diagnose the problem, she is in a prime position to suggest that the client consult her doctor for advice. In severe cases drug therapy is administered which serves to block the production of the male hormones, so in conjunction with electrolysis treatments the results are most favourable.

Adrenogenital Syndrome

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is a term used to represent a group of inherited adrenal gland disorders. Patients with this condition produce an excess of the androgen hormone and insufficient amounts of cortisol and hormones.
It is a condition that results in a lack of a specific enzyme, necessary for the adrenal glands to make the necessary cortisol and aldosterone hormones within the body. When a lack of these two hormones is present, the body instead produces an excess amount of androgen, a male sex hormone. With this androgen excess, early or inappropriate appearance of male characteristics are present.

Facts about Adrenogenital Syndrome

  • 1 in 10,000-80,000 are affected
  • Achard–Thiers syndrome
  • Affects mostly postmenopausal women and comprises diabetes mellitus, deep voice, hirsutism or hypertrichosis, clitoral hypertrophy and adrenal cortical hyperplasia or adenoma. Patients often also have amenorrhoea, hypertension and osteoporosis.

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