laser hair removal for hirsute women with polycystic ovary syndrome
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Laser hair removal for hirsute women with polycystic ovary syndrome

This study was done to evaluate women who have facial hair and suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome. Facial hair can lead to anxiety and depression among these women. This study was conducted to verify if laser hair removal would work for these women and if it would have a positive psychological effect on them.

The participants were divided into two groups. The “control group” received low-fluence treatments and the “intervention group” received high-fluence treatments. Five treatments were performed on the eighty eight participants over a six month period.

The three conditions evaluated in this study were facial hair, depression anxiety and the participant’s quality of life. These conditions were measured using various scales and these levels at the beginning were compared with changes when the study ended.

The Study –

Women are distressed and psychologically affected by facial hair. They invest much time and effort in products and methods to remove hair. One medical reason for excess facial hair can be polycystic ovary syndrome. About 10% of women have PCOS before menopause and ¾’s of them have excessive facial hair. Other symptoms are: “acne, obesity, insulin resistance and decreased fertility”.

Doctors have documented high levels of anxiety, depression and a lower quality of life in women with facial hair. This hair makes many women feel “freakish, dirty and unfeminine.” Therefore, they expend energy, time and expense to remove the hair.

Laser hair removal can help these women. They can experience several hair-free weeks once treatments begin. The hair-free time lengthens with repeated treatments. Their hair grows back finer and sparser. Laser hair removal works well on dark hair.

There were no studies to evaluate the psychological benefits to laser hair removal for these women. Researchers hoped removal or decreasing of hair could provide relief.

The Subjects –

Prospective subjects were found in gynecology, endocrine and dermatology outpatient departments. Some were members of a PCOS support group. When screening people for this study, the researchers included women diagnosed with PCOS by other doctors who used various conditions for their diagnosis.

The participants needed dark facial hair and Fitzpatrick Skin Types I to V. Skin Type V, had to be a light skin tone. The amount of facial hair was not a determining factor. If the applicants had light colored hair, they were eliminated along with anyone under 18.

Participants who passed the initial screening were invited to discuss the study with researchers. Anyone chosen, had to avoid certain activities which include: tanning, plucking, waxing and threading although they could trim and shave.

The participants were divided into two groups. They would only receive treatment on their facial hair. An alexandrite laser would use a 755 nm wavelength, 20 ms pulse width and spots 12.5 mm. During the laser treatment, they would use a chilled air system to cool the skin.

The Intervention Group –

Test patches were performed under the chin a week before the treatments started. Researchers experimented with the fluence to determine what the individual could tolerate. They wanted the highest fluence, without creating negative side effects.

The treatments were on a 4-6 week schedule, to coincide with the growth cycle of the hair. The average fluence being used on the test group was 23.6 J cm squared. They averaged 4-8 treatments over six months.

The Control Group –

These participants had fake test patches and laser treatments with a low and ineffective fluence of 4.8 J cm squared and an average of 4.4 during the study. A special hand piece with the laser emitted a low fluence, but looked like regular treatments.

The laser, room, smells and the doctors were the same for both groups. Each participant received the same attention and care from the doctors.

The Data –

The subjects, the psychologist and the data entry clerks did not know which participants were in which group until the end – this is called a blind study and it helps stop any conscious or unconcious bias in the recording or reporting of results. The participants completed questionnaires at the start and the finish of the study.

Researchers needed to know: the amount of facial hair, time spent on hair removal and what methods they used. They also asked how long the hair removal lasted. At the end of the study, participants gave their thoughts on laser hair removal.

Participant’s anxiety was based on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Fourteen items are used to evaluate depression and anxiety. Quality of Life was based on quality of life and general health. These items measured facets of the participant’s life, health and interaction with others. Self esteem was measured with the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.

The Results –

Fifty one women were in the intervention group with thirty seven in the control group. Thirteen subjects didn’t finish the study. Participants were white, employed, middle class and educated. Most had tried various ways to remove facial hair.

The intervention group experienced a drop in facial hair from 7.3 to 3.6 over six months, but the control group changed from 7.1 to 6.1. The intervention group went from 112 minutes for hair removal per week, to 21 minutes. However the control group dropped from 92 to 56 minutes per week.

Intervention group depression rates changed from 6.7 to 3.6 and the control group dropped from 6.1 to 5.4. Anxiety levels for the intervention group dropped from 11.2 to 8.2 while the control group changed from 9.6 to 9.3. Their psychological quality of life in the intervention group went from 49.6 to 61.2 and the control group went from 50.1 to 51.5. Women in the intervention group had noticeable improvement in psychological health and facial hair reduction.

In conclusion, laser hair removal had positive effects on the study subjects. This will not alleviate PCOS symptoms, but it does give the sufferers higher self esteem, higher quality of life, a lower level of facial hair, and longer periods without hair. The subjects needed occasional treatments to maintain these positive results.

Laser hair removal for hirsute women with polycystic ovary syndrome references

  • Clayton WJ, Lipton M, Elford J, Rustin M, Sherr L. A randomized controlled trial of laser treatment among hirsute women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Br J Dermatol. 2005 May;152(5):986-92. PMID: 15888157
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