The Hair System
The hair system is referred to as the pilosebaceous system. This hair system consists of the hair and its reproductive machinery, and is normally broken into four major parts:
All of our facial and body hair grows out of a depression or indention in the skin known as a follicle. This indentation is similar to what would be formed if you were to stick your finger into an elastic surface. Think of a balloon, your fingertip pushing into its surface -- the space created by your finger is like the canal of each hair follicle. And multiplied on a large scale represents the surface area of the skin that is covered by hair.
So the inside of each follicle is much like the skin's surface. It's really just an invagination, or inward fold, into the skin with the added mechanism for producing a hair. And the depth, size, and the angle of this inward fold varies over the skin surface. It is dependent on the location on the face or body, by our gender and genetic background, and by biochemical factors such as hormones.
The lower portion of the follicle has an expanded shape and is called the follicle bulb. Within this bulb, there is an area of actively dividing cells called the hair matrix. This is the source of hair production.
The follicle and the hair it produces continues through repeated cycles of growth and rest.
At the base or bottom of the follicle lies a tiny structure made of dermal (related to the skin) cells called the papilla. This tiny organ, indented into the bottom of the hair bulb, feeds the newly formed hair cells from its blood supply. These newly formed hair cells grow continuously, and die continuously, forming a keratinized structure -- the hair shaft. The hair shaft continues to grow outward from the follicle base. Other keratinized structures found in mammals include nails, horns, and hoofs.
The area of the hair bulb/papilla is the main location that is targeted for destruction by permanent hair removal methods. But, another area needs to be targeted, too. It is an adjacent area that contains undifferentiated cells, called stem cells, that may maintain the follicle's life, allowing it to continue into another growth cycle if not destroyed as well. The measure of any permanent hair removal method is a combination of properly destroying the hair bulb/papillary region and the stem cells while leaving adjacent structures no more than minimally harmed. At TGIP, we have chosen the blend electrolysis method as providing the most effective means of achieving this result.
Oil glands are what is known as sebaceous glands. These glands are located close beneath the surface of the skin over the entire body. A large number of oil glands are concentrated in the facial/beard area. The sebaceous glands are not always attached to a follicle. But when it is attached to the follicle, its duct opening connects into the follicle near the skin's surface. The oily material secreted is called sebum. There may be more than one gland attached to the follicle. Sebum lubricates the hair shaft and the skin.
The papillary region is often referred to as the "hair root," but in precise usage it is the hair portion which grows below the surface of the skin, or that which is contained within in the follicle canal. And the hair shaft is the portion of the hair that grows above the skin surface. In our writing, we refer to the hair root as the structure which is destroyed to provide permanent hair removal.
The types of hair produced by the follicle are roughly broken into two categories: vellus and terminal.
Vellus hair is the "peach fuzz" type of hair that is normally found on a woman's cheek or a prepubescent child. It is soft and downy, and lacks color (pigmentation). The follicles producing vellus hair are shallow, and the hair shaft produced is relatively short. Vellus hair is normal in women and is not treated with permanent hair removal techniques.
Terminal hair is deeply rooted, coarse, and of color (pigmented). It is the type of hair one attempts to remove in unwanted areas. Terminal hair begins its development as the peach fuzz type, and later, has greater length than its neighbors (accelerated vellus stage), and finally begins to develop color and some degree of coarseness. At this point, the hair is of a terminal type. Terminal hair grows from the scalp, eyebrows, underarms, pubic area, and other parts of the body.
Most often terminal hair develops from normal bodily changes. Beard growth and excess body hair in males is the result of puberty, as well as pubic and underarm hair in men and women. With transgendered women, we are concerned with ridding unwanted hair which is the result of a normal systemic change.
There are other reasons for unwanted hair growth. These causes include disease, adverse effects from certain medications, and emotional changes (mind/body or psychogenic origin).
The hair shaft of terminal hair, if cross-sectioned, is comprised of three layers. The inner layer is called the medulla, the cortex (middle layer) makes up the majority of the hair shaft, and the outer layer, called the cuticle, consists of overlapping, flattened cells.
Terminal hair usually does not regresses to become vellus hair once again. The typical exception is male pattern baldness. Beard hair will not regress back to the peach fuzz type hair by the absence of male hormones, or the introduction of female hormones or anti-androgens. However, body hair can be greatly reduced, or eliminated in areas, with the use of hormonal feminization therapies.
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