Morristown, NJ location is opening soon!

Laser Hair Removal and Hirsutism

A picture of Dr. Hardik Soni

Dr. Hardik Soni

Book Now

Unwanted hair growth is a common aesthetic problem, but when it becomes an abnormal symptom of an underlying condition like Hirsutism, traditional techniques like waxing, shaving, and plucking only serve as temporary solutions. 

So does laser hair removal work for Hirsutism? Yes, laser hair removal is a viable treatment option for hirsutism patients, on top of PCOS medications and anti-androgens. In this article, we discuss how exactly laser hair removal can help with Hirsutism, and why it might be a better option compared to medical treatments. 

Hirsutism: Everything You Need To Know

Hirsutism is one of the most distressing symptoms of underlying medical conditions, causing severe anxiety and self-consciousness particularly in women. 

What Hirsutism Is and Its Common Symptoms

Hirsutism is a condition characterized by excessive hair growth in areas of the body that either normally grow fine and sparse hair or don’t grow hair at all. This can occur in both men and women, who each have specific patterns of hair growth according to their hormones. 

Hirsute female patients would grow a male type pattern of hair, which means thick facial hair, chest hair, back hair, and inner thighs. Male Hirsute patients also grow hair in these areas, but they are darker, thicker, and coarser almost to the point of extreme body oil production and hygiene problems.

What Causes Hirsutism

The first cause of Hirsutism is either an abnormal production of androgens or abnormal stimulation of the hair follicles. Androgens are the hormones responsible for the development of male reproductive characteristics, the most common one being testosterone. This would explain women diagnosed with Hirsutism growing beards and mustaches, or getting deeper voices than their female peers. 

Another cause is the intake of certain medications like estrogen, opium, and steroids. Some steroids are prescribed by doctors to treat hormonal issues like delayed menstrual cycles in women, but there have been recorded cases of Hirsutism as a side effect of the hormone-inducing compound. 

Other drugs that can cause Hirsutism include the following: 

  • DIAZOXIE is used to treat symptoms of hypertension and severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level) following pancreatic cancer surgery. It can cause Hirsutism because it induces enzymes that make testosterone more active. 
  • DANAZOL is a synthetic androgen commonly used to treat fibrocystic breast disease in females and hereditary angioedema. It affects the ovaries and pituitary gland and prevents the release of certain hormones. Its androgenic effects have been known to cause Hirsutism as a side effect.
  • FLUOXETINE or PROZAC is a drug used for treating depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and panic attacks.
  • PHENYTOIN or DILANTIN  is often used as an anti-seizure medication, with Hirsutism as one of its many side effects.
  • CYCLOSPORIN is used to treat psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as to prevent organ rejection following kidney, heart or liver transplant. It often causes unwanted hair growth because it stimulates hair epithelial cell proliferation. 
  • MINOXIDIL is used to treat male pattern baldness and promotes growth of hair for both men and women, but excess liquid that runs down on the face from the scalp may trigger unwanted facial hair growth. It has also been recorded to be absorbed by the blood and cause Hirsutism as a side effect.
  • ACITRETIN or SORIATANE is another drug for treating severe psoriasis with Hirsutism as one of its side effects
  • STREPTOMYCIN is an antibiotic anti-TB drug with Hirsutism as one of its side effects

The third cause of Hirsutism is likely to be any underlying medical condition that relies on androgen-stimulating medications. 

Among the most common are PCOS, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, compromised thyroid, and anorexia: 

  • POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME (PCOS): Hirsutism is perhaps one of the most distressing symptoms of  PCOS in women, adding to a list of other abnormalities like irregular periods, obesity, infertility and sometimes multiple cysts on the ovaries.
  • CONGENITAL ADRENAL HYPERPLASIA: This is a genetic condition that causes abnormal production of steroid hormones, including androgen and cortisol, the hormones responsible for secondary sex hair growth. 
  • THYROID: Scientists are still struggling to prove how thyroid causes hair growth indirectly, but historically, there is a correlation between an under-active thyroid and abnormal hair growth.
  • ANOREXIA: Excessive hair growth is one of the body’s defense mechanisms against starvation, which is an effect of anorexia, along with other eating disorders like bulimia. 

Rare cases of abnormal hair growth between eyes or on the forehead is called hypertrichosis, and can be caused by any of the medical conditions mentioned above. 

There are still some rare cases of Hirsutism that up to now have no identifiable causes linked to them. Hormones are always tricky, but they’re not unsolvable.

