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Laser Hair Removal FAQs:

 

1. What is Laser Hair Removal?

Laser hair removal is a type of hair removal procedure which involves using a laser to damage hair follicles and prevent them from continuing to produce hair. Lasers are no longer new, really, but laser hair removal is a newer technology; the lasers used for hair removal use a precisely calibrated pulsed laser whose duration on each follicle is matched to your skin type (using Fitzpatrick skin typing) and hair growth in order to produce optimal results.
Laser technicians or physicians may perform laser hair removal procedures, using a hand held pulsed laser; since the laser only destroys hair which is in the active growth phase, multiple treatments are usually necessary.

 

2. Am I a Good Candidate for Laser Hair Removal?

You can find this out by going to a MedSpa and having a consultation there. You'll fill out a Fitzpatrick Skin Typing form, which will help the physician or laser technician tell you more about whether laser hair removal is the right hair removal procedure for you. There are six different skin types and while laser hair removal can be done regardless of skin type, some types take to this procedure much more readily than others.
People who have dark, coarse body hair and lighter skin tones are the best suited to laser hair removal procedures and typically have the best end result. For these people, diode lasers and Alexxandrite lasers are the tool of choice. A laser with a longer pulse, the Nd:YAG is better suited to people with darker skin.

 

3. Is Laser Hair Removal Permanent?

Generally speaking, yes. The FDA actually does classify laser hair removal as permanent reduction. It's listed by the FDA reduction rather than removal since the results of the procedure aren't universally permanent. For most people and most skin types, laser hair removal is permanent for all intents and purposes, but there are some cases where not every single hair will be removed and touch-ups may be needed once or twice annually to keep the treated area hairless. If hairs do come back after laser treatment, they can sometimes be too fine for laser removal to affect them; in which case electrolysis may be necessary to completely remove these hairs.
While rare, there are others who for some reason simply do not respond to laser hair removal. There are a number of theories about why this may be the case, but not enough is yet known to provide a definitive answer about why this small number of people fail to respond to laser treatment.
To get optimal results, several treatments are usually needed - six to eight treatments is average, though this number may be slightly smaller or larger depending on the individual's skin type. Other factors which can affect the number of treatments needed include which part of the body is being treated, the texture of the hair in this area and any other hair removal methods which have been used in this area previously.
The only truly permanent hair removal method is electrolysis, which has been known to be effective for more than a century now. However, electrolysis also has a lot of downsides: each and every follicle needs to be individually shocked. It's a lengthy and painful process, but in the rare cases where laser hair removal is not effective, it is an option.

 

4. How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?

Laser hair removal works on the principle of SPTL (selective photothermolysis) in other words, using targeted lasers to heat hair follicles and damage or destroy them without causing damage to surrounding tissues.
The lasers used in hair removal procedures target melanin in hair follicles, heating them and destroying these darker-colored areas while leaving the lighter colored skin surrounding the follicle unaffected - this is the reason that people with light skin and dark hair are the best candidates for laser hair removal. However, newer generations of lasers have significantly improved the results that dark skinned people with dark hair see from the procedure as well.
There are basically 3 types of lasers that are currently in use for laser hair removal:
Ruby: rarely used; and is only used on very light skin Pulsed Diode Array: used primarily on light to medium skin Nd:YAG: used on darker skin; this laser can be used to treat all 6 skin types.

 

5. What Should I Expect Before and After Treatments?

One to three days before your procedure, shave the area which will have laser hair removal. Do not use waxing, sugaring or any other hair removal technique which takes the hair out at the root for about six weeks preceding your laser hair removal or while your laser treatments are ongoing. The lasers target the root of the hair, so if these are removed, the treatment will not be effective. Make sure not to shave the area the day of your procedure - the technician should be able to see where the hair was in order to provide a more effective laser hair removal treatment.
For a few days following your treatment, use aloe vera to soothe your skin. In the next few weeks, it may appear as if your hair is growing back, but this is simply the hair being pushed out and shed. You can speed up this process of shedding by exfoliating the area. You may see some small black spots after shedding - these are hairs which are still pushing their way up before being shed. Again, exfoliating can help move things along. If you don't notice any shedding at all after a month, call the facility where you had the procedure performed to ask why.
When shedding as stopped, you'll have a time of being completely hair free; once other hairs in the treated area return to their active growth phase, you'll start seeing some hair return. This is normal and these hairs can then be removed in your next laser hair removal treatment; as long as hair keeps returning, you should continue treatment until there is either no more hair growth at all or until there is so little that a laser hair treatment would not be effective.