Electrolysis for Intersex, Transsexual and Transgender People

Many people who are from sex and/or gender diverse groups, namely intersex, transsexual and transgender, get very confused when it comes to how to most effectively remove excess hair. There is so much information that if you have never approached the subject before, you can be overwhelmed about what to do to get rid of that unwanted hair, so I will try and make it simple for you.

If you have been masculinised by androgen hormones at some time in your life, you may have started to grow facial and excess body hair. For the sake of this article it does not matter why you were masculine, only that you have identified that excess hair is a problem for you. You may be transitioning or adjusting your sex and/or gender presentation, want to be less masculine and want to get rid of the excess hair.

Let me start by telling you that the treatment of facial hair is quite different from body hair. It is different in the size of the hair follicle and the force with which it may grow, so it needs to be treated differently.

All hair is reduced by taking oestrogens and anti-testosterone medications; to what extent is dependent on an individual’s physiology, genetic characteristics and how their hormone receptors connect with the medication. Anti-androgens, over time, do reduce body hair considerably but are not as effective on facial hair. The body hair can also be considerably reduced by laser or IPL treatments but not completely eliminated.

The removal of facial hair depends on its colour and texture. Blond, red and white hair cannot be reduced or eliminated by laser or IPL. There is not enough pigment in the hair to get the heat down to the root to cauterise the root and kill the hair bulb, so electrolysis is currently the only way to eliminate that hair. If your hair is this colour, do not waste your time with laser or IPL but start straight away with electrolysis treatment.

If you have brown or very dark facial hair, laser and IPL can help dramatically reduce the amount of hair so it is easier for you to start electrolysis treatment. You must, however, transition to electrolysis treatment because it is the only proven permanent hair removal method. You may do about eight to 10 laser or IPL treatment but any more would be a waste of time. It makes the hair more manageable but the layered hair may grow back and need treating with electrolysis in time.

How long electrolysis will take depends on the individual, how much hair they have, how strong that hair is, what the person’s current hormone levels are and how well the hair bulbs react to treatment. Getting your hormone levels, under the guidance of your healthcare professional, within the normal female range does help with treatment. Of all the electrolysis methods, I have found the blend method the most effective over the past 40 years as the hairs seems to be treated more effectively.

Many people need around 100 hours of electrolysis treatment but some individuals may need more. To really get things moving, two hours a week can reduce the hair fast. Some people do four hours to speed things up but I do not advise more than that because we have to let the skin rest and heal. Using a topical aesthetic during treatment can help make it more comfortable. But as I say to my clients in the clinic here in Sydney, this all depends how much you can afford, so it is important to keep your eye on your finances as well as your treatment. Do your best to make your treatments as regular as possible.

Electrolysis can be done to special areas on the body such as around the areola, scrotal and penile reduction of hair prior to surgery. Since laser and IPL are more effective on the body, electrolysis can be used more sparingly, but again it is the best permanent way of removing hair.

Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSC, ND is the Director of the Australian Health and Education Centre, Sydney, a qualified aesthetician of 40 years, electrologist and specialist in sex and/or gender diversity.

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