What Treatments Are Available for Hirsutism 

Treatment for Hirsutism is not absolutely necessary if doctors find that it isn’t linked to severe conditions like endocrine malfunction or ovarian cysts. More often than not, treatment of the underlying medical conditions can also indirectly affect and inhibit the growth of hair, but there are other remedies that target hair growth specifically, with laser hair removal being one of them.

1) Medication 

Hirsutism medications usually take up to six months, which is the average life cycle of a hair follicle, before you can see any significant change. These include anti-androgens and oral contraceptives for androgen-caused Hirsutism; and Eflornithine (Vaniqa) cream for women with facial hair. 

2) Proper diet

Hirsutism in women has been associated with excess insulin in the bloodstream, leading to a spike in circulating androgen and insulin-like growth factor. Switching to foods like non-starchy vegetables, legumes, antioxidant foods, and fruit are good remedies to insulin imbalance. Avoiding fatty sugary foods can also help regulate the production of hormones, specifically androgens.

3) Vitamin e and B6 Supplements 

Yes, supplements can go a long way in tempering abnormal hair growth, especially given that it’s a hormone-induced condition. Vitamin E in particular normalizes the production of androgen in the body, while Vitamin B6 reduces prolactin, a hormone that stimulates testosterone. 

Some of the richest sources of these vitamins are fish, avocados, organ meats, soybeans, walnuts, peanuts, bananas, sunflower seeds, safflower oil, peanut butter, corn oil, wheat germ oil, and broccoli. 

4) Laser Hair Removal 

If all else fails, cosmetic treatment is the way to go. Laser Hair Removal uses pulsed light to target hair at the follicles and significantly reduce hair regrowth by 90%. With laser hair removal, Hirsutism patients can easily manage overgrown hair without consistent upkeep. With regular use, laser hair removal may also diminish hair regrowth over time. 

Laser Hair Removal: Does It Work For Hirsutism?

Laser hair removal is the perfect resort for Hirsute patients who aren’t fully satisfied with the results of medical therapy. This is especially true for cases that aren’t particularly caused  conditions that cause hormone imbalance, or cases that have no identified causes at all. 

It’s one thing to know that your prescribed medication can help lessen excessive hair growth, and another thing when the cause is unclear and therefore difficult to target. Luckily, laser hair removal doesn’t need to know the cause to get its work done. 

How Laser Hair Removal Works 

The technology used in hair removal by lasers is based on the principle of selective photothermolysis, a very precise microsurgery technique that matches specific wavelengths of light to damage the hair follicles. The “selective” part here means that it cannot affect the epidermis, or the outermost layer of the skin. 

During treatment, melanin (the pigment in the hair) absorbs the light emitted from the lasers, and converts that light energy into heat, effectively damaging the hair follicles and inhibiting hair growth. 

For this to work and yield the best results, the following reminders are advised: 

1) Take precautions

The cardinal rule to any cosmetic procedure is to consult with a certified clinician first. Whether or not you are a Hirsute with an underlying medical condition, it’s important to make sure that you are eligible for laser hair removal before undergoing it. Certain skin conditions, medical prescriptions, and medical histories can give you higher health risks than potential benefits, so taking the effort to confirm will save you time and worry. 

2) Consider the skin type and hair type

Your skin and hair type will come into play because not all lasers work on all skins. Melanin, the pigment responsible for your hair color, is also what absorbs the light energy from laser therapy. This means that darker hair, or hair with more melanin are less prone to burning than red and blonde hair is. This also explains why there are different lasers and different treatment schedules for each patient. Generally, people with hair darker than their skin tone require less treatment time because the laser can easily detect the hair follicles to target. 

3) Know when to book an appointment

Your laser hair removal treatment is best scheduled when your hair is in its active growth cycle, or the anagen phase. At any given time, almost 10%–15% of your hair may be in the catagen or telogen stage, which is why sessions are often scheduled 4-6 weeks apart to allow all follicles to grow and restart the cycle. 

How Effective Is Laser Hair Removal VS Other Treatments? 

One of the main selling points of laser hair removal, with or without Hirsutism is the little to no risk of irritation or skin damage from shaving, and little discomfort from stubble growth. 

For Hirsute patients particularly, the promise of 80-90% of their hair losing regrowth ability may exactly be the result they need for easier maintenance and higher self-confidence.

