US 3834391 A
Photoepilation apparatus comprises a needle or probe carrying a single protected optical fiber which is supported throughout its length adapted to be connected into a photoepilation system including a gaseous discharge source of light energy. The free end of the probe is tapered with a gradual taper to a relatively fine diameter to enable said free end to be brought close to the follicle entrance of a hair shaft or body it is desired to remove.
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United States Patent [191 Block METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PHOTOEPILATION  Inventor: Carol Block, Chicago, Ill.
 Assignee: Carol Block, Ltd., Chicago, Ill.
 Filed: Jan. 19, 1973  Appl. No.: 325,026
 US. Cl 128/303.1, 128/355, 128/398 [51 Int. Cl. A6ln 5/06, A61b 17/00  Field of Search l28/303.l, 355, 398
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,186,143 l/l940 Neugass 128/398 UX 3,327,712 6/1967 Kaufman et al. 128/398 3,467,098 9/1969 Ayres 128/303.l 3,471,215 10/1969 Snitzer 128/398 X 3,538,919 11/1970 Meyer 128/398 3,622,743 1l/l971 Muncheryan 128/303.l X
[ Sept. 10, 1974 3,693,623 9/1972 Harte et al l28/303.l
Primary Examiner-Channing L. Pace Attorney, Agent, or FirmSilverman & Cass [57 ABSTRACT Photoepilation apparatus comprises a needle or probe carrying a single protected optical fiber which is supported throughout its length adapted to be connected The method disclosed includes applying light energy in flashes through the use of the optical fiber at the entrance to a hair follicle.
7 Claims, 5 Drawing Figures PATENIE SEH 01914 METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PHOTOEPILATION BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The invention is concerned with depilation primarily for cosmetic purposes, and specifically relates to an improved method of depilation and apparatus for carrying out the method in an efficient manner.
In recent years a method of depilation has been proposed and introduced commercially which utilized coagulation of the vascular papilla of the hair body by light energy. The hemoglobin in the vascular bed was capable of being destroyed by proper application of flashes of light energy of a suitable type, originating in a gaseous discharge lamp. When the papillarvessels were coagulated the hair body was in effect lifeless and could be pulled out of its follicle without pain or discomfort.
For a discussion of the details of the known photocoagulation method and apparatus, including the wave lengths and energies required, reference may be had to U.S. Pat. No. 3,693,623. The method, known as photoepilation, contemplated the use of a source of photoenergy derived from a xenon lamp brought to the site of the epilation by means of optical fiber conduction.
Certain disadvantages arising with the method and apparatus as known rendered the introduction thereof somewhat less than successful, although the theory was excellent. These disadvantages are mentioned hereinafter.
According to the method of the above patent the photo-energy is applied to the papilla by'moving the polished end of a fine optical fiber carrying the energy into the follicle of the hair body. The patrons discomfort to a large extent controlled the depth to which the fiber was pushed, but other factors were involved as well. These included the location of the follicle, the thickness of the hair body, the tightness of the hair body within the follicle, and perhaps others. The presumption was that the closer the free end of the fiber could be: moved to the papilla the more effective the operation and hence the shorter the timed exposure and/or the number of flashes needed effectively to destroy the papillary vessels.
The apparatus used with the method of the prior art included a probe which is a small cylindrical steel member to be secured to a flexible cable that leads the light energy from the source to the cable end. The probe has a single glass fiber encased in a protective steel sheath disposed in its 'center coaxial with the exterior of the cylindrical member. One end of the fiber is arranged flush with the end of the probe that is secured to the cable and is threaded into a connector or fitting that couples the light energy from a light-transmissive member within the cable to the fiber through an oil-filled chamber. The other endof the fiber protrudes from the free end of the probe for a distance of about one quarter to one-half inch, being adapted tobe inserted into the hair follicle. It will be appreciated that this protruding portion of the fiber including its steel sheath is of the order of 0.007 inch in diameter. Both fiber ends are highly polished to transmit the maximum of light.
These probes'are delicate and very expensive. When used as described in the said patent, that is, inserting the protruding fiber portion into hair follicle considerable breakage results. The entire probe had to be discarded when this occurred.
