Q1: What is Laser Hair Removal?
A: Laser hair removal is a procedure by which hair is removed from the body by utilizing a long pulse laser. Lasers are developed and designed from years of research. The laser parameters are carefully defined by studying the anatomy of the hair follicle and precisely matching the laser light and pulse duration to the follicle size, depth and location to inhibit the re-growth of the hair. Laser hair removal is performed by a specially-trained laser specialist or a doctor depending on where you go, who distributes the light of a long pulse laser onto the skin. The laser works by disabling hairs that are in their active growth cycle at the time of treatment. Since other hairs will enter their growth cycle at different times, several treatments are necessary to disable all of the follicles in a given area.
Q2: Is Laser Hair Removal Painful?
A:In one pulse, the laser can remove all the hair on a patch of skin the size of a nickel. Everyone’s pain threshold is different, but generally laser hair removal is not much more painful than waxing, but the sensation is different. It resembles a rubber band snapping against the skin for a quick second with each pulse. Most people do not require an anesthetic cream, but one may be used for very sensitive patients/areas (can be provided or prescribed at the clinic). Be aware that using anesthetic creams is only safe on small areas (like upper lip, bikini, or underarms) and in small quantities.
Q3: Am I a Candidate for Laser Hair Removal?
A:Both men and women seek laser hair removal services to have unwanted hair removed. Hair removal is commonly done on the hairline, eyebrow, top of the nose, lip, chin, ear lobe, shoulders, back, underarm, abdomen, buttocks, pubic area, bikini lines, thighs, face, neck, breast, arms, legs, hands, and toes. Laser works best on pale skin and dark coarse hair. The closer you are to this combination (i.e. the lighter the skin and the more coarse and dark the hair), the better the results will generally be. Alexandrite long pulse and diode types of lasers work best on light-colored skin. Nd:YAG long pulse lasers are better and safer on darker skin (skin types IV and darker – see Question #12 below to determine your skin type).
Q4: Is Laser Hair Removal Permanent?
A:The general opinion is that laser hair removal is permanent, and the Food and Drug Administration approved it as “permanent reduction,” but doesn’t work on everyone. Generally, this means that you shouldn’t expect laser to remove every single hair from an area. Most people need to follow up with electrolysis treatments for any remaining hairs for complete clearance as hair becomes too fine for laser to target and you reach diminishing returns. Most will also need touch-up treatments 1-2 times a year after the initial set of treatments for any new growth your body develops with age. It has also been observed that some people seem to be non-responders – this is not confirmed and reasons are not known as not enough research has been done in this area. Keep in mind that it's also difficult to judge whether someone’s lack of results is due to the person’s potential underlying medical condition that causes continuous growth and makes it seem like laser isn’t working, whether the treatment wasn't performed properly, or whether for some people it just doesn't work and we don't know why. Basically, you can’t determine this for yourself unless you try it. In addition, results also depend on many variables involved, including the tech's experience, type of laser used and how settings are set, etc. A set of at least 6-8 treatments at specified intervals are generally necessary to achieve substantial hair removal with laser. Factors that determine the length of treatment include the particular area to be treated, the texture of hair, frequency of treatments, history of temporary measures to remove hair (waxing, tweezing, shaving, and depilatories, etc.) etc. Electrolysis is considered a permanent hair removal method that has been used for the past 125 years. It involves treating one hair at a time and can take a considerably long time to complete a large area, but IS an option as well. It is also the recommended method for small areas (generally, chin, upper lip, eyebrows, etc), as well as for fine and light-colored hair. The most cost-efficient treatments to completely clear an area should start with laser to remove the bulk of the hair and finish with electrolysis to remove the remaining finer sparse hair.
Q5: How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?
A:Lasers designed for permanent hair reduction emit wavelengths of light designed to be absorbed by the pigment in the hair (melanin). If the surrounding skin is relatively light compared to the color of the hair, then the entire energy of the laser will be concentrated in the hair shaft, effectively destroying it without affecting the skin or follicle. Hair removal lasers target the dark pigment in the hair. That’s why laser hair removal works best on light skin and dark coarse hair. The ability of the laser to produce a very narrow bandwidth on a consistent basis is the key to a safe efficient treatment. The types of lasers used for permanent hair reduction include the ruby (old machines only safe for very pale skin types - not recommended), Nd:YAG, diode, and alexandrite. While the laser emits a beam that only heats the hair shaft, heat is transmitted from the hair shaft to the surrounding tissue for several milliseconds after the laser pulse. Several lasers possess cooling attachments which cool the surrounding skin to fully absorb any heat transmitted from the destroyed hair shafts. Be aware that hair removal systems that use traditional light for treatment (Intense Pulse Light machines or IPLs) are not true hair removal lasers. These devices use a highly concentrated beam of traditional incoherent light, often in conjunction with a cream or gel, to burn the hair shaft. A serious flaw with these systems is that they lack the laser's ability to produce a selective bandwidth of light that will only affect the hair shaft (selective photothermolysis). These devices produce a wide bandwidth of light that can heat up all of the surrounding tissue. IPLs are generally cheaper devices and are used for various skin procedures first and foremost, with hair removal as more of an afterthought. Judging from consumer feedback, true lasers usually achieve better and faster results for hair removal purposes.
Q6: What Should I Expect Before and After Treatment?
A:You should shave the area to be treated 1-3 days before treatment. No waxing or removing hair with the root with any other way is allowed 4-6 weeks before and throughout the course of treatment as hair needs to be in place to be targeted by laser. The area should be shaved as closely as possible so that laser can target the most energy towards the hair follicle and not waste energy on the part of the hair above the skin’s surface. If your hair is the type that you can’t see where it was right after you shave, make it a bit easier on your tech not to miss the spots you want treated by shaving 1-3 days before so the outline of where hair is growing is just VERY slightly visible. After treatment is completed, you should apply aloe vera to soothe the skin for a few days. Within 2-3.5 weeks, you should experience shedding of all treated hair. At first, hair will look like it’s growing back in, but it is just coming through the skin to shed. Shedding starts at about 1.5 weeks and can last until 3.5 weeks post-treatment or so. Exfoliating and/or scrubbing gently in the shower with a loofa can help speed up the process. After shedding finishes, you might experience little black dots still “stuck” in the skin. These are commonly referred to as “pepperspots” and will shed eventually, but might take a bit longer. Exfoliate to help those out as well. After shedding occurs, you should experience a hairfree period for a few weeks, until next set of hair that was dormant before starts to come in.
Q7: How Many Laser Treatments Will I Need and How Far Apart are They Scheduled?
A:Most people need at least 6-8 initial treatments spaced 4-6 weeks apart. This is because hair grows in 4 phases and is killed in the first “anagen” active growing phase. Several treatments are needed to target ALL hair in the active growth phase. Approximately 4-6 weeks after every treatment, additional treatment is required to eliminate the hairs that came out of the dormant phase and are now active. After 6-8 treatments or so, patients should experience a considerable percentage of hair reduction. Depending upon hair type and genetic factors, some clients may require additional treatments beyond these initial treatments. If it seems like the treatments are not working after 6-8 treatments, patients should look into possible underlying reasons.