Laser Hair Removal: the Ultimate Guide & FAQ
It is said that laser is a very safe and effective way to get rid of unwanted hair at any area of your body.
Women are flocking to this procedure because it removes hair fast and promises permanent results. Is it really worth it?
Let's find out all the details of the procedure together.
- How it works
- How long does it last?
- Number of Treatments
- How much does it cost?
- Does it hurt?
- Side effects
2 Specific cases:
- The most sensitive areas
- Dark skin
- Blond, red, pale hairs
- Is Laser hair removal safe during pregnancy?
How it works
Laser hair removal machines generate a single wavelength of light. It’s pure light that’s composed of one color and one form
This means it’s an extremely concentrated beam that has a specific target: the melanin in the hair follicle, while not heating the rest of the skin.
Types of Laser Hair Removal Machines
They are all different, but work with the same principles described above.
Ruby (Epilaser) - the first and the oldest LHR, it is rarely used, wavelength - 694 nm;
Alexandrite - one of the most popular LHR, fast and effective for light skin with dark hair, wavelength - 755 nm;
Diode - excellent for dark skin and large areas, wavelength - 810 nm;
Nd:YAG - excellent for all skin tones, wavelength - 1064nm
The number of follicles that laser hair removal will successfully destroy depends on the factors above such as skin and hair type (it will be explained further).
If the laser damages the follicle instead of destroying it, the hair may grow back, but it will be finer and possibly lighter in color.
How Long Does Laser Hair Removal Last?
However, you may have seen reviews of laser hair removal where some past customers complain that their hair grew back after treatment, but others claim that they're now hair free.
This is a procedure that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for use against unwanted hair.
FDA came to the conclusion that Laser hair removal provides permanent reduction of hair: the long-term, stable reduction in the number of hairs regrowing after a treatment regime.
What this means is that after a full course of treatment, anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of the treated hair will never grow back.
- The skill and experience of the technician using machine.
- Type of Hair. It used to be that only those with dark, coarse hair could benefit from laser hair removal.
Developments in technology have expanded the hair types that lasers can treat.
However, light blonde and gray hair typically doesn't respond to laser hair removal at all (read more). Brown and black hairs will experience the best outcomes.
- The growth rate of the hair can also have an impact on the overall success of your laser hair removal, including the length of your results.
Additionally, if your hair tends to be very dense and fast growing, your results may not last as long as those of someone who has sparse, slow-growing hair.
- Your Individual Characteristics. Older folks may see more permanent results sooner than younger people because their hair typically doesn’t have as fast of a growth cycle.
If the cause of your hair growth is due to a hormonal imbalance, it may take more treatments to achieve a permanent reduction because the hormones are continually triggering the development of new hair.
However, lasers have not demonstrated that they can kill 100 percent of targeted follicles 100 percent of the time.
Number of Treatments
The number of treatments you have can affect how long your laser hair removal treatment lasts.
A standard course of treatment is six to twelve sessions.
Typically, sessions are administered every four to six weeks.
After that, you may need to receive follow-up treatments every six to 12 months.
Most people start to notice a permanent reduction of hair after the third session.
After the sixth one, they should see a dramatic decrease in the amount of hair.
On the other hand, if you only go in for one procedure, you won’t notice much difference in the number of unwanted hairs.
How much does it cost?
The final cost of laser hair removal depends on five factors (at least): hair density, area of the body, the number of treatments required, your location and the clinic prices.
For more information please read our Review of Laser Hair Removal Prices 2016.
How bad does it hurt?
Since everyone has a different level of pain tolerance, some people may find laser hair removal to be slightly uncomfortable, while others will say it is moderately painful.
However, it is very individual and depends on several factors.
Here you can find the most detailed research of how painful is laser hair removal.
LHR treatment is generally a safe procedure when carried out by a qualified and experienced technician.
There are two categories of side effects which you can experience (in case of any you should report to your physician).
Common side effects
Here is a list of common side effects of laser hair removal:
- 1 Pain: from slight (legs, arms, back) to tolerable level (underarms, bikini zone, upper lip).
- 2 Redness: 1-3 days (becomes less evident as you progress through your course of treatment).
- 3 Swelling: 1-2 days.
- 4 Itching: 1-3 hours.
Try to not touch these areas with unwashed hands until these temporary side effects will disappear.
It is strongly recommended to follow your aftercare program.
In rare cases
There is a list of rare side effects:
- Burns: The majority of burn cases are a result of treatment performed by someone who is not qualified in the procedure
- Darkening (Hyper-pigmentation) or lightening (hypo-pigmentation) of the skin in the treated area
- Allergic reactions to anaesthetic creams
- Slight Crusting
Why burns and discoloring occur?
Because the laser actually preferentially targets the darker areas, the major potential side effect is burning the epidermis (surface layer of the skin), since it also contains melanin.
That can result in skin color changing. If the burn goes beyond the epidermis into the lower layers of the skin, actual scarring and skin texture change can result.
Important: To decrease the risk of any side effects, it is best to have the procedure done by a board-certified, trained and experienced physician and using an up to date machine.
You can not get laser if you have:
- Skin cancer;
- Ultra-sensitive skin;
- A febrile disease or/and abnormal blood pressure;
- >skin disorders: vitiligo, eczema, cold sores, hives, lupus, herpes.
Laser hair removal is strongly not recommended for persons:
- Who are taking any medications that cause photosensitivity, anticoagulants;
- Who were exposed to strong sunlight or an artificial tanning machine within the past 2-4 weeks;
- Who have tattoo on treatment area;
- Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women;
There are a lot of a very specific cases people are trying to find out information about. Here is a list of some of them.
