Everything You Need to Know About Laser Hair Removal

For those individuals who are fed up with shaving, waxing or plucking unwanted hair from their body, there is help now. Advances in surgical technology have led to the development of lasers which can effectively remove hair from most parts of the body

Where in the body can I have hair removed with laser?

Lasers can remove hair from most parts of the body including the legs, hands, armpits, upper lip, chin and bikini line. Hair removal near the vicinity of the eye is never done.

Is laser hair removal permanent?

No, lasers can remove hair for extended periods of time which ranges from several months to a couple of years at most. Multiple treatments are usually required to treat any future hair growth.

What factors affect hair removal by laser?

The type of hair and skin type are the most important factors to consider for the success of laser therapy. The best results are generally seen in individuals with dark hair and fair or light skin. Lasers can be used on darker skinned people but the results are not always predictable. In general individuals with dark hair absorb more laser energy, making black or dark hair easier to treat. Light hair, such as blonde, yellow or red, contains a pigment that absorbs laser energy less readily, and therefore the results are not as promising.

What types of lasers are used to remove hair?

There are many types of laser used to remove hair. The first lasers approved for hair removal were the ruby, alexandrite, and diode. Today we also have intense pulsed light (IPL) systems. These lasers work best on light-skinned, dark-haired individuals because dark pigments in the surrounding skin cannot absorb the light they emit. The newer Nd: YAG lasers have a longer wavelength and are suitable for treatment for dark skinned individuals.

Are there any preparations required prior to laser hair removal?

At your first visit, the physician will determine your general medical condition and obtain photographs to document progress of therapy. For those who have had a recent tan, hair removal by laser has to be delayed until the tan fads. All sun tans increase the risk of laser side effects such as sunburns, skin blistering and skin discoloration. It is highly recommended that one wait at least 4-6 weeks after a tan before one undergoes laser therapy.

Because laser is most effective at removing the short stubs of hair, you will be asked to shave the area 2-3 days before the procedure. One should avoid all plucking, waxing or other treatments prior to the laser therapy.

How does laser hair removal work?

Prior to the procedure, your eyes will be covered with special dark glasses to protect against the laser light. The laser is a small hand held device which is aimed at the skin. Most current lasers have a cooling device at the tip which protects the skin and diminishes the pain. There is mild pain felt every time the laser is fired. For those who do not like any pain, the physician may apply some topical local anesthetic before the procedure. When the laser is fired, the heat generated destroys the hair follicles. Each time the laser is fired, a smell of burnt hair is obvious and this is normal. Most individuals require 2-3 sessions to provide the best hair free cosmetic appearance.

How long does the procedure take?

The time of the procedure is dependent on the area being treated. Large areas usually require several hours, but the few hairs on the chin or on the upper lip can be removed in 5-10 minutes.

What can I expect after laser hair removal?

Laser hair removal is an outpatient procedure and there is no need for any fancy bandages or plasters. After the procedure, one may feel some mild pain, swelling and redness. These symptoms will generally resolve in the next 2-3 days. When the treated area appears dry, one may apply some baby oil or any moisturizing agent.

What precautions are required after laser treatment?

In general a common sense approach is all that is necessary. One should

- not participate in any strenuous exercise for the first 24 hours

- Avoid sun exposure for 2-3 weeks. When going out, a sun screen should be applied

- avoid tanning

- avoid waxing, shaving or plucking hair from the treated site

- gently rinse the treated area and keep it clean

When can one see the results?

The effects of laser therapy are not immediate and most individuals start to see hair loss at around 2-4 weeks. The amount of hair loss is very variable and ranges from 40-80%.

Do I need repeat treatments?

Yes, despite multiple laser treatments, hair does grow back and additional treatments may be required. . When necessary, laser treatments are usually repeated at six to eight week intervals.

What are the risks of laser hair removal?

Even though complications from laser are rare, they do occur. The most common complications include:

- hyperpigmentation: darkening of skin is usually a temporary feature but in some fair skinned individuals may be permanent

- hypopigmentation: lightening of skin can occur in dark skinned individuals

- Blistering and scarring can occur from excess heat or a recent tan.

- Skin texture may appear coarse for a few weeks.

- The rare individual will show excessive drying of formation of scabs

- Hair changes. The new hair growth after laser therapy is generally always much thinner and lighter in color. This is easily treated with further laser therapy.

Who performs Laser hair removal?

There are spas and cosmetic clinics all over the place clamoring for the business. For safety and best results, talk to a board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

What is cost of laser hair removal?

The latest surveys indicate that the average initial cost for laser hair removal start at about $450. This is only an underestimate and variable depending on where you live and whom you see. The costs of removal for large amounts of hair are considerably higher.

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