Papillon - seaweed and charcoal mixture

If anyone has read the book Papillon they might remember this. For those who haven’t, Papillon is a memoir / autobiography by a French convict from the 1960s. He was sentenced to Devil’s Island, which was a French Penal Colony off the coast of French Guiana (Upper S. America), but escaped to the coast.

While on the coast, he was taken in by Native South Americans and in the process of being integrated in to their culture, he was shaved and then whenever a hair appeared, the hair was plucked and a mixture of seaweed and ash was rubbed in to the skin.

The relevant passage from the book:

“I discovered that Zato, the chief, had three razors. He didn’t use them for shaving, the Indians being beardless, but for cutting hair. Lali had removed all the hair on my body. The minute she saw one, she pulled it out and rubbed me with a paste made of seaweed mixed with ashes. This seemed to discourage growth.”

It’s been awhile since I actually read the book but I’m fairly sure he says later that the mixture works and he becomes more and more hairless.

The book was originally released as a autobiography, but that is now disputed, so whether it’s a true account or not is open to debate I suppose.

Basically I’m wondering if anyone has heard of something like this, or whether it sounds plausible.

If she kept pulling the hair, then it would stand to reason that he remained hairless as long as she was doing this. What he didn’t say is what happened if he left that culture to be on his own never more to pull another hair. I would bet it would have all returned as before.

Some researcher type can break down the elements in the seaweed and ash mixture and then reason what specifically interrupts the hair growth cycle. If the messenger RNA is interrupted in the the cell by seaweed and ash, then that would be a breakthrough. I don’t think his account of what he observes is accurate and I’m sure Papillon had no knowledge of hair growth cycles.