Because the protruding fiber portion is inserted below the skin, infection occurred unless scrupulous sterilization of the probe was effected prior to use. Even during use on the same patron infection can occur. Additionally, since there is insertion, governmental regulatory bodies can ascribe classification to such probes akin to surgical or other appliances which enter the body and thereby regulate the qualifications of the technician, the conditions of use and the specifications of the apparatus.
The method and apparatus of the invention obviate all of the above described problems because in use the probe does not enter the skin.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION According to the invention a probe is provided which is adapted'to be connected into the cable of known photoepilation apparatus, the probe having a sheathed optical fiber passing through the center thereof and protected thereby. The optical fiber terminates at the free end of the probe which tapers gradually to a narrow area capable of being brought close to the entrance of a hair follicle under ready surveillance by the operator.
The method of the invention comprises applying the light energyfor photoepilation at the entrance of the hair follicle to enable the same to be transmitted to the papilla by way of oil applied to the skin of the patron or through the natural oils in the follicle. When the papillar vessels have been coagulated the hair body is pulled out of the follicle.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIG. 1 is a sectional view ona greatly enlarged scale through the skin of a subject to have photoepilation and showing the method practiced according to the invention, with a fragment of a probe depicted in use;
FIG. 2 is an enlarged median sectional view of the probe of the invention;
FIG. 2A is a fragmentary sectional view on a larger scale, illustrating the sheathed optical fiber;
FIG. 3'is a side elevational view-partially broken away, illustrating the probe of the prior art; and
FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of a modified form of probe of the invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT According to the invention, the improvement over the prior art resides in the construction of the probe and in the manner of using the probe.
In FIG. 1 there is illustrated on a greatly exaggerated scale a sectional view through the skin of a subject that is having the photoepilation process performed in order to remove hair bodies. In this instance a section is taken through a hair body or shaft 10 and its hair follicle 12, there being a probe 14 applied in the manner taught by the invention to effect epilation.
The derma of the subject is designated 16 and the epidermis 18 covers the same with an entrance 20 to the follicle 12 opening at 20 to the outer surface of the epidermis 18. The inner wall of the follicle 12 has a layer equivalent to the epidermis 18 that comprises a lining 22. The shaft 10 terminates at its inner end in bulbous portion which may be termed the root 24, the
follicle 12 and lining 22 conforming in configuration to the root 24. At the bottom of the follicle 12 there is an upwardly protruding papilla 26 which enters a portion of the root and contains a vascular network fed by an arterial vessel 28.
The hair shaft and root 24 are shown rather loosely disposed within the follicle 12, but this illustration is only to explain the invention. In actuality the spacing is small between the hair body and lining 22 but there is sufficient spacing for the efficacy of the method which will be described.
At 30 are shown so-called fat glands in the derma which communicate with the follicle 12 by way of the ducts 32, these supplying the so-called natural oils that lubricate and give tone to hair. The space between the hair body 10 and the lining 22 is normally filled with some of the lubricant which is exuded by the fat glands 30.
The prior art probe 34 of FIG. 3 was constructed as a hollow cylindrical housing 36 with a central sheathed optical fiber 38 passing through the same coaxially of the housing 36, held in place at the conical tip 40 by means of an annular plastic plug 42 and having a protruding portion 44. In use, the upper screw-threaded head 46 of the probe is screwed into the socket 48 (FIG. 2) of a fitting 50 that is connected to a bundle of light transmitting optical fibers or a single flexible fiber, the light transmitting means being shown at 52. The optical fiber or fibers 52 are sheathed in a steel conduit 54 whicn in turn is protected by a relatively elastic plastic coating 56. The steel conduit 54 is swaged into the fitting 50 as shown at 58 and the coating 56 sealed at 60 to be liquid tight. The free end 62 of the optical fiber bundle or single fiber 52 is polished for maximum light transmissivity and enters a small annular chamber 64 formed in the upper part of the socket 48 above the end 66 of the head 46. The head 46 is screwed in place with an elastomeric O-ring 68 spacing the same from the uppermost end of the socket 48 in order to form the chamber 64 while sealing the connection.
