Hair removal has been in practice, whether be for hygiene or fashionable purposes, for many years; even going as far back as the Ancient Egyptians. And as civilizations advanced, so has the science and tools in which they use, some of which are still being used today. However, society still yearned for better techniques to help achieve that “flawless” appearance.
Laser hair removal involves specifically targeting the hair with various specific wavelengths of light. This differentiates from ‘electrolysis’ where the aforementioned takes on individual hair follicles as opposed to the pigmentation. Laser hair removal has been only available since the mid-1990s, but like all technology, is advancing to suit different types of individuals.
How does Laser Hair Removal work?
Laser hair removal works by selectively targeting melanin in the area of the hair follicle. Melanin gives color to the hair with eumelanin providing black or brown color and pheomelanin giving blonde and red color. Also known as “Selective Photothermolysis”, the laser is calibrated to target the concentrated melanin in the hair bulbs. This is why laser hair removal only works on darker hair follicles. Patients with blonde, red or gray hair are often not ideal candidates for Laser Hair Removal. Electrolysis for this type of patient might be the best route, at this time.
Types of LASERS for Hair Removal
There are essentially only 4 types of Laser Hair Removal lasers available today: IPL, alexandrite, diode, and Nd:YaG lasers. Each laser has its own pros and cons in regards to its efficacy. Our practice does prefer to use Diode lasers due to their speed and comfort for the patient and is often the most effective wavelength type that requires the least amount of treatments.
Laser Hair Removal vs. Electrolysis Hair Removal
- Time – The amount of time per session for both treatments vary based on what areas are being treated. Since laser removal attacks the pigmentation in the hair, a wider area can be treated. For example, eyebrow treatments can take about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Electrolysis attacks individual hair follicles, which can be more time-consuming. An eyebrow treatment can take up to 30 minutes depending on the experienced technician.
- Amount of Sessions– With Laser Hair Removal, an average of 4 to 6 treatments are needed, with a spacing of about a month between session, to achieve the best results. Electrolysis requires between 15 to 30 sessions.
Why does Laser Hair Removal require multiple sessions?
Laser hair only works on hair in the growing phase (called anagen). The three types of hair growth are anagen, telogen, and catagen. Since not all of the hair is in the anagen phase, several sessions are required to effectively treat the hair.
Multiple treatments have shown to be necessary to effectively reduce the amount of hair.
What are the Side Effects?
The most common side effect of laser is pain. Some degree of discomfort is to be expected, although hopefully minimal. There is no such thing as painless Laser Hair Removal, although some lasers will market themselves as such. Several options exist in regards to making Laser Hair Removal more comfortable. This includes the use of topical anesthetics, as well as the use of cooling tips and pre-cooling the skin. In addition, having the desired follicle length will minimize the pain from the singeing of the lasered hairs.
Other complications can include hyper or hypopigmentation and rarely scarring. Previously, Laser Hair Removal was not recommended for people with a dark skin tone. However, over the years, new advances have made it possible to find the right laser for the patient.
Preparing for Laser Hair Removal
There are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for Laser Hair Removal treatment:
- Avoid getting a suntan or using a sunless tanner for up to 6 weeks prior to treatment. Your skin should be as light as possible before treatment. Any tanning increases the risk of side effects, such as skin lightening.
- Refrain from plucking, waxing or electrolysis at least one month prior to treatment. These removal methods can disturb the hair follicle and the root must be present for the procedure in order for the laser to deliver the best results. Shaving is fine since it preserves the hair shaft and follicle. In fact, it is recommended that the area of treatment be shaved at least 24 hours before the procedure so that the laser does not target hair above the skin, potentially causing burns.
- Always remember to consult a doctor or specialist to make sure this procedure is right for you.
Is Laser Hair Removal Right for Me?
- For Dark Skin Tones:
The “ideal” type of person for Laser Hair Removal is someone who is light skin tones and dark-haired, which is one of the reasons to refrain from getting a tan before the procedure. In the early days of Laser Hair Removal, it was often discouraged for different ethnic groups that had darker skin tones to use this procedure due to the limited number of laser light wave lengths that were approved. These light wavelengths had the potential to damage darker skin due to the light waves inability to safely target the melanin in the hair shafts. Today, however, thanks to the advances in the field, it is safer and more efficient to treat someone with a darker skin tone using different types of lasers with various wavelengths and pulse widths.
- For Blonde / Gray Hair:
Blonde hair can prove to be a challenge when it comes to using Laser Hair Removal. The Laser’s heat source is dependent on pigment, like that found in darker hair. Blonde hair lacks the pigment to attract the heat of the Laser. While there are some Lasers available to treat blonde or gray hair, it is still found to be unreliable. A recommended hair removal procedure for those with blonde or gray hair would be Electrolysis since it attacks the hair follicle instead of pigment.
If you’re interested in learning if Laser Hair Removal is right for you, contact Premier Image Cosmetic and Laser Surgery to schedule your private consultation today. The skin care experts at The Premier Image Med Spa have over ten years of experience in Laser Hair Removal. They will be able to determine the cost and length of treatment while answering any questions you may have. Call (770) 457-6303 to schedule your consultation at their office in Atlanta, GA today.