Structure of the Hair

TYPES OF HAIR

There are two types of hair found on the body:

  1. The fine, short hairs that grow on the skin are known as vellus hairs.  These hairs do not have pigment, and are slangily referred to as “peach fuzz.”
  2. The thicker, pigmented hairs of the scalp and body are known as terminal hairs.

THE STRUCTURE OF THE HAIR

Terminal hairs are composed of strong structural protein called keratin, the same kind of protein that makes up the nails and outer layer of the skin.  Each strand of hair consists of three layers:

  1. An innermost layer or medulla which is only present in large thick hairs.
  2. The middle layer known as the cortex. The cortex provides strength and both the color and the texture of hair.
  3. The outermost layer is known as the cuticle. The cuticle is thin and colorless and serves as a protector of the cortex.

THE HAIR GROWTH CYCLE

Though different parts of the body begin to grow (or lose) hair at varying ages, a developing fetus has all of it’s hair follicles formed by the 22nd week – about 5 million follicles in all.  One million of those are on the head, and 100,000 – 150,000 are on the scalp.  No new hair follicles are formed after birth, although its cyclic behavior and color change throughout life.  As the size of the body increases as we grow older, the density of the hair follicles on the skin decreases.

Hair growth is cyclic with alternating periods of growth:

  1. The anagen phase, or growth phase, can last anywhere from two to eight years, and varies in different parts of the body.  This phase also varies for different parts of the body in terms of the percentage of hair in anagen phase at any given time.  For example, 90% of the hair on your scalp is in anagen phase at any given time, compared to only 20% of the hair on your legs.  Hair must be in the growth phase for hair removal methods to work effectively.
    Hair growth cells lie in the dermal papilla, which is located at the base of the follicle.  During anagen phase these cells rapidly divide to produce the hair shaft, which extends up through the dermal and epidermal layers before finally protruding out of the skin.  The length of each hair is proportionate to the duration of its anagen cycle, not the rate of cell division, which is why hair on the scalp is much longer than on other parts of the body.
  2. The catagen phase, or transitional phase, lasts from two to four weeks.  During this phase, hair growth stops as the hair follicle shrinks to about 1/6th of the normal length, the lower part is destroyed, and the dermal papilla breaks away to rest below.  Hair does not fall out during this phase unless it is pulled, plucked, or lasered.
  3. The telogen phase, or resting phase, lasts about 5-6 weeks.  Hair still does not fall out during telogen phase, but remains attached to the follicle while the dermal papilla rests below.

After the telogen phase is complete, the anagen phase begins again.  It is at this point that the old hair is pushed out and lost as the the new hair shaft is forming.

HAIR REMOVAL METHODS

Think hair removal is a modern trend?  Think again!  Humans have been fighting a losing battle with body hair since prehistoric times.  The first recorded hair removal methods actually come from cave paintings!  Back then people shaved using stones sharpened with sandpaper-like pumice, or used shells or broken wood as rudimentary tweezers to tweeze their unwanted hairs.

Evolution has provided modern-day men and women with a host of hair removal options to choose from, but it was only recently — with the arrival of elos laser hair removal — that a permanent option for hair removal became available.

MILD TECHNIQUES

Shaving

Shaving is the least effective method of hair removal and requires daily maintenance.  Not only is it messy and inconvenient, but what’s the point of having smooth skin when it’s got nicks and cuts all over it?  Not cute.

STRIPPING TECHNIQUES

Though many people think that the following techniques remove the entire hair follicle, they are sadly misinformed.  Ripping out a hair follicle would not only be incredibly painful, but would also be accompanied by bleeding, swelling, potential scarring, and a whole host of other nasty side effects that are far more unsightly than unkempt hair.  More often than not, these methods just stretch and break the hair shaft near the bulb or bulge, removing visible hair from the surface of the skin for a number of weeks.

Tweezing

Though we may have progressed from sea shells to shiny metal tweezers, this method hasn’t improved much after thousands of years of human ingenuity.  Tweezing is perhaps the most barbaric and stressful of all hair removal methods for a number of reasons:

  • each hair must be tweezed individually (ouch!)
  • extremely time consuming
  • there is a high risk of ingrown hairs and/or infection.

Threading

Similar to tweezing in a number of ways, this is yet another method originated is especially popular in the Middle East.  The process involves wrapping a long twisted loop around individual strands of hair to create a coil that traps the hair and pulls it from the skin.  Aside from sharing all of the side effects inherent in tweezing, threading also adds potential scarring to the list.

Waxing

Waxing uses the same principle as the techniques listed above, but yanks out hair in patches rather than individually.  While this is far more efficient than the aforementioned methods, it is also far more painful and adds redness, soreness, and skin irritation to the list of potential side effects.

Depilatory Creams

Depilatory products come in gel, cream, and roll-on forms.  They contain alkaline chemicals that dissolve hair protein, causing it to break in half.  While this may sound like a miracle method, there are a number of drawbacks.  These products cannot be used on the eyebrows, pubic area, broken skin, or sensitive skin.  Additionally, there is a high occurrence of a number of nasty effects including severe allergic reactions, ingrown hair, dry and itchy skin, and sometimes  even burning skin.

TECHNOLOGICAL TECHNIQUES

Electrolysis

This form of hair removal has been in use for over 136 years.  Until laser hair removal with elos technology hit the market it was the only FDA-approved “permanent option” for the removal of very fine and/or light-colored hair.  A study conducted in 2000 concluded that laser hair removal (with an actual laser, not IPL) was 60 times faster, less painful, and more reliable than electrolysis.

IPL Laser Hair Removal

A contradiction in terms (since it doesn’t actually use any lasers), IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light, uses xenon flash bulbs that emit the full spectrum of light to target the melanin in hair.  Unfortunately, this method only works on individuals with very light skin and very dark hair.  Who says blonds have more fun?

Elos Hair Removal

The first truly universal method for permanent hair removal, laser hair removal with elos technology is truly a revolution in the evolution this industry.  Unlike IPL systems that don’t actually use lasers, elos features optical and electrical energies (in the form of laser light and radio frequencies, respectively) to destroy follicles safely, effectively, and far more efficiently than any other method currently available.  Laser hair removal with elos technology:

  • Is an effective option for everyone, regardless of hair or skin color.
  • Takes half as long as other systems.
  • Requires less sessions than other systems.
  • Removes even minimally pigmented hair on all skin tones.

Schedule your free consultation by calling White Tea Med Spa today at 212-647-8919.  Our expertly trained and experienced therapists will create a customized treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs, and take you out of the stone age and into tomorrow.