The garrulous rise and quiet retreat of X-ray depilation

Some medical treatments come giddily into vogue, then go grimly out with the trash, so to speak. Here are three views of one such risen-and-fallen medical treatment.

1. In garrulous praise (1955)

X-ray, Malpractice and the Garrulous Physician,” Ervin Epstein, California Medicine, vol. 82, no. 2 (1955) pp. 116-117. The author, a physician in Oakland, California, writes:

FOR SOME UNKNOWN REASON, many physicians feel that they must know all of medicine. So many physicians dread the phrase, “I don’t know,” so avidly that it has fallen from their lexicon due to atrophy of disuse. When a malpractice suit arises, we all suffer by lowered respect for the only truly ethical profession, business or trade in the world today. Also, we are damaged by increased malpractice insurance premiums and by increased temptation to patients to file such actions. While it is agreed that the patient damaged by negligence of a physician should be entitled to recover just damages, all experts agree that most suits are filed unjustly….

Legal complications have limited the value of x-ray therapy. The patient may resist its use. Many physicians fear x-ray treatments more than they do the Communists. I am told that x-ray epilation is shunned by dermatologists in Los Angeles for legal reasons despite the general acceptance that x-ray is the safest, quickest and surest method of treating tinea capitis.

2. Looking back, with lament (1999)

X-Ray Hair Removal“, Engines of Our Ingenuity, University of Houston, no. 1494, 1999:

The dangers of X-rays were clear enough within a few years, but they made hair removal just too easy. One early practitioner, Albert Geyser, created his Tricho machine. A woman would sit for four minutes with her chin in a holder while X-rays wove a delicate ozone smell about her. The hair on her chin was gone. Only later did she have to pay the terrible price. By 1970, one third of all radiation-induced cancer in women traced to X-ray hair-removal.

Here is an old advertisement for the Geyser’s Tricho machine treatment:


3. Looking back, with further lament (2012)

Radiation Epilation for Tinea Capitis – A Historical Review,”M.R. Pfeeifer, Sigal Sadetzky and Shifra Schwartz, 2012.