Hair that grows on the ear is a well known phenomenon amongst men as they age. Often joked as hair that has migrated from the scalp, it appears as outcroppings of black hair from various parts of the ear. The greatest concentrations appear on the earlobes, helix and, interestingly, the tragus. Often ear hair is dark even if the man’s hair color has turned gray.
Hair on the tragus of the ear, also known as ear canal hair, is the most interesting/unusual place for ear hair to develop. It is well known to develop hair since it gets its name from the Greek word, tragos, meaning goat because its hair growth on its undersurface resembles that of a goat’s beard.
The traditional methods of ear hair removal include plucking and shaving. While effective these methods require near daily maintenance as they only remove the most visible part of the hair shaft and not the growth center. (follicle) Laser hair removal can be done for more permanent results but this requires multiple treatments, is a difficult place to treat because of the shape and location of the tragus and can be quite uncomfortable to have done.
A surgical treatment for tragal ear hair removal can be done that is near 100% effective and can be completed in one session done under local anesthesia. This is known as tragal flap hair depilation. In this technique a skin flap is raised off of the tragal ear cartilage. The tragal skin flap is then everted and all of the dark hair follicles can be easily seen. The hair follicles are amputated by scissors and then cauterized, thus permanently removing the actual growth center of the hair.
The tragal skin flap is trimmed as it has been mobilized, further removing any hair-bearing skin. The skin flap is then closed back over the tragus with small dissolveable sutures. No dressing is applied and the suture line remains hidden on the underside of the tragus or ear canal. Swelling and bruising are minimal to undetectable. Full healing takes place in about ten days.
Ear canal hair is difficult to permanently remove with any traditional hair treatment method. Surgical tragal flap hair removal is a highly effective one-time treatment that can be done in the office under local anesthesia with virtually no recovery.
Dr. Barry Eppley