For Esau Was An Hairy Man

Vicky 109


Issue 23
Spring 2003

If there is one thing above all else that is incompatible with passing for those wanting to cross the gender divide from the male to the female side it is facial hair: Not the soft downy estrogen-contrived light blush of hair that can even grace the cheek of a beautiful young damsel, nor even the darker but fine haired sprouting on the upper lip of those post-menopausal grand dames, but rather the coarser testosterone induced variety that must either be shaved off once or even twice a day or will, if left, not stop at the quarter centimetre length but will rather grow, and grow, and grow until the full black beard of the warrior stands proud on the chin.

For the part-timer who wishes only to adopt the female role for that special occasion, the party, or the few hours out with a friend, then the close shave and some coverderm may suffice though the telltale five o'clock shadow will inevitably intrude and spoil the effect before too long, causing the maiden to have to flee, Cinderella like, for a bathroom before discovery spoils the illusion. But for the individual who hopes to live a fuller time or indeed permanently in the chosen role this solution is unlikely to satisfy for long. Indeed the insistence by many clinics of passing in the real life test with employment over a period of a year or more makes the solving of the facial hair problem a pressing and vital need if there is to be a reasonable prospect of success. This problem is severely compounded by the refusal of some clinics to start hormonal therapy at an early stage, which is the very treatment that will soften and reduce hair growth. Furthermore the very essential cosmetic need of facial hair removal which is crucial to passing successfully is rarely funded through the NHS, even though it is an essential part of the process of gender conversion.

The various options will be discussed in this article, but to expect to be able to pass in the work place satisfactorily, whilst undergoing a course of facial hair removal is to expect a miracle, and therapists who work in this field must surely have to learn that the earliest part of the treatment programme must be to provide for facial hair removal and in those who wish to embark on a programme leading to corrective surgery the additional provision of medication which will feminise and therefore reduce facial hair regrowth, long before the real life test is to be applied.

Lessons can be learned from our 'real girl' sisters in this respect. They do not shave on the face, for it leaves stubble, but are happy to shave the legs or forearms. But their hair is finer and perforce less stubbly and does not grow so fast, nor is it so thick. R.G.s also know that waxing produces a better result which lasts longer and regrows as a soft hair from the root rather than as a cut stubble. However it is costly if done professionally at £10 a leg or arm, £20 or thereabouts for the back or bikini line , and needing to be done every six weeks or so in order not to feel fuzzy; probably more often in the testosterone producing male biological form and costing therefore £400 plus per annum. Waxing can be applied to the facial area and upper lip but is not very successful on male style thick hair growth, is painful, bad for the skin and tends to cause spots. It is of course possible to learn to wax ones own legs and forearms but one would need help from a friend for the back, and the bikini line is a torture!

Waxing kits can be bought, and whilst hot waxing requires to get the temperature right and is messy, one can get cold wax strips which work reasonably well, and there is the technique of sugaring which is similar and said to be kinder on the skin.

All these things are however of no real value on male type facial hair.


Electrolysis has been the mainstay of treatment for removing facial hair in both sexes for many years. In essence a very fine needle is passed down the hair root and hopefully lands up with its tip on the hair bulb which is the growth area for that hair follicle. An electric current is passed down the needle and the heat generated burns the growing point and kills it. The hair can then be removed. It works on any type or colour of hair but only seems to be effective at the stage in the cycle of hair growth when that hair follicle is actively growing, and not in the resting phase. Each hair has to be treated individually and so it is a slow process and quite painful in sensitive areas and only a small quantity of follicles can be treated in one session. Full facial clearance may take two years to achieve with fortnightly sessions at a cost of maybe £30 at a time and a total cost of £2000 or more. The snags are that a less skilled therapist will not hit the root as often as a skilled one and therefore regrowth will be more frequent. Each area will in any case need to be gone over three or four times to get a full clearance. The other big snag is that testosterone promotes growth and regrowth of hair, body and facial, so that it is working hard to undo the good work done by the electrolysis. This does not matter if one is on estrogen and Androcur or similar testosterone suppressant, or have had a castration, but back to the real life test and its snags, and of course not all those who wish to live in the female role, or as part of their nature might have intended, are able or indeed want permanent castration and the consequent lowering of sexual drive.

But electrolysis does work even though top-up treatment may be needed more or less indefinitely especially if testosterone. is still around. And it works on all hair colours. Some novel methods of using electrolysis have been developed which rely on using a current which passes through the body and is discharged through a negative pole held in the hand, and uses an electrolytic gel, the hair being gripped with tweezers. Does it give less pain than conventional electrolysis? Yes! Does it work as effectively? No. But in the high-tech environment of modern hair removal everyone is trying to make things work better quicker, less painfully.....and cheaper? I don't know about that! So what else is available?

