Excessive hair around the stoma, which is typically a problem for male ostomy patients (sorry guys), can be a huge nuisance for those who have to constantly deal with it. Not only can peristomal hair interfere with adhesion of colostomy appliances, but it can be painful when removing wafers and skin barriers as a number of hairs will undoubtedly be ripped away from the skin.
Peristomal hair removal can be a tricky endeavour that can grow tiresome over time. There are numerous methods that can work to make your skin feel clean and smooth, each with their own advantages and possible drawbacks. The one constant among them is to be smart and careful when attempting to remove hair from around your stoma site. Keeping the integrity and health of the skin is vital to proper appliance function and to avoid painful and irritating skin conditions.
Shaving and Clipping
The standard method most use for removing peristomal hair. Quick, familiar and almost everyone already has the tools needed for the job. If using razors, clippers or small scissors in this area it is important to be careful with anything sharp around your stoma. Below are some tips:
- Use an empty toilet paper roll to protect your stoma. Place one end of the tube around your stoma and hold it in place with the other end. The cardboard will act as a guard for your stoma against any accidental cuts and nicks while shaving or trimming the hair.
- Shave with the grain. What ever direction your hair is growing make sure to shave in the same direction. This can help cut down on nicks and reduce the chances of ingrown hairs and razor bumps.
- You may also try shaving with razors that women use on their legs. Not only are they wider, which could cut down on shaving time, but they have bigger and wider moisturizing strips.
- When finished make sure the skin is clean and free of any shaving gel, cream, moisturizer residue as this can interfere with proper adhesion of your appliances.
Permanent Hair Removal and Reduction Options
Shaving and clipping can be something that has to be done before each application of a new skin barrier for certain men. This has led some to look into longer lasting or permanent methods of hair removal.
Laser Hair Removal
Yes, it may seem like quite a drastic step to avoid daily shaving, but there was actually a pilot study performed to see how ostomy patients took to this type of hair removal. It was rather small (11 patients) but it did produce positive results.
Laser hair removal works by shooting a strong beam of light onto the skin. The light is absorbed by melanin in the hair follicles which destroys the hair. For colostomy patients treating just the area around their stoma, the procedure should only take a few minutes to complete. Cooling gel may be placed on the skin before the treatment begins since the laser will tend to heat it up a little bit. Ice packs are usually applied afterwards for a short period of time to help cool the skin down. The same area of skin is usually treated over a period of weeks with multiple sessions. While it can be highly effective at reducing hair growth in a particular area of skin, it does come with its share of risk and drawbacks.
Hair grows in a cycle with three distinct phases, one of these being an active growing phase. Laser hair removal only targets this particular phase of hair growth, so it must be done in multiple sessions over a period of time in order to completely treat an area of skin. This can be costly and time consuming.
Not everyone will be an ideal candidate for laser hair removal. Those with light skin and dark hair will see the best results. Those with darker skin and lighter hair will not only not see any benefit, but laser hair removal may even cause some damage, especially in the case of dark skin.
Having laser hair removal done on peristomal skin is something that you would definitely need to talk to your doctor about before trying. Even if they give you their blessing, it might be hard to find an LHR practitioner willing to perform the treatment on an area near a stoma.
Side effects of LHR can include slight burning of skin, so this type of treatment is something a patient should think long and hard about having performed on the skin around their stoma. The integrity and health of peristomal skin should be of utmost importance and possibly burning it can lead to all kinds of problems for colostomy patients and their appliances.
This type of procedure is the only one that the FDA has cleared to labeled as “permanent” when it comes to hair removal methods. It involves using a very fine needle, inserting it into the skin to the end of the hair follicle and passing an electric current to it which destroys it. This is a very involved process as each hair is done individually and, like laser hair removal, requires multiple sessions to fully treat an area of skin. Unlike laser hair removal, it works for just about every skin and hair type.
Some side effects of electrolysis may include pain, swelling, redness, blisters, ingrown hairs, discolored skin, flaking and itchy skin. It has the potential to cause some tissue damage which is probably enough to discourage most patients from using it around their stoma. Again, this is something to discuss with your doctor or nurse in detail before trying.
Ouch! That is probably all that needs to said, but spreading hot wax around the skin, applying a cloth strip and then yanking it does not sound like a lot of fun. Not only can it be a painful process, but it is not permanent. It would have to be done again at a later time to achieve similar results. Likely this is something only for the faint of heart.
These are commonly used by women on their legs and popular brand names include Nair, Veet and Magic Shave. These contain chemicals that weaken the hair where it rise out of the hair follicle. It then detaches rather easily and can be wiped away from the skin. This is a fast, cheap and over the counter method to hair removal. Results typically last 2 to 5 days.
While this may seem like an ideal solution, there can be some drawbacks. These products usually have a strong odor, can be somewhat messy and can cause skin irritation in some people. Also, not a lot is known about any adverse reactions of the stoma should it come into contact with these products. It may also damage wafers if not completely cleaned off of the skin.
Those with sensitive or already irritated peristomal skin should probably avoid trying this method.
Tips For Permanent Hair Removal
There can be quite an allure to trying different types of hair removal. Before trying something new on the area around your stoma it can be beneficial to follow a few precautionary steps before taking any action.
- Always consult with your doctor or nurse: This is a constant and something we cannot preach enough. They will be in the best position to assess the health and state of your skin and they would have the best possible advice based on their training and their experience with different patients. They may have patients who have tried the different methods mentioned above and can offer advice on what tends to work best and what to stay away from. They can also advise on proper safety precautions that should be followed .
- Protect your stoma: This goes for all methods of hair removal. Any nick or abrasion to the stoma can cause a fair amount of bleeding. Take your time and never rush.
- Use a test patch of skin: If given the okay by your physician and before jumping into doing anything around your stoma, it would be a good idea to experiment on an different area of skin on your abdomen to see how it reacts. This way if something goes wrong, or if the particular method does not agree with your skin you can find out without comprising the integrity of the stoma site.
- Ask yourself “Is it worth it?”: Is the potential for a side effect that may irritate or injure the peristomal skin worth the benefit of not having to shave as often? It is different for each individual but it is something you should be sure of before diving into.
Dealing with thick, fast growing hair around your stoma can be a drag for colostomy patients to have to deal with. However, there are some viable options that may help alleviate this situation. If you find yourself wishing there was a better way to deal with peristomal hair removal, be sure to ask your doctor or nurse if they have any recommendations, experience or advice in this area for you.