Also known as light based hair removal and laser hair reduction
Laser hair removal is a convenient, noninvasive method for permanently reducing or removing unwanted facial or body hair. It leaves the skin looking smoother and silkier than waxing, electrolysis or razors and is a gentle technique that can treat larger areas effectively with minimal discomfort and with no downtime.
Because laser hair removal only affects actively growing hair follicles, it may take several laser hair removal treatments to provide significant hair reduction. Additionally, while laser hair removal effectively slows hair growth, it doesn’t guarantee permanent hair removal. Periodic maintenance treatments may be needed. Hirsutism affects approximately 10% of women between the ages of 18 and 35. In most cases there is no obvious cause but some patients may have a hormonal disturbance. Hirsutism may also be a feature of the menopause. Unwanted hair is a significant problem for transsexuals and transvestites, and many males with hair on their back dislike it intensely. Children with hairy moles of the face or lumbar spine area are often teased.
- If you have unwanted facial or body hair that makes you feel self-conscious or limits your ability to wear certain clothing
- If you have dark hair and light skin
- If you are looking for an alternative to waxing, electrolysis, shaving and bleaching
- Both large and small areas of the body are effectively treated
- May make skin color and complexion more uniform
- Most patients have permanent hair loss after an average of 3 to 8 sessions
- Multiple treatments are usually required to produce satisfactory results
- Patients with darker skin may not respond well due to inadequate discrepancy between skin and hair colors
- Blonde or gray/white hair is less responsive due to lack of ample pigment in the hair
These are the top three pros and cons to weigh when considering laser hair removal. If you want to focus on what is unique to you, please consult with your aesthetic plastic surgeon.
Are you a good candidate for a laser hair removal?
The following are some common reasons why you may want to consider laser hair removal:
- You have unwanted facial or body hair that makes you feel self-conscious
- You are looking for an alternative to waxing, electrolysis, shaving and bleaching
- You have dark hair and light skin
Darker hairs will absorb more of the laser light and lighter skin allows more transmission of the laser light into the hair follicle. Age, ethnicity, medication, hormone levels and body area affect the length, coarseness and color of body hair, which in turn will influence the results of any cosmetic laser treatment.
Laser hair removal is more than just ”zapping” unwanted hair. It is a medical procedure that requires training to perform and carries potential risks. Before getting laser hair removal, you should thoroughly check the credentials of the doctor or technician performing the procedure.
If you are planning on undergoing laser hair removal, you should limit plucking, waxing, and electrolysis for six weeks before treatment. That’s because the laser targets the hairs’ roots, which are temporarily removed by waxing or plucking.
You should also avoid sun exposure for six weeks before and after treatment. Sun exposure makes laser hair removal less effective and makes complications after treatment more likely.
During your laser hair removal consultation be prepared to discuss:
- Your goals
- Medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments
- Current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drug use
- Previous surgeries
Your surgeon, or his specialty-trained nurse, will also:
- Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
- Take photographs
- Discuss your options
- Recommend a course of treatment
- Discuss likely outcomes of laser hair removal and any risks or potential complications
Be sure to ask your plastic surgeon questions. It’s very important to understand all aspects of your laser hair removal. It’s natural to feel some anxiety, whether it’s excitement for your anticipated new look or a bit of preoperative stress. Don’t be shy about discussing these feelings with your plastic surgeon.
Treatment may be a little uncomfortable – it feels a little like an elastic band snapping against the skin – but some patients prefer to use local anaesthetic cream to numb the area first. Aloe vera gel may also be used during or after treatment for its cooling effect. Some lasers have a cooling system which reduces the discomfort of the treatment.
After treatment, the treated area may look red and feel warm and tender. This feeling goes after a couple of hours, but in a few patients, particularly those with dark skin, blistering and crusting of the skin sometimes occurs after laser treatment. Some hairs disappear at the treatment session; others, which initially look curled up or “frazzled” may take a few days to fall out.
What are my options?
There are a number of devices for laser hair removal. The most successful use a low-energy laser beam to disable the active growth hair follicles. The following variables affect laser or device hair removal:
- Skin color
- Hair color and thickness
- Area of the body treated
- Device type
- Wavelength and fluence used
- Spot size and pulse width
- Skin temperature and cooling
- Treatment timing
Your surgeon may use one or a combination of the following devices, depending on your skin type, hair thickness and color, the size and location of the area being treated, and the treatment timing:
- Ruby laser
- Alexandrite laser
- Diode laser
- Nd:YAG laser
- Intense pulsed light devices
Alexandrite and pulsed light devices should not be used on darker skin types or tanned patients. Diode lasers and Nd:YAG lasers may be used for these skin types. After evaluating your particular skin color and hair characteristics, your plastic surgeon will choose the option that is best suited for your particular situation.
Initial reports of laser hair removal were extremely promising, and some research went so far as to claim that it may be permanent, but this is generally not the case. A few patients do not respond to the laser treatment at all but many will have good results. Regrowth is not only less dense but also less coarse. In the ideal patient, with dark hair and pale skin, the hair usually disappears for two to three months and then slowly regrows. Repeat treatment is usually required several times a year.
When laser treatment is carried out it is essential that all those within the treatment room, you and the staff, should wear protective goggles or glasses. Entry to the room is strictly controlled whilst treatment is being given.
Possible laser hair removal side effects include:
- Mild swelling around the hair follicles
- Pigment changes may occur, especially in those with darker skin. These changes are usually temporary
- Slight redness of the skin
- Temporary irritation resulting in blistering, crusting, scarring or other changes in skin texture
Complications and problems
Laser light can damage the skins pigment and sometimes the treatment area may become unusually pale or dark several months after treatment. For this reason, it is always wise to carry out a small trial of treatment in an unobtrusive area before proceeding to extensive treatment. The test patch is examined six to eight weeks later for unwanted side effects and to carefully assess success before proceeding to further treatment. Special care is needed when treating patients with black or brown skin. The Nd-YAG laser may be most suitable for dark skins as it causes less skin damage. After treatment you should stay out of the sun as exposure of recently laser treated skin to strong sunshine may increase the risk of pigmentation problems.
Questions to ask your aesthetic plastic surgeon
We developed these questions to help you:
- Make the most informed and intelligent decisions about your procedure
- Confirm that you have the right surgeon for your procedure
- Make your initial consultation as rewarding as possible
- Understand your options, potential outcomes, and risks
It is important for you to take an active role in your treatment, so please use this list of questions as a starting point for your initial consultation.
- Am I a good candidate for laser hair removal?
- Are the results I am seeking reasonable and realistic?
- Do you have before-and-after photos I can look at for the procedure I am undergoing?
- What will be the costs associated with my treatment?
- What will you expect of me to get the best results?
- What kind of recovery period can I expect, and when can I resume normal activities?
- What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure?
- How are complications handled?
- What are my options if the cosmetic outcome of my treatment does not meet the goals we agreed on?