In the past, the usual remedies for unwanted hair were plucking, shaving, waxing, or chemical depilatories. Some are painful, some are messy, and all are only temporary. Laser hair removal is an FDA-approved process of permanently reducing or eliminating unwanted hair on almost any part of the body except near the eyes. The process takes anywhere from several minutes to several hours, depending on the area of the body involved.
What is laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal uses a low-energy laser, which passes through the patient's skin, being absorbed by the pigment in the hair follicle. Each pulse of the laser targets and inactivates a large number of hair follicles. Approximately 3-6 treatments are necessary, although some people do require more treatments.Inadequately trained technicians can cause permanent scarring, hyperpigmentation and disfigurement. Always make sure the person who is performing any laser treatment has the required training and experience as well as the correct laser for your skin type and color. Popular areas of treatment include the brows, lip, chin, chest, shoulders, neck, back, legs, thighs, arms, underarms and ears.
Is the hair removal permanent?
During each treatment session, a certain percentage of the hair follicles are damaged such that hair will not grow from them again. With each treatment session, additional hair follicles are damaged until hair is completely absent in most cases.
Is the treatment painful?
There is some discomfort during laser hair removal, but the pain is generally less than waxing or electrolysis. Depending on how aggressive the treatment session is, the skin may be slightly to significantly pink following treatment. A certified dermatologist offers a potent numbing medication, which significantly dulls the pain. In most cases, no anesthesia is necessary.
For maximal results, it is best to avoid bright sunlight for approximately 10 days prior to treatment. The area to be treated should be shaved immediately prior to the treatment. The aftercare is minimal. Sun exposure should be avoided for a few days after treatment.
What are the risks and side effects of laser hair removal?
The possibility exists that some side effects or complications can occur given various variables, including:
Itching, during treatmentRedness for up to 3 daysSwelling (around the mouth) up to 3 daysPain, tingling, or feeling of numbness
Crusting/scab formation (on ingrown hairs)BruisingPurpura (purple coloring of the skin) on tanned areasInfectionTemporary pigment change (hypo-pigmentation or hyper-pigmentation)
Side effects occur infrequently and, as a rule, generally are temporary. If any of the above last for more than 3 days, make sure to contact your doctor. The doctor needs to know in order to adjust settings on your following treatment.
What are the stages of hair growth and how does it affect me?
There are three phases of the hair growth cycle:
Anagen (active) is the growing phase or when the hair fiber is produced. During anagen, the hair contains a great quantity of melanin, the pigment which gives your hair its color. This is the phase during which laser hair removal treatment is most effective.
Catagen (club hair) is the period of controlled regression of the hair follicle. This phase is when the lower part of the hair stops growing, but does not shed, and the follicle is reabsorbed. It will be difficult for permanence to be achieved when the hair is in the catagen growth cycle.
Telogen (tired) is the last of the hair growth cycle. In this resting phase, the old hair falls out in preparation for the development of a new anagen hair. Permanence cannot be achieved when the hair are in the telogen growth cycle.