Laser hair removal

Laser hair removal

Review

Laser hair removal is a medical procedure that uses a concentrated beam of light (laser) to remove unwanted hair.

During laser hair removal, the laser emits light that is absorbed by the pigment (melanin) in the hair. The light energy is converted into heat, which damages the tubular sacs in the skin (hair follicles) from which hair grows. This damage inhibits or delays future hair growth.

Although laser hair removal is effective in delaying hair growth for a long time, it usually does not result in permanent hair removal. Several laser hair removal treatments are required for initial hair removal, and supportive treatments may also be required. Laser hair removal is most effective for people with fair skin and dark hair, but it can be used successfully on all skin types.

Why it's worth doing

Laser hair removal is used to reduce unwanted hair. Common treatment sites include legs, underarms, upper lip, chin, and bikini line. However, unwanted hair can be removed in almost any area except for or around the eyelids. Skin with tattoos should also not be processed.

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Hair color and skin type affect the success of laser hair removal. The basic principle is that the hair pigment, not the skin pigment, should absorb light. The laser should only damage the hair follicle, avoiding skin damage. Therefore, the contrast between the color of hair and skin - dark hair and light skin - gives the best results.

The risk of skin damage is higher when there is little contrast between hair and skin color, but advances in laser technology have made laser hair removal an option for people with darker skin. Laser hair removal is less effective for hair colors that do not absorb light well: gray, red, blond and white. However, the possibilities of laser treatment for light hair continue to evolve.

Risks

The risk of side effects depends on skin type, hair color, treatment plan, and pre- and post-treatment care. The most common side effects of laser hair removal include:

  • Skin irritation. After laser hair removal, temporary discomfort, redness and swelling are possible. Any signs and symptoms usually disappear within a few hours.
  • pigment changes. Laser hair removal can darken or lighten affected skin. These changes may be temporary or permanent. Skin lightening primarily affects those who do not avoid sun exposure before or after treatment, as well as those with darker skin.

In rare cases, laser hair removal can cause blistering, crusting, scarring, or other changes in skin texture. Other rare side effects include graying of treated hair or excessive hair growth around treated areas, especially on darker skin.

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Laser hair removal is not recommended for the eyelids, eyebrows, or surrounding areas due to the potential for serious eye damage.

How do you prepare

If you are interested in laser hair removal, choose a doctor who is certified in specialties such as dermatology or cosmetic surgery and has experience with laser hair removal for your skin type. If the procedure will be performed by a physician assistant or licensed nurse, ensure that the physician is supervised and present on site during treatment. Be wary of spas, salons, and other establishments where non-medical personnel may perform laser hair removal.

Before laser hair removal, make an appointment with your doctor to determine if this treatment option is right for you. Your doctor will likely do the following:

  • Review your medical history, including medication use, history of skin conditions or scarring, and past hair removal procedures.
  • Discuss the risks, benefits, and expectations, including what laser hair removal can and cannot do for you
  • Take photos to be used for before and after evaluations and long-term reviews.

At the consultation, discuss the treatment plan and associated costs. Laser hair removal is usually paid out of pocket.

Your doctor will also give you specific instructions on how to prepare for laser hair removal. These may include:

  • Stay away from the sun. Follow your doctor's advice to avoid sun exposure before and after your treatment. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF30 when you go outside.
  • Lightening your skin. Avoid skin sunscreens that darken the skin. Your doctor may also prescribe a skin whitening cream if you have a recent tan or darker skin.
  • Refusal of other methods of hair removal. Plucking, waxing, and electrolysis can damage the hair follicle and should be avoided for at least four weeks prior to treatment.
  • Refusal of drugs that thin the blood. Ask your doctor about which medications, such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs, to avoid before your procedure.
  • Shaving area. Trimming and shaving is recommended the day before laser treatment. It removes hair above the skin, which can lead to superficial skin damage due to burnt hair, but leaves the hair shaft intact below the surface.

What can you expect

Laser hair removal usually requires two to six treatments. The interval between treatments will vary depending on the location. In areas where hair grows rapidly, such as over the upper lip, the treatment can be repeated after four to eight weeks. In areas with slow hair growth, such as the back, treatment may be given every 12 to 16 weeks.

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For each procedure, you will wear special goggles to protect your eyes from the laser beam. The assistant can shave the area again if necessary. The doctor may apply a local anesthetic to the skin to reduce discomfort during treatment.

During the procedure

The doctor will press a hand-held laser instrument against your skin. Depending on the type of laser, a cooling device at the tip of the instrument or a cooling gel may be used to protect the skin and reduce the risk of side effects.

When the doctor activates the laser, the laser beam will pass through your skin to your hair follicles. The intense heat from the laser beam damages the hair follicles, preventing hair growth. You may feel discomfort, such as a warm prick, and you will likely feel a cold sensation from the cooling device or gel.

Treatment of a small area, such as the upper lip, may take only a few minutes. Treatment of a larger area, such as the back, may take more than an hour.

After the procedure

You may notice redness and swelling during the first few hours after laser hair removal.

To reduce discomfort, apply ice to the treated area. If you have a skin reaction immediately after laser hair removal, your doctor may apply a steroid cream to the affected area.

After laser hair removal and between scheduled treatments, avoid sunlight and do not use a tanning bed for six weeks or as directed by your doctor. Use a broad-spectrum SPF30 sunscreen daily.

Results

Hair does not fall out immediately, but after a few days or weeks. This may look like continued hair growth. Repeat treatments are usually needed because hair growth and shedding naturally occur in a cycle, and laser treatment works best on hair follicles in the new growth stage.

The results vary considerably and are difficult to predict. For most people, hair removal takes several months or even years. But laser hair removal does not guarantee permanent hair removal. When the hair grows back, it is usually thinner and lighter in color.

You may need supportive laser treatments for long-term hair reduction.

What about home lasers?

Lasers are available that can be used at home for hair removal. These devices may cause mild hair reduction. But large studies comparing the effectiveness of these devices with laser hair removal performed in the doctor's office have not been conducted.

In addition, the US Food and Drug Administration considers these home laser hair removal devices to be cosmetic and not medical, which means they do not undergo the same level of scrutiny as other medical devices. There are currently no large long-term studies on how safe and effective home machines are.

If you choose to use a home laser hair removal device, follow the instructions that came with the device to reduce the risk of injury, especially to the eyes.

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