Laser hair removal
Laser hair removal is the process of hair removal through exposing skin to pulses of laser light, destroying the hair follicle in the process. It became commercially available in the mid-1990s.
How does it work?
The principle behind laser hair removal is a process called selective photothermolysis (SPTL). To summarize; it's to match a specific wavelength of light and pulse duration obtaining an optimal effect on the targeted tissue with minimal effect to the surrounding tissue. The pigment in the follicles absorbs the light resulting in destroying the hair.
Benefits of Laser hair removal
- Great Accuracy: Lasers can selectively target a specific area while leaving the surrounding skin undamaged.
- High Speed: Each pulse of the laser takes just a fraction of a second and treating a lot of hairs at the same time. The laser pulse has the ability to treat an area approximately the size of a quarter every single second.
- Small areas as the upper lip can be treated in under a minute, while large areas, such as the back or the legs, can take up to an hour.
- Satisfaction: Most clients lose unwanted hair permanently after an average of three to seven sessions.
Types of Lasers used in the process
- According to Rachel Sharoff, licensed esthetician at Skintology Skin and Laser Center, there are three main types of lasers used:
- Diode: which is effective for both light and dark skin.
- Alexandrite: This laser is the fastest of all laser types and works best for treating larger body areas among patients who have light-to-olive complexions.
- Nd YAG: A long pulse laser that can be used safely on all skin types, including tanned skin. For light or fine hairs, it's less effective comparing to other types.
Who are the candidates for this process?
People with a lot of thick or coarse hair are the best candidates for laser hair removal. That said, it can take a little longer to fully work on thicker hair. "Some hair is just very resistant, and sometimes new ones come out due to hormonal changes or other hair bulbs becoming active during the treatment period," explains Dr. Birnur Aral.
Precautions to be taken before the process
Just as with waxing, this skincare treatment is incompatible with certain meds. "Any medications that are a photosensitive need to be stopped at least one week prior to treatment," Sharoff warns. She also notes that most antibiotics can be photosensitive, so if you have an infection, it could be a good idea to push your treatment back a few weeks.
"Patients should not be using skincare with strong actives such as retinoid and alfa hydroxyl acids," says Dr. Aral. These ingredients can increase skin cell turnover, making skin more vulnerable to the sun and irritation during the treatment period. If you're not sure whether your medication could negatively affect your laser hair removal treatment, consult with your doctor beforehand.
The most important thing to remember is that we are all different, so the amount of sessions it takes varies per individual, says Dr. Lolis. "Laser hair removal works only when the hair is in its active growth rate," she elaborates. Different parts of the body have different hair growth rates, therefore could take a longer or shorter time depending on which spot you're treating, but Sharoff states that for full hair removal, the majority need an average of six to eight treatments.