Those considering electrolysis should have a basic familiarity with the dynamics of hairgrowth because it will clarify:
- Why electrolysis is such an effective method of permanent hair removal
- Why electrolysis effectively treats hair of all colors
- Why electrolysis effectively treats vellus hair ("peach fuzz") and terminal hair (thick dark hair)
- Why electrolysis treatments can effectively remove hair on all clients regardless of race or shades of skin color
- Why adherence to a regular, customized treatment schedule (frequency and length) is essential
There are three types of hair:
- Lanugo hair (hair covering the fetus and lost at birth)
- Vellus hair (light "peach fuzz" covering most parts of the human body, growing from a shallow depth); vellus hair can convert into deeper growing terminal hair if stimulated
- Terminal hair (darker pigmented, coarser hair)
Hair emerges from a tube-like indentation in the skin, called the hair follicle, onto the skin surface. The bottom of the tube widens, forming the hair bulb. The bulb contains the hair matrix. The actively dividing cells of the hair matrix form the hair. The part of the hair below the skin surface is called the hair root while the visible part of the hair is termed the hair shaft. The hair shaft is constructed of a dead protein called keratin.
The appearance of the hair shaft is important to the electrologist. If the diameter of the hair is nearly round, as in straight hair, the hair follicle will be straight which makes probe insertions to the bottom of the follicle easier to achieve. The curlier the hair, the flatter the diameter of the hair, the more curved the follicle and the greater the importance of skilled insertions and appropriate treatment modes. Electrolysis treatments offer individuals with tightly curled hair (curved follicles) and darker skin tones a safe and effective, permanent hair removal method. Razor Bumps (Folliculitis Barbae), often occurring in men with tightly curled hair can be significantly ameliorated by eliminating the offending hairs after inflammation or infection have subsided.
Hair receives its nourishment from a structure called the papilla which is encased by the hair bulb at the bottom of the hair follicle. Research indicates that the papilla interacts with another structure, the bulge. The papilla releases chemical signals affecting the bulge area which is located in the upper portion of the follicle. Stimulated stem cells migrate from the bulge to, among other areas, the papilla, thereby enabling the regeneration of the entire follicle.
Consequently, permanent elimination of hair growth involves the destruction of not only the papilla but also the stem cell pathways. During electrology treatments, unwanted hair is treated individually, targeting and destroying the papilla and the bulge, so new hair cannot re-emerge.
Humans do not form new hair follicles after birth. However, new, frequently unwanted hair growth can present itself through stimulation of already existing, previously dormant hair follicle cells. This stimulation can occur through changes in an individual’s androgenic hormone status. Since humans have a large number of potential hair follicles which can grow hair if hormonally activated, unwanted hair growth in some areas can be quite significant.
Changes in hormonal status and therefore hair growth can be caused by but are not limited to:
- Puberty, Pregnancy, Menopause
- Excessive hair growth can also be due to genetic components.
Hair grows in continuous cycles. Each cycle consists of three phases:
- Anagen: the growth phase; the hair follicle grows downward and connects with the nourishing papilla. Cell division in the matrix increases and a hair begins to grow. The length of the anagen phase depends on the area of the body where the hair is located. Electrology treatments are most effective on hair journeying through the anagen phase because the inserted probe can reach and destroy the papilla and the bulge area with its active stem cells, eliminating the possibility of future hair growth from the treated follicle. Shaving a few days prior to treatment will greatly enhance the possibility that the hairs being treated are mostly in the anagen phase (otherwise the hair would not have grown further).
- Catagen: the transition phase; this is the shortest of the three phases, during which, the hair begins to degenerate. The hair follicle begins to shrink upward and looses its connection with the papilla, except for a thin cord called the dermal cord.
- Telogen: the resting phase; all activity ceases and the hair is eventually shed. The duration of the resting phase depends on the hair’s location. At the end of telogen a new cycle begins with the hair follicle moving downward to encase the papilla.
Unlike some animals, humans do not shed hair seasonally. Hair grows continuously and is lost continuously. In humans, at any given time, each individual hair can be at a different stage in its life cycle. Consequently, in a square inch of skin, some hair may just be emerging on to the skin surface during its anagen phase while the hair next to it, having been around longer, may be in its telogen phase, ready to shed. A third hair in the same vicinity could still be growing in the follicle, unseen.