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Your Hair

Our bodies have many different types of hair. Hair is made of keratin, a hard protein that is also found in the epidermis and the nails. Hair grows from the hair root inside a hair follicle just beneath your skin.

Hair Types

Types of Hair in the Body

  • Vellus hair is soft, fine, and short. Most women have vellus hair on the chest, back, and face. It can be darker and more noticeable in some women than others - especially women with darker complexions. Vellus hair helps the body maintain a steady temperature by providing some insulation.

  • Terminal hair is coarser, darker, and longer than vellus hair and is the type of hair that grows on your head. When a teen reaches puberty, terminal hair starts to grow in the armpits and pubic region. On guys, terminal hair begins to grow on the face and other parts of the body such as the chest, legs, and back. Terminal hair provides cushioning and protection.

Excessive hair growth is also known as hirsutism. It is a condition in which too much hair grows on the face or body. Although hirsutism can occur in both men and women, usually only women consider it a problem. Women who have hirsutism have dark, thick hair on areas where hair growth in women usually is minimal or absent. Example areas include their face, chest, abdomen and back. This thick, dark hair is different from the hair that some women have on their upper lip, chin, breasts or stomach, or the fine "baby" hair all over their body. For more information on hirsutism, visit FamilyDoctor.org.

In addition to hirsutism, which requires a medical evaluation first to rule out an adrenal, ovarian, or pituitary problem, other medical indications for hair removal include congenital or drug-induced hypertrichosis, pseudofolliculitis, hair from grafted donor sites, and men undergoing sex change operations. Treatent for hirsutism maybe unnecessary unless, the patient maybe troubled by the excess hair growth. Obviously, patients may also designate other areas of hair growth as cosmetically undesirable (eg, “bikini” areas in women and “excessive” back hair in men). Unwanted hair can be dealt with in several different ways with either a temporary or permanent intent.

Types of hair removal acknowledged to be temporary include shaving, use of abrasives, plucking, depilatories, and certainly types of x-ray therapy. Laser hair removal and photodynamic therapy are treatments that generally lead to temporary hair removal but for which long-term data regarding permanency are only now beginning to appear. Those types of hair removal that claim to be permanent must first pass the test of time, a measure that varies between body sites and genders. Methods of hair removal that have been proven to be permanent are certain forms of electrolysis, x-ray, or surgical excision of key portions of the follicle. More on hair removal...

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