It’s estimated the average woman spends £12,000(S$25,000) in her lifetime in a bid to get silky smooth skin.
But thanks to a scientific discovery shaving could soon be a thing of the past. A team from the University of Pennsylvania found that a drug, widely used to treat viral infections of the eye, helped stop the growth of unwanted hair when it was added to a rub-on gel.
A trial involving male participants showed the product kept facial hair at bay for up to six weeks. It is now hoped that it can be developed into an effective treatment for women. Excessive hair growth in women is usually caused by too much male hormone (androgen) – a common cause is polycystic ovarian syndrome.
However current products on the market have varying success rates. Lead author Joy Wan and her team noted: ‘Unwanted facial hair, hirsutism, and pseudofolliculitis barbae occur commonly, and billions of dollars are spent annually on hair removal products.
‘Eflornithine, the only prescription topical agent approved in the United States for female facial hirsutism, has only a 32 per cent success rate… therefore, additional topical treatments effective in preventing hair growth are needed.’
The daily rub-on gel is made from a drug called cidofovir, which has been around for more than a decade and is widely used in high doses in the treatment of AIDS. During treatment, however, doctors often noticed that the drug caused alopecia – or lack of hair growth – on the faces of men who had it injected.
In the latest study scientists were interested to see if a gel made with different concentrations of the drug – either one per cent or three per cent – could stop hair growth completely. A small group of men, sixteen in total, who grew beards that were classed as either dense or very dense, were recruited. Each was given either the one per cent strength gel or the three per cent gel to rub on a small circle on one side of the face every day. On the other side they used an identical looking dummy gel with no drug in it.
The men were told to carry on shaving every day but to stop 48 hours before their scheduled visit to the clinic for assessment, so doctors could see the effects on hair growth.
The results, published in the Archives of Dermatology, showed little effect using the one per cent mixture but a significant reduction in hair growth where the three per cent gel was used. Further trials will now look at using stronger formulations to improve the results.
However they must be careful in finding the right balance, as very high doses of the drug can have side effects such as headaches, nausea, fever and neutropenia – a drop in white blood cells. The researchers said in a report on their findings.’The three per cent drug concentration may be promising for preventing hair growth.
‘It was safe and well tolerated. But we did not observe total alopecia (hair loss) as was previously reported and the treatment dose and duration may have been insufficient to trigger this effect.
‘Further trials evaluating higher concentrations and longer treatment durations are warranted.’