( Originally Published 1927 )
Superfluous Hair (Hirsutes, Hypertrichosis).—General Remarks.—The question of superfluous hairs and their removal is one of growing importance and will here be given lengthy consideration. By superfluous hair is meant a condition of abnormal hair growth, either in quantity or in coarseness.
Description.—Hair may grow excessively upon parts where hair is normally found, or coarse hair may appear upon areas normally covered by a finer growth. The greater part of the skin surface, with the exception of the palms and soles, the last joints of the fingers and toes, and part of the male genital organs, are normally covered with whitish, downy hair.
Excessive hair growth due to heredity, is very rare and is usually limited to a small portion of the body. In rare instances, this inherited type may be widespread as in the well-known case of Feodor, who was so covered with hair that his face resembled that of a dog; he was termed the "dog-faced man."
Of great interest is that form of excessive hair growth which appears on the faces of girls and women. The upper lip, chin, cheeks and neck are the usual places for such growth, although the trunk and extremities may also be covered. The amount of the hair growth may be but a slight exaggeration over the normal, or be so marked as to resemble a male beard. The growth is, of course, more noticeable in brunettes than in blondes. It is usual to see increased hair growth upon the lips and chins of women about the time of the change of life. Very frequently, considerable hair growth is visible upon the faces of girls of tender years who usually use depilatories, pumice stone, or ex-tract the hair with tweezers, all of which tend to increase the growth.
Cause.—The cause of excessive hair growth is unknown. It is a sexual characteristic and accompanies the passing from childhood to manhood or womanhood. It is again prominent during the change of life in women. Cases are on record where excessive hair growth, permanent or temporary in character, has been associated with abnormalities of the menses, with pregnancy and diseases of the womb. The persistent use of stimulating liniments, poultices, etc., may lead to an increased hair growth in that particular region, and the excessive use of cold creams or vaseline probably causes the same condition.
Suggestions for Treatment.—The electric needle is the only method which can be recommended for the permanent removal of superfluous hair, and it should be used only by an expert. Shaving, extracting with forceps, and the use of depilatories are only temporary measures. A safe depilatory formula is here given.
Sulphide of barium drachms 2
Directions: Make into a paste with water and spread over the hairy area for ten to fifteen minutes. As soon as a burning sensation is felt, the remedy is removed and an ointment, such as cold cream, applied. Such applications must be repeated every few days as needed.
Hair Pointers.—A hair grows about one-third of an inch in two weeks, faster at the beginning of the growth and more slowly towards the end. Hair grows the fastest about middle life. Cutting or shaving does not increase the speed of hair growth; indeed, cutting the hair makes it grow more slowly. Hair grows in groups of three or four, one of which grows faster than the others.
The life of a hair is from two to six years. Singeing of the hair does not close the pores and does not keep the sap in, as there is no such fluid in the hair. The greater part of the hair is made up of lifeless cells, the only living portion being a small part within the scalp.