2003 IPL study on transsexual women

I need to get back in and update hairfacts, but until then, here’s a reference from a reader.

Practitioner skill is more important than device used. Other earlier studies with IPL on transwomen were not as favorable.

Ann Plast Surg. 2003 Sep;51(3):243-8.

Ninety percent permanent hair reduction in transsexual patients.

Schroeter CA, Groenewegen JS, Reineke T, Neumann HA.
Department of Lasertherapy, Medical Centre Maastricht, Becanusstraat 17, 6216 BX Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Transsexualism as a condition requires hair removal. Twenty-five male-to-female transsexual patients were included in this study on epilation using the Intense Pulsed Light Source (IPLS). Patients received a varying number of treatments, depending on their response. A mean hair clearance rate of 90% was achieved in the studied patients. The average number of treatments per patient was nine. A negative correlation was found between hair removal and the age of the patient. Hair removal was also found to be more effective when the patients had not used any needle epilation. No difference in hair removal was found between transsexual patients, who were hormonal, and those who were not. Follow-up lasted an average of 44 months. This study proved that the IPLS has the potential to be effective, permanent, and painless especially in younger patients who have not used any mechanical methods for epilation before photoepilation.

The part about the “needle epilation” prior to the IPL treatments playing a NEGATIVE factor in the effects of the IPL is very interesting. James Walker often suggests that Laser treatments could produce negative results in future Electrolysis treatments. I’m not sure what this means, but I find it interesting (not to mention that 90% reduction is quite amazing).

I would be really interested to know what negative effects they are talking about. I honestly know of no negative effect that prior electrolysis could have other than removing all the thick black hairs the light based device could effect, while leaving only the thin ones it can’t clear, but tend to thicken up when exposed to light based methods.

For my part, the negative impact of LASER on future electrology is the thickening of the root system when the hair turns white, and the lengthening of the hair under the skin’s surface when the hair “digs deeper” in responce to the short term damage. The saying goes, “If you try to kill the king, make sure that you actually kill the king!” If one is unsuccessful, measures will be taken to punish and shore up the defenses.

In short, anything that thickens the hairs, or makes them grow deeper forces me to use a higher setting, and that complicates treatment. Also, anything that makes the hairs curl, or shrinks the follicle opening makes my job harder as well. I can still effect permanent hair removal, I just have a slower time doing it, and the client has to spend more time, more money, and may experience more pain. Maybe even a difference between pain where there would have been none.

I am also interested to see these results.

I am a Certified Clinical Electrologist and a Certified Laser Specialist, I’ve been practicing both forms of hair removal in the transgender community for 6 years. I’ve never noticed it harder to get rid of hair with the laser after a client has had electrolysis, or vise versa. What I have noticed is once a electrolysis client tries laser hair removal they never go back to electrolysis. Because, I believe,the results with laser are far superior to electrolysis, I no longer practice electrolysis.

I have lots of clients who would disagree with you. Many posters on this site tell stories that disagree with you as well.

Congratulations on being able to no longer do the hard work of electrolysis. I am sure your eyes will regain some of the sight lost to eyestrain, and your muscle pains are long gone.


That is an interesting study. I guess I fall into the older group at mid 40’s. Therefore I had a mix of brown and grey/white hairs. I had 9 sessions with lightsheer laser diode on my face.

After that I still noticed a lot of dark regrowths.I still had tons of hair left, but probably somewhat reduced amount
overall. I started electrolysis and abandoned laser. I started te electrolysis just over a year ago and have been on HRT since the last 7 months(estrogen,spionolactone and finasteride). I have had 64 hours of electrolysis so far.

I have very few dark hairs left if any. My upper face is pretty sparse as far as hair goes. The last frontier is the neck. The hairs seem deep and thick there, and hard to treat probably requiring more power. That hurts somewhat and does cause skin reaction. I will have to go it slow there I think.

I asked a question on the electrolysis board that no one answered.: Is the neck area harder to treat and more likely to react? This is the area at the front below the jawline.

Thanks, Alicia

The neck is thin skin, and practitioner skill is key here. Some of the hairs on the neck are parallel to the skin’s surface, and a high frequency blowout is not a good thing to happen in that situation.

Those with good electrologists, have no worries in the neck area. Those whose electrologist’s skills are more suspect could have some negative reactions to heal up.

Re-reading this string, I find there is something I must point out. The overwhelming majority of my experience with post LASER clients who have problems are with people above the age of 35, and most are between 45 and 55. I will grant that the youngest person who had negative LASER impact on follicles effecting my treatment was 27. I have had clients as young as 19 who have had negative LASER experience, but although they did have to deal with spotting, discoloration, or other problems (including regrowth of hair) I had no problem treating their skin.

The people who have had curvature of the follicle or a shingle effect on the skin around the follicle have all been above the age of 40.

I do have a theory as to how electrology prior to LASER could have an effect on efficacy of LASER. When the body heals from electrolysis, it places a small callous of tissue in place of the former follicle wall. This thicker follicle wall is why hair never grows again in this area. It would also filter the intensity of light traveling through the area. It would be like a bullet traveling through air, then going through a small tank of water, and back into the air. The force and direction would be changed.

Of course, I have no proof of this, but it seems to me that this is the only easy explanation of this purported result. It would be interesting to see if this is true.

Hi James:

Thanks for the info regarding the neck area treatment.

I was in my 40’s when I had laser followed by electrolysis. If anything being older means you have some grey or white hairs which are not removed by laser. My electrolygist seems to think the laser helped to weaken some of the hairs, but I am not so sure.

She doesn’t know I am on HRT. I think it does slow down the rate of facial hair growth and my DHT levels are really low now.

Really it would be nice if laser could do it all, but that hasn’t been my experience. I hate having to spend so much time and effort to get my facial hair removed, but in my case it is absolutely necessary for my appearance as a woman.