About The Author: FutureDerm is pleased to welcome dermatologist Dr. Hanan Taha, M.D. to our staff as a Contributing Writer. For a complete bio please visit our About page.
Who wouldn’t mind getting rid of excess hair? Methods of reducing excess hair have been around and have been improving for years. Today we are talking about one of these methods, a cream called VANIQA.
Why I chose VANIQA? Creams claiming to reduce hair have been around for years. None of them have ever been proven effective. VANIQA is the first ever cream to be approved by the FDA for reducing unwanted facial hair. It is a prescription only medicine.
What is VANIQA?
VANIQA contains 13.9% eflornithine HCl. Eflornithine was originally developed to treat African sleeping sickness, and it was also used as an anti cancer treatment, and as a treatment of hyperactivity in children. In 2000, it was approved by the FDA for the reduction of unwanted facial hair.
Eflornithine inhibits the enzyme L- ornithine decarboxylase, responsible for an important step in cell growth. Its inhibition therefore leads to slowed hair growth. This enzyme is present in all cells, but its activity and concentration are much much higher in fast proliferating cells, hence the drastic effect it has on hair growth.(1) The VANIQA site reports positive studies done on a very small scale (30 and 50 patient studies), but other studies have been done since on larger groups of patients and came up with the same statistically significant decrease in hair growth and great patient satisfaction.
VANIQA does not actually remove hair; its function is to slow its growth. You will have to continue removing your hair as you usually do (plucking, waxing, shaving etc). However, according the VANIQA official site:
“Over time you may be removing hair less often, and many women see significant results within just 8 weeks. In clinical studies, the longer VANIQA was used, the better it worked”
How to apply it
The site recommends applying VANIQA within five minutes of removing hair, not washing it off for at least four hours, and waiting eight hours to the next application. It is applied twice daily, after cleansing and should be allowed to dry before applying any cream or makeup on top.
Will it get rid of hair completely?
No, according to the makers, it will only serve to reduce the number of times you have to remove your hair. So, for example, instead of having to shave every other day, you may find yourself shaving every third or fourth day or even once a week or so.
Laser Hair Removal and VANIQA
Laser hair removal does a pretty amazing job if used alone. However, it does have its limitations: it does not work well on finer, lighter colored hair, and more caution is needed in darker skin tones. Added to that, some people just do not respond well to laser hair removal. Combined laser hair removal and eflornithine has been shown to improve and hasten the desired end result. Touch up laser sessions are usually needed after a year or 2 of no growth, but as the VANIQA site itself claims, this is still an issue even if using the cream.
Does it reduce the number of laser treatments needed?
Not likely, although it might prolong the intervals between laser sessions. (2)
Can it be taken if pregnant or nursing?
Not enough studies have been done with that regard so until there is some more evidence I would say no, do not use if pregnant or nursing. (Eflornithine is pregnancy category C)(3)
Are there any side effects?
Acne, folliculitis, stinging, burning, dryness, and headaches are some of the possible side effects. However, the cream has been mostly well tolerated even after 12 months of use, and the side effects tend to wear off with continued use. (2) Studies have shown that absorption into the body is minimal (less than 1%) (1) and that eflornithine HCl has a generally favorable clinical safety profile. (2)
Is it possible for VANIQA not to work?
Yes: 30% of patients do not respond to VANIQA. I would say give it three months, if you do not see an improvement, you’re in the 30%. However, compliance during that trial period is very important. Otherwise you cannot really know if it did not work because you did not use it properly or if your hair just does not respond to it.
What about the price?
Variations in prices from different sources are substantial. You can look at spending between $400-800 per year. Bear in mind, however, that you can find coupons online readily.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, I would, BUT, enter into this experience with realistic expectations of the possible results and the amount of commitment needed, and with the understanding that proper use is important to see results and avoid side effects. This cream:
- Will NOT end the need for plucking, waxing or shaving, but WILL reduce it.
- Will NOT be suitable if you do not usually comply with medication. If you feel twice daily application for three months or more is too much work, this is not for you.
- Will NOT cure hirsutism. The cause behind excess hair needs to be found and addressed properly.
- Will NOT reduce the amount of laser hair removal sessions, though it will increase their success rate.
- Will NOT have a permanent effect. If you stop using it, you go back to square one within eight weeks. (4) This is a lifelong investment that adds up to around $400 – 800 per year. Some will find this acceptable, others will not. Some will like to use it as an adjunct to laser hair removal, others will feel laser hair removal is enough and they are not willing to commit to a twice a day task. In the end it is purely a personal choice.
I would say give VANIQA a try if laser or electrolysis are not an option, and if you do not mind the cost or commitment.
And remember, if you have excess facial hair, consult with your doctor first to rule out any medical reasons.
Good luck always! Don’t forget to check out my blog (elbashra.com) or tell your friends about it if they’d like to learn about skin care in Arabic! Thanks!
1- S. Gurpeet et al. Synergy of Eflornithine Cream with Laser and Light Based Systems for Hair Management. In: Cosmetic Applications of Laser and Light Based Systems 2009; Chapter 20: 383-94.
2- M. Lapidoth et al. Best Practice Options for Hair Removal Patients with Unwanted Facial Hair Using Combination Therapy with Laser: Guidelines Drawn up by an Expert Working Group. Dermatology 2010; 221: 34-42.
3- S Jain. Pharmacology and Drug Reactions. In: Dermatology 2012; 7: 279-303.
4- J. Archer et al. Hirsutism and Acne in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Best Practice and Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 2004; 18 (5): 737-54.
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