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).
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.
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 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.
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.