The sheathed optical fiber 38 of the probe 34 and that of the probe 14 are identical in construction and hence designated by the same numeral 38. There is a central single glass or other optically transmissive fiber 70 and an outer sheath 72 of steel, the combined article being somewhat resilient and bendable since its overall outer diameter is quite small. The prior art sheathed fiber 38 typically has been 0.007" in diameter, while the sheathed fiber 38 of the invention can be larger say of the order of 0.009 in diameter because of the different method of use.
The sheathed fiber 38 passes through the head 46 and is flush with the upper surface 66. This flush end is polished for maximum light transmissivity of the fiber 70.
When the probe 14 or 34 is assembled to the fitting 50, the fitting 50 is first inverted to form a cup and a small quantity of mineral oil is poured into the chamber 64. Thus, when finally assembled, if the free end 62 of the light transmissive means 52 and the fiber 70 do not accurately meet and engage directly, the light energy will be transmitted through the oil 74 so that the fiber bundle 52 and fiber 70 are well coupled together insofar as light energy transfer is concerned. This technique is known.
In use, the protruding portion 44 of the probe 34 is inserted alongside of the shaft 10 well into the follicle 12 placing the polished end thereof quite close to the papilla 26. Then, under the control of the operator, several short flashes of light energy are transmitted through the optical fiber system to coagulate the hemoglobin of the papilla. It is known that the papilla furnishes the new cells that cause the hair to grow, these cells being pushed forward from the bottom of the root so that the hair grows axially outwardly. Pulling the hair shaft out by the root will not destroy the hair. This requires the destruction of the papilla. Accordingly, once the papilla is no longer capable of supporting growth because of the coagulation of the vessels within the papilla, there will no longer be any hair grown from the papilla. In effect the hair is destroyed.
Once the vessels in the papilla 26 are destroyed, the hair shaft 10 with its root 24 may be pulled out and will never re-grow.
The basic theory of the method as described is practical and effective, but the disadvantages of being required to insert the protruding portion 44 into the follicle have been mentioned. They include breakage with accompanying expensive discard of the probe; danger of infection; and discomfort of the subject.
The probe 14 of the invention is especially intended for use with the method of the invention. It is possible to use the probe 34 but not without some difficulty.
I have discovered that if there is sufficient oily material in the follicle 12 the light energy is capable of being transmitted the entire length of the follicle and sufficient energy will reach the papilla to effect destruction of the vessels therein. Accordingly, I apply the free end of the sheathed fiber 38 right at the entrance 20, after first ensuring that the follicle 12 has oily material therein, this being shown at 75. The natural oils exuded by the fat glands 30 through the ducts 32 will in many cases suffice to transmit the light energy. For added effectiveness I bathe the epidermis 18 in a low viscosity mineral oil and rub the site of the opening 20 to work the oil down into the follicle 12.
The probe is applied as shown in FIG. 1, the construction of the probe being such that there is a long shallow tapered body 76 which comes to a fine tip 78. The sheathed fiber 38 is mounted in the same manner as it is in the probe 34, except that it terminates in the tip 78, either with or without a plastic plug like 42 and its polished end is flush with the tip end as shown at 80. The end 80 is located right at the entrance to the opening 20 without entering the follicle and even without the need for touching any part of the subject. It may be laid into contact with the upper surface of the oily material in the follicle 12 but this is not essential.
In the process of photoepilation, a few flashes of light may be applied and the hair shaft 10 grasped and given a gentle pull to see if it is loose. If not a few more flashes and the hair shaft 10 is easily pulled out of the follicle 12. With the method of the invention there is no difficulty involved in such trial because the probe is not engaged into the follicle. One just moves it aside and tries the hair shaft. In the case of the prior method, one would have to remove the protruding portion 44 from the follicle 12 to make the trial, then reinsert if not successful. Each time an insertion is needed, the step must be done carefully so as not to pierce the lining 22 and cause pain or discomfort to the subject.