Listed below are other treatment methods and how they compare to laser hair removal:

Effect on Hair:Longevity of Results:Risks
ShavingOnly targets the surface level of hair, causes rougher regrowth of hair2-3 days, depending on genesRazor burns, causes bumps and ingrown hairs
WaxingWeakens the hair follicle, causing finer hair regrowth4-6 weeks, depending on frequency of treatmentPainful Burns the skin, causes irritation
PluckingRemoves Hair from the roots just underneath the skin3-5 weeks, depending on frequencyPainful and time-consuming, Causes ingrown hairs, Hyperpigmentation
Hair Removal CreamDissolves body hair 5-7 days, depending on amount of cream used and treated area First to second degree chemical burns, skin irritation, skin darkening, allergic reaction
Laser Hair RemovalDamages hair follicles and inhibits hair growth About 80-90% of the hair never grow backRedness and irritation 

How Much Does Laser Hair Removal Cost For Hirsute Patients

The price of laser hair removal varies widely on the type of laser used, skin type, and medical well-being of a patient.

Patients with light hair and light skin or dark hair and dark skin will usually need a more elaborate and longer treatment plan due to the increased difficulty in detecting hair and hair follicles. Because the lasers need to be able to “see” the hair and selectively burn its roots, the most ideal candidates that need the least number of sessions are the fair to olive-skinned ones with darker hair.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, one session of laser removal can fall anywhere between $250 to $600, depending on the size of the area being treated. 

Collecting the estimates from this study will produce this list of price ranges per session:

  • half legs – $250 to $650
  • half arms – $250 to $650
  • bikini area (regular) – $150 to $450
  • bikini area (Brazilian) – $250 to $500
  • upper lip – $100 to 300
  • full face – $250 to 650
  • underarms – $150 to $250
  • chest – $150 to $450
  • back – $300 to $400

On average, most treatments are finished within 3-6 sessions, but patients with Hirsutism usually require more, especially when targeting larger areas like the back or areas with fine or wisps of hair like the cheeks and upper lip.

Things To Consider Before Booking An Appointment 

Hirsute Patients have many things to consider before booking an appointment for a laser hair removal service. Usually, med spas that do offer it are licensed to conduct various hormonal tests, especially for testosterone levels, as these may influence the patient’s response to laser therapy. 

Some of the underlying medical conditions behind Hirsutism like PCOS, thyroid dysfunctions, and adrenal hyperplasias may also affect the longevity of the results and therefore the total number of treatments needed, but not significantly. 

Finally, the price of a laser hair removal session largely depends on the lasers being used. More than 15 laser systems are FDA-approved and commercially available in most cosmetics clinics today. Each of them (ruby, alexandrite, diode, Q-switched and long-pulsed neodymium: yttrium-aluminum-garnet, and intense pulsed light sources), with their own depth of penetration and wavelengths. People with Hirsutism usually need either alexandrite and diode laser systems, and in some cases, a combination of both. These are also the most expensive lasers in the market.

For those eligible for and interested in the treatment, you can expect to spend $300 per session and several thousand dollars in total. But because treatments are spread a number of weeks apart, usually payments can also be done in increments. Certain med spas even offer discounts for clients that can pay for several sessions at once, or opt for multiple areas in one session. 

When you consider the costs of minimizing hair growth and eliminating the need for routinely wax sessions or new blades, laser hair removal is right on par. 

We all have different relationships and levels of comfort with body hair, but those with Hirsutism consider removal to be a necessity for their hygiene, comfort, and confidence.

Say Goodbye to All Your Unwanted Hair With the Help of Ethos Spa

Whether you will undergo laser hair removal for cosmetic purposes or to address a medical condition, it is important to consult a professional that can customize a plan for you based on your needs. 

You can trust the doctors and staff at Ethos Spa to listen to your needs and light the path for the journey to your hair-free, worry-free, and happier self. 

Dr. Hardik Soni

MD, Founder/Lead Physician

About Dr. Hardik Soni

Dr. Hardik Soni is the founder and Medical Director of Ethos Aesthetics + Wellness. His primary focus is on minimally invasive and non-invasive cosmetic procedures including botulinum injection (Botox and Dysport), dermal fillers (Juvederm, Restylane, Radiesse), laser hair removal, chemical peels, and laser skin rejuvenation. Dr. Soni believes in a more conservative approach and his first goal is education. Clients are able to determine the ideal treatments after discussion with Dr. Soni regarding the expected outcomes, cost, as well as risks.

Read More