Laser hair removal is a growing trend in the aesthetic industry. Indeed, women and men are both turning to permanent hair removal as opposed to other hair removal options such as waxing and shaving. Both are indeed short-term options as they do not destroy the hair. Both also tend to become costly with time.
Cost is one of many misconceptions about laser hair removal. It is the first deterrent to more patients giving it a go, even though they are struggling with their body hair. Thus, laser treatment tends to scare more than one individuals, that is true.
Why though? Because even though laser hair removal is growing in popularity, people still do not know exactly what the procedure entails. There is hair and there is a laser. The laser destroys the hair.
As this is partly true, undergoing laser as a way to remove unwanted hair goes way beyond that. Indeed, laser is a safe and effective way to remove body hair on the selected area and will help reduce hair growth, reaching a quasi-permanent hair-free skin.
However, how does laser hair removal actually work? What principles and technology goes behind the laser procedure? How does the laser machine actually help with removing unwanted hair? Answering all your questions now.
What you need to know about laser hair removal
1. What happens during laser hair removal
Laser hair removal is a cosmetic procedure that uses a concentrated beam of light, also called laser, to remove unwanted body hair. To be more precise, the laser treatment uses selective photothermolysis. A specific wavelength of light and pulse duration will match to obtain the desired effect on a specific target without damaging the surrounding skin tissues. During a laser hair removal appointment, the laser will target pigments in the hair to travel through to the hair follicle where it will turn into thermal energy.
The goal of the laser procedure is to damage the hair follicle beyond repair so that it cannot regenerate nor create any new hair. When the hair follicle stops regenerating, hair growth stops. Furthermore, the combined effects of all the hair follicles going through the same process will help achieve long-term hair growth reduction. The beam of light will target pigments present in the hair but may detect melanin elsewhere, like on the skin for example. Thus, laser hair removal works better on dark hair and light skin.
Indeed, only a sharp contract between skin and hair will allow the laser to capture the hair and ignore the skin. However, that does not mean that laser hair removal does not work on darker skin or lighter hair. Consequently, different skin tones will require different laser intensity to ensure that the skin is not harmed during the procedure.
Technicians will also use different types of laser depending on the skin color. For example, ND: YAG lasers are used on dark skins as they do not rely as much on melanin to be absorbed and to get to the hair follicle.
2. Why do you need to wait between sessions
There are several reasons why laser hair removal sessions are weeks apart. Usually, technicians recommend waiting six to eight weeks before coming back. This is mostly because one must contend with the hair growth cycle.
The hair growth cycle has three phases: anagen, catagen and telogen. Laser hair removal is effective when the hair is in the anagen phase. Indeed, that is the only time the hair connects to the hair follicle. Without the connexion, the energy cannot to reach the hair follicle and damage it to stop hair growth. Unfortunately, it is difficult to know one’s hair growth cycle and schedule sessions accordingly.
However, at least 20% of all body hairs will be in the anagen phase at any point in time. Thus, the laser will only be able to target 18 to 20% of a patient’s body hair. Each hair will also go through their own unique cycle. One hair may stay longer in one stage than another hair. Spacing sessions out allows time for the hair to switch growth phase and hopefully be at the anagen phase.
Furthermore, as patients wait between sessions, they will see their first results. Indeed, it will take a few weeks before the first hairs shed. The damaged hair follicle still needs time to expel the dead hair. Some follicles may also need several sessions to be damaged enough and ensure there is no more hair growth.
3. Why is shaving before a session important?
It is important that patients shave before they come to their laser hair removal session. Doing this will ensure that the hair is cut flat straight at the surface of the skin. Then, it is the only pigmented object the laser will target. When the hair is not clean-shaven, the pulse of light will heat up the whole hair. This will increase the risks of scarring and burning.
Furthermore, a long hair will absorb too much light energy. Consequently, less thermal energy would get to the hair follicles to damage it. Unshaven hair will hinder the efficiency of the procedure. It may also increase the risks of negative side effects. Patients need to put extra care in their skincare routine a few days before their laser hair removal session.
Exfoliating the skin twice a week a couple of weeks before the appointment will help remove dead skin cells as well as pop ingrown hairs out. Patients must use a clean disinfected razor to ensure no bacteria get their way in.
Patients will need to shave at least 24 hours prior to their session so that the skin has time to regenerate. Indeed, shaving removes the top layer of skin, leaving the dermis more sensitive and vulnerable to the lasers. Patients must give shaving enough time, as not to rush and produce cuts and wounds.
4. Is laser hair removal for everybody?
We briefly touched on who is the ideal candidate for laser hair removal: dark hair and light skin. Indeed, only this combination produces a pigment contrast sharp enough for the laser to send energy to the hair only. However, the latest technology improvements brought lasers that can work on all skin types and complexions, as well as all hair colors.
Only one type of laser can be used on dark skin and people of color, which is Nd: YAG laser. Indeed, it is the only laser with proven safety and efficiency on dark skins. Indeed, Nd: YAG can safely treat all skin types as it deposits its energy deep into the dermis without relying on melanin to do so. Our V-Frost laser is a Nd: YAG laser.
Dark skin must stay away from home lasers as the intensity cannot change and may be unsafe.
On the other hand, the absence of melanin in blonde and fair hair may make it difficult for the laser to detect the hair. However, once again, Nd: YAG is the laser to use. The laser treatment may not be as fast as with the “ideal candidate”. However, it is still possible.
Nd: YAG laser removes hair whether blonde, ginger or grey as it is very sensitive to all pigments and melanin concentrations.
Furthermore, not every hair on a blonde person is blonde. There are different shades of blonde. Plus, hair on areas such as the upper lip may be blonde but they may well be darker around the bikini area. Thus, blonde people can still undergo laser hair removal.
5. Does laser hair removal have side effects?
When laser hair removal is done well, in good conditions with a trained technician, there should not be any side effects around the treated area or anywhere else. Each laser spa or clinic will have clear guidelines and recommendations on what to do before and after a session. Then, it is up to the patients to comply in order to ensure the safety of the treatment.
The laser technician will need to know whether a patient was on any medication prior to the session. One must not undergo laser hair removal at least ten days after being on antibiotics as they increase photosensitivity. If a patient takes Roaccutane, they must wait at least six months before they can start their treatment. Hormone-based medications such as birth control may also impact the results of the session.
It is also very important that patients stay away from direct sun before and after their session. Tanning before will add melanin to the skin and may interfere with the treatment. Furthermore, exposure to direct sunlight may cause irreversible damage to the skin such as hyper or hypo-pigmentation, scarring, etc.
The skin is more sensitive and vulnerable to UV rays after a session. Thus, it is crucial that patients apply a strong SPF on the treat area even if there is no sun.
Other more common yet still rare side effects of laser hair removal include mild swelling, small pigment changes, skin redness, mild irritation, etc. However, those are all temporary and should gowithin hours.
To sum up, laser hair removal is a cosmetic treatment that uses a laser to target pigments in the hair. The energy will get to the hair follicle and damage it beyond repair so that it cannot produce any more hair, thus reducing hair growth. It is a long-term hair removal solution that is very safe, efficient and will get you rid of your hair for a very long time!