Laser Hair Removal is the most frequent cosmetic use of lasers for the skin. Besides cosmetic use, reduction in hair growth may improve some skin conditions such as ingrown hairs and folliculitis – an acne-like eruption.
How is it performed?
A beam of light from the laser is directed onto the skin where there is unwanted hair growth. Melanin (the pigment in the hair) absorbs the light and converts it to heat. This heat then inactivates the surrounding hair follicle.
How many treatments are required?
Several treatments of laser hair removal are usually required. This is because the laser only targets those follicles that are in their active hair growth phase. If a follicle is in one of its dormant phases, the hair follicle will not be affected. In most sites (arm, thigh, leg, bikini line), 10% to 25% of the hair follicles are in their active phase at any one time. Other factors that affect the number of laser hair removal treatments include the location on the body, hair color, hair thickness, and skin color.
How often are treatments administered?
Laser hair removal is performed approximately every 2 months. This is sufficient time for many of the resting hair follicles to begin their active hair growth phase.
Who can be treated?
Because melanin in the hair shaft is the actual target that absorbs the laser light, the procedure works best for those with dark hairs – white, silver, blonde, red, and gray hairs respond poorly. In addition, thick hairs respond better than fine hairs. Besides hair color, the other important variable is skin color. The lighter the skin color, the more effective the treatment and the fewer treatments required. If the complexion is too dark, permanent hair reduction may not be achieved. Some lasers are safer than others for treating dark skin – however, even those that are safe on dark skin may not provide permanent reduction in hair growth.
What are the additional benefit to laser hair removal?
Reduction in hair growth may improve some skin conditions such as ingrown hairs and folliculitis – an acne-like eruption of the skin. This is a common problem for some women on their bikini lines and for some men on their neck and beard areas.
Are there any limitations before treatment?
Tanning (natural sunlight or tanning salon) and self-tanning lotion should be avoided prior to laser hair removal treatments. These darken the complexion, reducing the effectiveness of treatment – less light from the laser actually reaches the hair and the follicle.
How should I prepare for treatment?
Prior to your laser hair removal appointment, the skin must be shaved to remove any hair on the surface. However, you should not wax or pluck prior to your laser hair removal treatment. If the entire hair shaft is removed from the follicle, the treatment will not be effective.
What can I expect after treatment?
The skin will be somewhat red and swollen immediately after the laser hair removal treatment. This usually takes several hours to several days to resolve. All of the follicles shed their hairs within 1 to 3 weeks after the laser treatment at which time the skin appears hairless. After 6-10 weeks, hair growth can be seen again.
You may resume all activities immediately after laser hair removal treatment. However, if you are going to be in the sun, you should use a sunscreen to prevent sunburn or tanning, at least until the redness from the laser treatment has resolved (usually within a few hours to a few days).
Is treatment painful?
There is discomfort associated with Laser Hair Removal, but there is individual variation in the discomfort experienced. The discomfort experienced depends upon hair color, hair density, hair thickness and skin color. We can apply a topical anesthetic cream prior to treatment to reduce the discomfort. After treatment there is usually minimal, if any, discomfort experienced.