Introduction to Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal, which uses a pulsating beam of laser light to remove unwanted hair, works by passing through the skin to damage hair follicles in order to inhibit its growth. But to enjoy the full benefits of this treatment, a person should take several sessions or even periodic maintenance.
While laser hair removal can be used in any skin tone, it is the most effective to individuals who have a fair complexion and dark hair.
Benefits of This Treatment
For people who are concerned with bumps, cuts, allergy, burns, and hassles of repeated waxing, shaving, and tweezing, laser hair removal is usually a great option. With this treatment, they can remove the unwanted hair from their underarm, face, leg, and bikini line.
The good thing about laser hair removal is that it can provide a permanent result for about 90 percent of patients just after three to five treatments, although some individuals may need a periodic maintenance. Another benefit is the treatment’s precision as it can isolatedly target the unwanted hair without damaging the surrounding skin.
Before Laser Hair Removal
The procedure is very safe if performed by a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist, although there are still some risks and uncertainties which must be considered. Fortunately, most of these can be prevented through proper preparations and avoiding certain activities.
Perhaps the most effective way to avoid complications is to choose a doctor certified in dermatology or cosmetic surgery and has experienced with laser treatments. And in case that a licensed nurse or technician will conduct the procedure, make sure an on-site physician supervises it.
It is important to note that incorrect setting during a laser treatment may result to temporary or permanent skin lightening/darkening. Another way to avoid complications and achieve the best possible result is to avoid waxing, plucking, threading, and electrolysis at least six weeks prior to the procedure so the hair roots, which are being targeted by pulsating light, are still present during the laser treatment.
Also, staying away from the sun for at least six weeks before and after a session is important. Too much sun exposure can decrease the effectiveness of laser treatments and may even increase the risk of complications.
During consultation, a doctor will review his patient’s medical history and current medications, and explain the possible risks and benefits of the laser hair removal treatment. Also, photos are taken in order to determine any improvements after each session.
In addition, a physician will tell his patients to avoid sun exposure and to stop any hair removal treatment such as waxing, plucking, threading, and electrolysis several weeks before a laser treatment.
Important Considerations During the Treatment
In general, people with light skin and dark hair are considered the best candidates for laser hair removal because the treatment primarily targets the melanin which is a pigment found in the hair. However, individuals with a darker skin tone may also undergo the procedure, although the melanin in their skin may also be affected.
Because the laser targets the melanin, white and blond hair does not respond to the treatment.
For some patients, laser hair removal does not guarantee a permanent result unless they will have a periodic “maintenance.” But in case that new hair growth shows, it will most likely appear finer and lighter in color.
During the Treatment
Before the laser beam is applied, the treated hair is trimmed to just a few millimeters above the skin’s surface so the pulsating light can penetrate the hair follicles. After this, the laser equipment is adjusted according to the location, color, and thickness of the unwanted hair and skin tone. To protect the skin and prevent burns and blisters, a cold gel or cooling device is applied on the outer layers of the skin; and if needed, topical anesthetic is used to reduce any discomfort during the treatment. Also, special goggles for both the technician and patient are important to prevent eye damage or even blindness.
The technician will then apply a pulse of light to the treated area and watch it for several minutes to ensure that no adverse reactions are taking place. Once everything is okay, he will start applying the laser to the remaining unwanted hairs. Depending on the area being treated, the laser hair removal may take a few minutes to an hour. To achieve a permanent result, most patients will need several laser treatments which are performed four to six months apart until hair growth stops. On average, four to six treatments are required to achieve permanent hair loss and perhaps a periodic maintenance, about six to 12 months apart, may be needed as well.
Once the treatment is completed, some patients may feel slight burns and discomfort which can be alleviated by aloe gels, water, anti-inflammatory lotions or creams, and ice packs. For a day or two, they will also experience tightness comparable to a sunburn and some minor blistering for those with darker skin tone. Other potential side effects include slight swelling and redness, and in rare instances, permanent scarring and skin discoloration. The treated hair will start to fall out over the next month. During this period, it is important to wear sunscreen with high SPF to prevent temporary changes in the skin color and hyperpigmentation.
How It Is Performed
Before the laser beam is applied, the hair will be trimmed to just a few millimeters so the pulsating light can easily penetrate the hair follicle. After this, the laser device is adjusted based on the location and thickness of the treated hair and skin tone, and then a cold gel or special cooling apparatus is applied to the skin to protect it from burns.
In most cases, the dermatologist (or technician) and the patient will have to wear eye protection before applying the laser device to the treated area.
Depending on the location and extensiveness of the unwanted hair, the treatment may range between two minutes (for upper lip) to an hour (for larger areas such as back and legs). This process is repeated after four to six weeks until hair growth stops in the treated area.
Risks to Consider
In general, laser hair removal is a safe procedure and rarely does it result to permanent scarring, blistering, and changes in skin texture. However, some patients may experience temporary minor skin irritation and scabbing which resolve within a few days.
A small percentage of patients may also experience temporary changes in their skin pigmentation—the treated area may become lighter or darker. This usually happens if the laser beam is used at incorrect setting.
Meanwhile, it is not uncommon to experience minimal discomfort which can be reduced by applying ice packs, anti-inflammatory lotion or cream, aloe gels, and water to the skin.
In some cases, the hair being treated is resistant to the laser beam and can grow again after several months or years; fortunately, the new hair is often finer and lighter in color.
Cost of Laser Hair Removal
The cost of treatment largely depends on these following factors: size of the treated area; the length of time and the number of treatments required; location of a clinic; and doctor’s fee. However, a survey conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) showed that the average cost for this treatment is $429.
Benefits of Laser Hair Removal Treatment
Compared with other hair removal treatments, laser provides advantages especially when it comes to precision. In fact, the pulsating beam of light can selectively target coarse, dark hairs along the bikini line while leaving the surrounding skin and other hairs untouched.
And because the laser beams can treat an area about the size of a quarter every second, the procedure takes less than a minute or few minutes when treating small areas such as the upper lip and underarm, but of course, larger areas including the legs, arms, and back will take longer.
However, the most notable advantage of laser compared with other hair removal treatments is its predictability. According to a survey, about 90 percent of patients have permanent hair loss just after three to five sessions.
To date, the procedure is increasingly becoming popular among men who are bothered with the unsightly hair growth on their chest and back.