Restrictions - FAQ:
- Q: Can I get LHR if I take antibiotics?
A: Yes, if the last time you took antibiotics for 14-21 days prior to the procedure. Ask your practitioner.
- Q: Can I get laser if I have a metal pin in my hip?
A: Yes, you can. LHR affects on the upper layers of the skin only.
- Q: Can I get laser hair removal if I have:
- Q: How Long Should I Stay out of the Sun after Laser Hair Removal?
A: 4 - 6 weeks.
- Q: Is It Safe to Laser the Bikini Area?
A: Yes (read more).
- Q: Is it OK to be waxed right before laser hair removal treatment?
A: No (find out why).
atattoo - No (if tattoo is on the treatment area);
bherpes - Not recommended;
cpcos - Yes, in most cases (read more);
dhirsutism – Yes, it is absolutely Ok. However, it takes more sessions (12-15);
What is Bikini (Brazilian) laser hair removal?
Bikini zone (pubic area) is the most sensitive area of your body for LHR.
If you've been thinking about getting a Brazilian, consider Brazilian LHR over waxing or shaving for a more permanent solution
Perhaps you will be surprised to know that 22 percent of women in North America have unwanted facial hair.
There are a few causes for too much hair growth on the face:
- Ethnic background
- Hormones (PCOS)
A recent poll by Kelton Research showed that women rate dealing with facial hair as a bigger source of stress than managing their finances.
It makes sense that women are turning to laser hair removal on face for a solution that’s more permanent than waxing, tweezing or shaving.
Common treatment areas:
- Upper lip
- Full face
All of these areas are very sensitive and you may find this more painful than if you were having treatment on legs or arms.
Important: It is recommended that LHR treatment is not carried out around the eye area, and many practitioners will not use laser below the top of the eyebrow. Most practitioners consider that it is better to use electrolysis for eyebrows.
- Ask for a test patch
- Ask for eye protection, e.g. goggles (must be worn throughout your procedure)
- Don't forget to remove all makeup and lotion from your face before your session
- Tell the nurse or technician if you are taking any medications
Laser hair removal for dark skin has come a long way. When lasers were first approved for hair removal, it was only effective and safe for those with light skin and dark hair.
That’s because the way the lasers worked was by targeting the dark pigment in the hair follicles.
If the skin surrounding the follicle were also dark, the lasers would have difficulty isolating the hair to zap it; this created a high risk of scarring and hyper-pigmentation of the skin.
The Fitzpatrick Skin Type Classification system categorizes skin types by their sensitivity to sunlight.
It used to be that if your skin was a type five or six, you couldn’t safely use these lasers.
You’re a type five if you have dark brown skin that seldom burns and tans with ease.
If you have richly pigmented dark brown to black skin that never burns, you’re a type six.
Thanks to recent advances, people with dark skin tones in the type five and six ranges can now safely take advantage of laser hair removal.
That’s because new lasers function at different, longer wavelengths than the older lasers did.
Can I get LHR during pregnancy?
Since that time, there haven’t been any studies demonstrating that laser hair removal is unsafe during pregnancy.
However, studies done on pregnant rats did show some adverse effects from prolonged exposure to the lasers.
Scientists have not been able to conduct similar studies in humans.
Nonetheless, the general recommendation is for pregnant women to avoid laser hair removal until after they give birth.
While the chances are that no harm will come to mother or baby during a laser hair removal procedure, it makes sense not to take any chances.
If you were already in the middle of a series of laser treatments when you found out you were expecting, you should discontinue your sessions.
The day may come when doctors can recommend laser hair removal during pregnancy, but they’ll need to see the results of long-term studies first.
Out of all of the hair removal options available, shaving may be the best choice during pregnancy.
Is laser hair removal effective for women with poly cystic ovary syndrome?
PCOS can have far-reaching consequences for a woman’s health if left untreated, but it also causes unwelcome cosmetic changes to the skin including skin tags, acne, oily skin and excess hair.
In a woman with PCOS, the ovaries create excess amounts of male hormones that lead to thicker, darker hair in areas where women typically have very fine, light hair, such as the face, abdomen, inner thighs and lower back.
However, since unwanted hair growth is hormonally driven, if the underlying hormonal imbalance isn’t addressed, unwanted hair growth may continue despite laser hair removal treatments.
If you have PCOS, your hormones might stimulate new, coarse hair growth more often, and you typically will require more LHR sessions to get the results you’re after.
Here are the results of research the UK National Health Service and they show that the effectiveness of laser hair removal in psoriasis is very mediocre, but "overall patient satisfaction with treatment is very high".
Preparation for Treatment
The way you treat your skin in the weeks before your laser hair removal session will have an impact on your results.
1 Do not wax or pluck the hair. Keep in mind that plucking or waxing hairs before treatment can disturb the hair follicles and make treatment less effective.
2 Shave before. Shaving is fine because it doesn’t affect follicles, therefore does not decrease the effectiveness of laser treatment.
3 No suntan four weeks before the procedure. If you tan, the laser might not be as thorough as it could be. It tends to work better when there is a higher contrast between your skin and hair color.
Typically, you want your tan to fade completely before receiving laser hair removal treatment. That’s why many women schedule their laser hair removal treatments in the winter when they are less likely to have tans.
So keep your skin protected from the sun for at least four weeks prior (and 2-3 weeks after) to treatment, including avoiding tanning beds. Sunburned skin is not safe to be treated and sun exposure after treatment can lead to increased skin damage.
What was your experience after you have been doing laser hair removal? Or if you are going to laser what question you are worried about?
Share your thoughts!