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Ask Dr. Damery

(Editor's Note: We are proud to introduce our new column, "Ask Dr. Damery." Greg Damery, MD, FACOG is board certified in OB-GYN and practices in Sarasota, Florida. He also provides aesthetic services to men and women and brings us a professional view of skin & hair care down there. Due to his schedule, he will not be able to answer questions personally. But please send your questions to: [email protected] and Dr. Damery will answer them in this column every month. So stay tuned.)

Q. Is there a product to lighten my skin in the shaved area? An, New Mexico

A: A chemical called hydroquinone is found in many skin lightening and bleaching products.  It is available as a cream or gel and is rubbed into the darkly pigmented skin.  Over a period of several months, it will lighten the affected area.  Remember, however, that in the area “down there” the skin which makes up the vaginal lips or the scrotum is a naturally darker skin than elsewhere on the body.

Q. What do you do when you constantly get ingrown hairs down there and they swell or hair keeps growing under the skin? Would you know how to cure or prevent the reoccurrence? Brandi H.

A: What you are describing are commonly called razor bumps.  These are raised, sometimes inflamed, areas which occur one or two days after shaving.  Razor bumps occur because the hair is shaved so close to the skin that the cut end of the hair is actually below skin level.  Without the hair shaft protruding through the skin, the skin will sometimes close over the hair’s pore.  With further hair growth, and no pore to pass through, the hair pushes the skin upward resulting in a tiny bump, a “razor bump”.  Sometimes a cut hair may curl before exiting the skin, resulting in a red inflamed area, which many also call a razor bump, although technically this is more of an “ingrown hair”. In either case, the cause is the same.  The hair is cut short and lies below skin level.

One trick to help prevent razor bumps is to shave in the same direction that the hair grows.  This works because shaving in the direction of hair growth leaves the hair longer and often the hair shaft is left protruding through the skin.  The downside is that you will feel a fine stubble after shaving, since the hair is left a bit longer. 

Another idea is to use a good moisturizing lotion. You might want to try the Bikini Shaving formulas offered by Hair Care Down There. They have been exclusively created to address just the problem you are talking about.

Q. Please help!  About 2 1/2 years ago I suddenly developed ingrown hairs along the back of my thighs, my bikini line & just below my belly button.  I never had this problem before!  I constantly have bumps & embarrassing red spots.  I can't even wear shorts any more, & I'm in South Florida!  It's hot! I have been to two different dermatologists who have done various tests on the areas & attempted both internal & topical medications.  Although sometimes it does look better than others, the bumps & red spots won't go away. I am now considering laser hair removal.  My only hesitation is the cost.  Can you recommend any solution other than laser?
Karen, Florida

A: The first issue, increased hair growth, is really the underlying cause of your problem.  Accelerated hair growth occurs at several times in life.  The most noticeable is puberty when all adolescents have a change in the type and growth of hair.  If you are in your teens or early twenties, then you may be experiencing hair growth changes due to maturing hormone levels.

Obesity can cause disruptions in a woman’s hormone cycle and result in abnormal hair growth at any time in life.  Exercise and diet may be necessary to achieve an ideal body weight, and correct a hormone imbalance.

Similarly, stress can result in abnormalities in a woman’s hormone cycle.  The causes of the stress will have to be determined and eliminated to bring one’s body back in harmony. Ancestry also plays a major role in hair growth.  If your heritage is “hairy” then this may be normal for you.

Finally, increased hair growth can result from some abnormal medical issues such as thyroid disease, a testosterone producing tumor, an adrenal gland abnormality, or pregnancy.  You will need to see your gynecologist for an evaluation regarding these. If you have a medical abnormality, then this will have to be corrected first, or you will continue to have hair growth issues.

Having the hair removed permanently with a laser or with electrolysis may be your only permanent options.  Electrolysis treats one hair at a time and although it is just as effective as the laser, it is quite time consuming.  With electrolysis, the hair is grasped with electrical tweezers and a current is passed down each individual hair, killing the root.  Lasers kill hair at the root by heating up the pigment in the hair.  In either case, with no hair, there is no shaving, and so no razor bumps.  Lasers typically treat a 1-2 cm area at a time so they are quick and effective.   While laser hair removal prices vary per region, to give you something to compare with, we charge $650 for an unlimited number of bikini treatments for one year.

Q. Since I had my hysterectomy (which was 6 years ago) and had my pubic area shaved, my hair hasn't ever grown back very thick.  I am 46 years old.  Is this the way it is going to be--straggly? Kay, South Dakota

A: Although you don’t describe the details of your hysterectomy, I suspect that you had your ovaries removed at the same time.  What you have discovered is that the ovaries produce hormones which directly affect hair growth.  Half of a woman’s testosterone comes from her ovaries.  When the ovaries cease to function, either due to menopause or as a result of surgery, a woman’s testosterone level decreases.  The drop in testosterone can have several affects on a woman, i.e. slower hair growth, a decrease in one’s sex drive and increased levels of fatigue.  In your case, your “straggly” pubic hair is part of the new you.  Rather than just accept it, you might consider adding some flair to your pubic area with style ideas from Hair Care Down There.

Q: Is it true if I shave that it will cause my hairs to become thicker and darker when they regrow? Mary Anne, FL

A: Actually, this is NOT true, although I hear this comment in the office all the time. It is a widespread MYTH that shaving causes a darkening and thickening of hair.

The part of the hair that protrudes out of our skin is called the hair shaft. The part that penetrates the skin layer and is contained within the follicle is called the hair root. The deepest part of the hair is the hair bulb or matrix. It is in the matrix where the hair growth takes place. The hair itself is made up of several layers that are applied as the hair grows outward.

If hair is shaven then the shaft of the cut hair is trimmed off at the skin level. This doesn't affect the growth of the hair, which is occurring at the base of the hair in the matrix. Usually within a day or two the cut shaft will once again protrude from the skin, with its same diameter and color. The cut surface will be sharper than before due to the recent cut. To avoid skin irritation, try using Hair Care Down There products. We've tested them in our office and they work.

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