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July 1998

A Hair's Breadth Closer?

Author Affiliations

Copyright 1998 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1998

Arch Dermatol. 1998;134(7):867-869. doi:10.1001/archderm.134.7.867

SINCE HOMO sapiens' intellectual triumph over the environment, body hair has become largely vestigial, except where it serves a specific biologic function. Once vestigial, excessive body hair became culturally undesirable. The resultant quest for the perfectly hirsute human body has driven technological advances in epilation. Selective permanent follicular destruction constitutes epilation's Holy Grail. While tedious, uncomfortable, and costly, the application of electrochemical (electrolysis) and electrothermal (electrothermolysis) methods achieve a certain level of depilatory success. Most recently, physicians have targeted follicles with photons. Laser manufacturers sought market clearance for new devices and indications from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Faced with the task of evaluating the efficacy of these devices, the FDA used electrolysis as a benchmark for comparison and defined its efficacy as a 30% decrease in hair regrowth 3 months after a single treatment (R. R. Anderson, MD, oral communication, April 1998). Several laser hair removal systems met this standard for efficacy, proved a reasonable safety profile, and were cleared. This situation has led to the present superfluity of competing laser hair removal systems and a dearth of mature data by which to critically evaluate this new technology.