Most hair growth is predictable and in predictable places. In fact, short, light-colored hair covers most of the body. In some cases, though, unusually dark and coarse hair may grow in unexpected place. Laser hair removal is one procedure that can reduce or eliminate this growth. Some commonly treated areas of the body include the back, chin and neck. The treatment may also be employed for purely cosmetic reasons or to reduce the time spent on personal grooming.
How It Works
Each hair grows out of follicle, which is a small sac-like structure located in the lower layers of the skin. The follicle produces the hair itself, but also provides the pigment or melanin that gives the hair its color, much the same way pigment colors the skin. The laser, a focused beam of light, destroys the pigment in the hair and damages the follicle that grows the hair. This impedes, though may not entirely eliminate future hair growth. As darker colors absorb light much more easily than lighter colors, this tends to be effective only for black or dark brown hair.
During the Procedure
Nowadays the laser is the best way to remove unwanted body hair. There are two methods that can achieve permanent hair reduction – IPL / intense pulsed light/ and laser. They both have proved to be a very popular nonsurgical cosmetic procedure in USA and Europe. Although shaving and waxing are still among the most preferred and popular methods to get rid of body and facial hair, it is gaining more and more popularity due to the promise of permanent and painless results.
- extend the hair-free period
- treats larger areas at a time
- reduce hair by 40 to 85%
- absolutely painless
- immediate return to normal activities
- hair comes back lighter and finer
- extend undesirable hair
- all body parts can be treated, even the face
- safe and effective hair removal
- sometimes hyper-pigmentation may occur
- redness and swelling
- hair changes
- minimal discomfort
This is most successful on people with dark hair and light skin, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t appropriate for darker skin tones. Common treatment locations include legs, armpits, upper lip, bikini line, chin and back.
A cooling device or a cooling gel is always used to protect the skin, to minimize discomfort during treatment and to increase the effectiveness of the laser treatment.
The laser light passes through your skin’s surface to tiny hair follicles where hair growth originates. Hair follicles absorb the light and heat up, destroying the hair and preventing re-growth.
A percentage of these follicles are permanently disabled with each treatment. The laser targets only the cells under the surface and doesn’t harm the surrounding areas.
During the treatment you should wear goggles all the time to protect your eyes from the rays. No anesthetic is needed because the procedure is completely painless.
How long the treatment takes depends on the area of the body involved. Smaller areas like upper lip and chin usually take not more than 5 minutes, but larger areas like back and legs may take from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
For long lasting hair removal most patients require 2 to 8 laser treatments, depending on their hair and skin tone because the treatment works best on new hairs that are just starting to grow. The interval between the procedures varies between 3 weeks to a month.
The area to be treated must be shaved 3-4 days before the procedure in order to increase the effectiveness of the treatment, because it is effective on short and visible hair. Never wax the area before treatment.
- before scheduling laser hair removal consult a doctor to discuss the risks and the benefits
- if crusting occurs after the procedure it’s important to keep the area moist
- avoid exposure to sun for several days after laser hair removal
- don’t use solarium between the treatments
- if you have suntan wait until the tan fades completely
- sometimes you may notice odor of singed hair, but that’s normal
- never wax hair before procedure
- sometimes darkening of the skin may occur but it’s usually a temporary condition
- always wear goggles during the laser treatment
- shaving and depilatory creams is allowed
- several days after laser hair removal hair maybe extruded from the follicle
- after treatment the skin may look red and swollen but it will disappear within a few hours
- it isn’t appropriate for those with sensitive skin
- to reduce the prickly feeling during the procedure you can apply an anesthetic cream
- use a hydrating cream after laser hair removal
- limit your sun exposure for a day or two after the treatment
- always apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or more to the treated area
Here are pictures before and after the procedure.
It is an outpatient procedure and considered minimally invasive. The recovery period lasts about one week and patients are advised to keep the treated area protected from direct exposure to sunlight. Aside from avoiding sunlight exposure, patients can proceed with their normal activities. Some sensitivity or a stinging sensation may occur in the treated areas, but these symptoms typically resolve themselves within a few days. Other symptoms that may occur include redness and minor swelling.
Hair follicles are not always active and the procedure does not tend to treat inactive follicles. It can take multiple sessions over a period of several months in order to halt the majority of follicles in a given area. In some cases, the follicles do not stop growing hair, but the hair that does grow is lighter in color and less coarse. This makes the hair less noticeable and may prove sufficient for some patients. Patients with darker complexions may be advised against receiving laser hair removal since the laser cannot distinguish between dark hair pigment and dark skin pigment. The treatment can leave darkly complected patients with areas of lighter skin.
When performed correctly, laser hair removal is a very safe procedure. Nonetheless, the lasers used in the procedure can cause burns to the skin when used inappropriately or by people with limited experience and training. While some boutiques or salons offer laser treatment, the safest course of action is to set up an appointment with a qualified physician. Many plastic surgeons that focus on cosmetic surgery offer laser hair removal, as do some dermatologists. Some physicians will have a PA (physician’s assistant) or a nurse on their staff perform the procedure. In these cases, be sure that a physician is readily available at the office in the event a problem occurs.