It is possible to use the probe 34 in practicing the method of the invention by just holding the very end of the protruding portion 44 at the entrance 20. One has to be careful in handling the probe 34 just in picking it up, using it and storing it, since breakage of the sheathed fiber was still possible. Additionally, the heavy structure with the stubby conical end 40 makes it somewhat inconvenient to locate and maintain position precisely at the entrance while the process is going on. With the probe 14, however, the long narrow gradual taper of the end 78 makes for good viewing and easy manipulation The bundle of fibers 52 may be replaced by a single fiber. For example, a convenient arrangement, and one which would be easy to manipulate would have a single fiber about 0.02 in diameter suitably sheathed in steel and plastic coated.
The modified form 14' of probe of the invention which is illustrated in FIG. 4 differs from the probe 14 only in the respect that the tip 78 is curved as shown to enable reaching areas of the subject which are in crevices, etc. Also the probe 14' is more easily utilized by operators who prefer to hold the same at an angle rather than erect.
An important aspect of the structure of the invention is that' because there is no need for a portion of the sheathed fiber 38 to extend from the housing 76 the fiber 38 is fully supported within the housing. It need not be made as fine as the sheathed fiber of the probe 34 since it is not going to be inserted into a fine follicle. Thus it can be made heavier and will transmit substantially more light. For example, since the cross sectional area varies as the square of the diameter, an increase of only 0.002" of the diameter of the glass of fiber 70 from 0.005" (assuming that the thickness of the steel sheath 72 is 0.001") to 0.007" results in the cross sectional area of the fiber almost doubling, with a corresponding increase in transmitted light energy. Thus photocoagulation can be accomplished in a shorter time than with the smaller fiber.
To indicate the proportions and dimensions of the probes, the diameters of the sheathed fibers 38 have already been mentioned, the diameter of the housing 36 is about one-eighth inch and the overall length from end to end of the probe is about one-half inch, this does not include the protruding portion 44 which may be as much as one-quarter inch. in the prior art probe 34 the small end diameter of the conical section is about onesixteenth of an inch. The end 80 of probe 14 can be made as fine as practical to support the sheathed fiber 38, that is of the order of one thirty-second of an inch and less.
Many variations can be made in the invention without departing from the spirit or scope thereof as defined in the appended claims.
What it is desired to secure by Letters Patent of the United States is:
1. The method of photoepilation by means of light energy which comprises A. producing pulses of high energy light,
B. positioning a fiberoptical conduit with one end in energy receiving relation to the light and the opposite end in energy transmitting relation to the exterior of and touching the entrance of a follicle containing a living hair shaft and root,
C. transmitting sufficient pulses through said opposite end and by way of the follicle to the vicinity of said hair root to coagulate the tissues maintaining life in said hair shaft and root, and
D. withdrawing the hair and root from said follicle.
2. The method as claimed in claim 1 in which a light transmissive liquid is applied to said follicle prior to transmitting said pulses.
3. The method as claimed in claim 1 in which a light transmissive liquid comprising mineral oil is applied to the skin around said entrance prior to transmitting said pulses to add said oil to said follicle.
4. A probe for use in photoepilation apparatus and comprising a housing adapted to have one end thereof connected to a source of high energy light and having an optical fiber therein for transmitting light from said connected end to a free end, the fiber having opposite ends thereof substantially flush with the connected and free ends of said housing and supported at said connected and free ends, said housing having an outer configuration which tapers with a gradual taper to a diameter at said free end fine enough to enable accurate placement of said free end at the entrance of a follicle and great enough to provide support for said fiber.
5. The probe as claimed in claim 4 in which said taper commences at a location closer to said connected end than to said free end.
6. The probe as claimed in claim 5 in which said tapered end is curved relative to the axis of said housing.
7. A probe for use in photoepilation apparatus and comprising a housing adapted to have one end thereof connected to a source of high energy light such as produced by a xenon lamp and having a central member formed of optical fiber means therein for transmitting light from said connected end to a free end, the central member having one end thereof substantially flush with the end of the housing which is to be so connected and having its other end exposed to enable the placement of said exposed end adjacent the exterior of a hair follicle so that light emerging from said exposed end will enter into the follicle, said housing having an outer configuration which includes a tapered end opposite the said connected end and at which said other end of said central member is mounted, said central member having a protective metal sheath surrounding the same along at least that portion which is exposed, the combined cross sectional area of the protective sheath and the central member at said exposed end being substantially greater than the available cross sectional area of a normal hair follicle.
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