Laser and pulsed light therapy.

Lasers have now been around for some years. The instruments are very costly so that treatment sessions are costly too, at up to eighty pounds for a session. Lasers work on focusing light beams onto an area under the skin of certain wavelengths to burn tissue just at the right place, to destroy it. Its development dramatically improved the treatment of some cancers for example, and a variety of skin conditions. The wavelength of light needed to kill off hair roots is of a particular type (for instance that known as the Ruby Laser) and designed to travel down the melanin pigmented hair to the root which it then hopefully kills. The big advantages of this treatment are that it is non-invasive, that is to say there need be no probe passed into the skin, the beam can treat many hair roots at the same time so it is a lot quicker and therefore one expensive session may actually be able to treat most of the face. It is less painful, though still feels like a sharp twinge or ant bite, and, the big big advance for the real life tester, it only needs enough hair growth for the hair to be visible unlike electrolysis where a three day hair growth is needed, making the real life test totally unworkable. One can go into the laser treatment session, remove one's makeup and have the treatment, reapply one's makeup at the end of the session and go back to work. Slight sunburn type of reddening for a day or two is easily concealed and is the most that the bulk of people notice. Treatment is normally repeated to that area every three or four weeks to catch hairs that were in the resting phase, and some eight or so treatments are probably needed, with after that a top-up especially for those still carrying testosterone around perhaps three or four times a year for a while. Eureka! So what are the snags?

Well the biggest snag is that currently laser treatment only works if there is melanin pigment in the hair. Melanin is the dark pigment in the skin in black and brown hair, in skin that is sunburned, and in dark skinned races such as Negroes. So if your skin is tanned this will diffuse the laser light and make it less effective and indeed may burn the skin. Indeed laser treatment can depigment the skin and can cause scarring so needs a really really skilled therapist who knows what they are doing - and is insured! Absolutely!

So what happens to blondes, to Negroes and those who live in sunny climes and don't use enough sun block? Back to electrolysis!

The technique of laser therapy is that the pulse wave is turned on for only a fraction of a second and is carefully determined so that enough energy will be absorbed by the hair follicle to disable it without burning the surrounding skin. It is recommended to avoid bruising or under the skin bleeding that people having this treatment should not be on aspirin, iboprufen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (N.S.A.I.D) nor have an active cold sore.

Some of the newer pulsed light systems are able to cover larger areas, are less painful and are claimed to work even on lighter coloured hair, and without needing to worry so much about being a bit sunburned. A number of systems and suppliers are available and different clinics will be signed up to various systems and suppliers. Different filters and exposure times will be needed for different skin types. A popular one is Aculight and their 'Advanced Mode' is able to accommodate these variations within the one machine. Sorisa have recently introduced a new laser system, the 500 D, with various predetermined programmes. Depilite is another system available from Cosmeceuticals using intense pulsed light and uses a process known as photothermolysis, destroying the hair follicle but cooling the surrounding skin. In most systems an ice pack is used on the area to be treated before and after the treatment. Other systems include Belle Sante, Spa Touch, and Ellipse Light, this latter launched last year having a dual mode filtering. There are a number of others, some of these machines being multipurpose for other types of skin treatment as well. This machinery can cost upwards of £20,000 but can be bought on hire purchase or on loan arrangements. They are becoming more effective all the time, more portable, and able to treat a larger area at each exposure. Thus the whole facial area, or a back, for example, can be treated in under the usual 45 minute session. There is a useful booklet entitled "The Complete Guide to Electro-Epilation" by Angela Wheat and published by Hodder and Stoughton (£16.99) available from Bookpoint Ltd. tel 01235400414.

I think it is fair to say that most people even with dark hair will have some regrowth of white or fair hair as treatment progresses, and will require some electrolysis to finish off with and the occasional top-up treatment, as things stand. I have tried all that I have written about in my time, and with testosterone still flowing in my veins although counteracted to some degree by Premarin. I have found latterly that the pulsed light therapy has been very successful and only mildly uncomfortable to experience. I now have a top up of this (after eight sessions initially) every four months or so, with a couple or so sessions of electrolysis as necessary in between. The cost from start would be some £500 initial investment and about three hundred pounds a year to retain control, in other words an outlay now of £5.00 or so per week which is less than most things you can buy, and a pretty good investment for 'easier passing'! Much less makeup needs be used, another saving, and thus a more natural look. Most electrologists and laser and light therapists know all about gender problems and are happy to take you on if you ensure that the way you look and behave is no embarrassment to other clients. Discuss the situation with them first. Happy depilations!

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