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
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
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
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
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
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
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.