Laser hair removal is a method of removing hair by exposing to pulses of laser light which destroys the hair follicle by traveling down the shaft of the hair and causes delay in the consequent hair growth. It is an extremely targeted treatment that does not affect the skin around. The high beam light destroy the hair follicle and a hair cannot grow from it as the light energy is converted to heat which destroys the tube-shaped sacs below the skin surface that produce hair. As soon as melanin (pigment) in hair is targeted, the laser beam burns the hair follicle and all the way down the root.
It is commonly practiced in many beauty and cosmetic clinics and is third most popular non-surgical aesthetic procedure. A lot of research in terms of technique evolution has been done in the past decade.
Today, it has become highly effective and efficient method of hair removal and beautification, and is been used widely. It has gained popularity because of its seamless process and effectiveness, although some of it is dependent upon the competency of the person carrying out the process. It is said to be the only treatment of its kind that comes close to full claim of permanent, long lasting hair reduction as it acts on the hair deep in the follicle, as compared to other treatments of hair removal that cut the hair follicle mid-shaft. This technique has been in practice since the year 1997, and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a ‘permanent hair reduction’ in the United States.
The basic principle of this hair removal technique is based on selective photo-thermolysis, wherein a particular wavelength of light and pulse to on the targeted tissue with least effects on other adjacent tissue. The pigment in the hair follicles absorbs the light and that causes the hair destruction. A
The laser procedure generally requires six to eight sessions for maximum benefits and promising results. Some of the body parts where laser is commonly used are : chin and upper lip on the face, hands, legs, bikini line and under arms.
Just like any other treatment, it comes with its own pros and cons. The stand-alone benefit of laser hair removal technique is that it renders near to permanent hair removal and reduces hair growth to a point where using other conventional methods of hair removal become needless.
Some of the other benefits are :
- Accuracy : Lasers can selectively target dark, coarse hair while leaving the adjacent skin undamaged
- Speed : Each single pulse of laser takes a fraction of a second and can treat a lot of hair at the same time. Smaller areas such as parts of the face – upper lips can be completed in less than a minute’s time and the larger areas such as the legs – may take an hour. This ends up saving a lot of time which other methods do not offer
- Predictability : Most people who opt for laser hair removal had near to permanent hair reduction after about 4 to 6 sessions. Unlike other forms of hair removal like shaving and waxing where it takes days or weeks for the hair to grow back, hair removed by laser regrows only after a few months or years. Whenever the hair grows back, it is definitely finer and lighter
- Others : It also helps to reduce in-growth of hair on the skin and causes less irritation of the skin as it triggers the hair to grow straight. It is comparatively pain-free. Although there is a small snapping sensation against the skin during the procedure, it can be managed with use of ice and some numbing creams. As the treatment progresses and hair growth reduces, the pain intensity reduces along with it
- Salon visits : This method reduces the timely and regular trips to the salon for hair removal methods like waxing, threading, plucking, tweezing. With every laser session, as the hair growth diminishes and the coarseness of the hair reduces, the sessions become less frequent and less painful
- Effectiveness : This technique is more effective as compared to other conventional methods of hair removal methods like waxing, shaving, threading, tweezing. It does not cause damage to the dermis and hence safe. Moreover, it can be done on any part of the body such as legs, back, bikini line, stomach, face and so on.
As it is rightly said that everything comes with its own price, there are some downsides to laser hair removal as well. It still steers some reluctance for the general population
- Lengthy : Although it helps in considerable hair reduction, it is an elaborate and lengthy procedure, requiring multiple sessions before achieving the desired results. The waiting period between two consecutive sessions could be around 4 to 6 weeks, which calls for a longer commitment period. Several cycles are usually recommended to capture the hair follicles at different stages of hair growth cycle. Few people may also require touch-up treatments for maintenance, especially in the larger areas like legs
- Hair colour : The type of hair and skin colour can have an impact on efficiency of hair removal. It is the most efficient when the laser can focus on marked difference in pigment – such as darker hair on a light skin as the pigment contrast makes it easier for the laser to target the hair, travel into the follicular area and destroy the follicle. As the concentrated light is taken up by the pigment, laser hair removal is tedious in people with lighter hair colour like blonde or gray.
- Cost : Despite the fact that it offers ‘permanent’ hair removal solution and could save the future salon trips to a great extent, the initial cost is quite high depending upon the type of facility. Each visits roughly amounts to 200 to 500 $ (15,000 Rs to 35,000 Rs), depending upon the area being treated. This could turn out to be equivalent to what one may end up spending on razors or waxing sessions in a complete lifetime
- Safety : This procedure requires a trained expert with board certification, which if not available can cause skin damage. There could be some side effects after the procedure like scars, blisters or burns, redness of skin; if the skin is very sensitive and the treatment is carried out by less experienced personnel. It is advised to wear eye protection glasses during the treatment to prevent any kind of eye injury
- After-care : One of the important precaution that is required to be taken is preventing sun exposure. Immediately after the treatment, the skin becomes very sensitive and it is best to avoid sun exposure in the first 24 hours after the session. Some mild redness and bumpiness is not uncommon immediately after the session
Some of the other key take home messages while contemplating a laser hair removal are:
- These days, a lot of spas and salons offer laser hair removal with tempting offers and discounts, it is only wise to get it done from a licensed laser hair professional for safety purpose
- Make sure to stop using active ingredients like glycolic and salicylic acid compounds, benzoyl peroxide and retinoids at least five days prior to the laser procedure
- Medications that are photosensitive like some antibiotics should be discontinued at least a week prior to the treatment
Laser hair treatment for permanent hair removal is a feasible option for most women as it a pain-free procedure and produces results that last longer than any traditional methods of hair removal like tweezing, waxing, shaving. It is essential to get it done from a certified dermatologist or cosmetologist for more assured and promising results. The initial cost is definitely higher but it is believed to have worthy outcome. It is also important to thoroughly understand the upsides and downsides of laser hair removal method in order to make an informed choice.