Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal is a cosmetic procedure that uses pulsed laser energy to remove unwanted hair from a targeted area, while leaving surrounding skin unharmed. Common areas on which laser hair removal is performed are the chin, upper lip, chest, underarms, back, bikini line and legs.

Although there are many temporary treatments, including tweezing, shaving, using depilatory creams and waxing, to remove unwanted hair, patients seeking more permanent and less irritating/painful methods are frequently good candidates for laser hair removal. Through what is a safe and usually painless procedure, hair can be removed from nearly any area of the body (the eye area is an exception because of the possibility of serious eye damage).

Candidates for Laser Hair Removal

Because the laser beams used to remove hair target its melanin (pigment), the best candidates have dark hair and light skin. Conversely, those with blond, red, gray or white hair and dark skin are usually not good candidates. Recent technological advances have made laser hair removal for those with dark skin more successful, while techniques for using lasers to effectively remove light-colored hair are being investigated.

Benefits of Laser Hair Removal

There are many benefits to having unwanted hair removed through the use of laser therapy. They include the following:

  • Hair is precisely targeted
  • Procedure is quick
  • Results are permanent (for 90 percent of patients) or long-lasting

For many patients, laser hair removal is painless, although some experience minor discomfort, usually described as something like a rubber band‘s snapping against the skin.

Laser Hair Removal Procedure

Laser hair removal is performed while the target area is numbed by a topical anesthetic. A handheld device that emits intense laser pulses is moved across the area, focusing on individual hair follicles. There are several different methods of laser hair removal, some of which combine laser impulses with radiofrequency. The appropriate method for each patient is decided in consultation with the physician administering treatment.

Hair growth takes place cyclically, in three stages. The most effective laser hair removal takes place during the andogen (full-growth) stage, because the hair follicles in this stage are susceptible to laser energy. But, because all hair is not in the same stage of growth at any given time, several laser treatments, usually between three and five, spaced 4 to 8 weeks apart, are necessary. To some extent, the length of treatment depends on the texture of the patient‘s hair, and the location from which it is being removed.

Recovery from Laser Hair Removal

Some redness, soreness or swelling may occur immediately after laser hair removal, but they almost always disappear within a few days. Cold compresses or ice packs, moisturizers, and anti-inflammatory creams may minimize discomfort. Sun exposure should be avoided as much as possible for some period of time.

Complications of Laser Hair Removal

The most common complication of laser hair removal is the regrowth of the unwanted hair. Frequently, however, the hair that regrows is finer and lighter than the hair that was removed. Usually, regrowth can be addressed with a few additional treatment sessions. Other complications that may arise after laser hair treatment include skin irritation such as blistering and crusting; changes in pigmentation or texture of the skin; and scarring at the removal site.

Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt?

Historically, laser treatments of all kinds have had a reputation for causing pain. Laser hair removal is not immune to this perception; and, the procedure can be uncomfortable. What's important to understand is that pain is subjective. If you have a generally high tolerance for pain, then you may notice only subtle sensations during your laser hair removal treatment. The word that most people use to describe their treatments is "like a ruber band snapping." You may also feel a warming or sunburned type of sensation for a short time after your sessions.

In addition to your natural pain threshold, there are a few other factors that may influence how comfortable your laser hair removal sessions are. These include how well-rested you are and how hydrated you are. Each of these factors affects how you experience pain. For women who want to reduce the discomfort of laser hair removal, studies show that it can be helpful to schedule treatments one to two weeks after menstruation. It is during this time when estrogen levels are lowest and pain tolerance is highest as a result.

As you prepare for your laser hair removal treatment, it may also help to know which areas tend to be more sensitive. Sensitivity usually relates to the thickness of the skin in the treatment area. Areas like the upper lip, bikini area, and underarms are some of the most sensitive. Moderate discomfort may occur during laser hair removal on the cheeks, stomach, legs, and back.

How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?

There are several laser devices that are used today. All laser platforms designed for hair removal work in the same way. During your laser treatment, flashes of intense light are delivered through the small handheld applicator. The beams of light permeate the skin and enter your hair follicles. There, the light is drawn to the pigment in your hair. It's the melanin in the hair that becomes the target of the laser light. When the light gets absorbed by the melanin in the strands of hair that are in your hair follicles at the time of treatment, the hair vaporizes. Heat transfers from the vaporized hair to the walls of the hair follicles. One treatment doesn't stop hair growth because every hair follicle grows in cycles. However, the results of this hair removal process develop right away and can persist with subsequent treatments scheduled at appropriate intervals. Sometimes, with addtional YAG laser treatments, for the face, further hair reduction can be achieved.

Are the Results of Laser Hair Removal Permanent?

Laser hair removal devices are cleared by the FDA for "permanent hair reduction." We want you to know what to expect in terms of short-term and long-term results. Hair reduction is not permanent hair removal, and misunderstanding this could lead to feelings of disappointment.

There are a few reasons why a bit of hair may grow back at some point after you complete your laser hair removal sessions. One, as you may understand, is that hair grows in cycles. Laser treatments can eliminate hair that is actively grown (anagen phase). It cannot contact hairs in the catagen (transitional) or telogen (rest) phase of the cycle. You have many thousands of hairs in the area treated with laser technology. It may be impossible to fully disable every follicle in any number of treatments. However, laser treatments are proven to achieve remarkable results, and these can last.

Generally, laser hair removal is deemed effective in hair reduction reaching approximately 90 percent. While you may experience regrowth at some point, the hair that grows back will most likely be very light and thin. Periodic touch-ups can address mild regrowth as needed, or a quick shave every 1-2 months can catch the rest.

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