Laser hair removal is a method of permanent hair removal. Unwanted hairs are removed from various parts of the body with a laser. Laser hair removal was first introduced in practice in 1997 and now is widely used throughout the world. The procedure is either carried out by specially trained specialists using appropriate laser equipment in a salon or with your own laser device.
Today there are many at-home laser devices which are completely safe and not less effective than going to a specialist. Owning your own device means that you can have treatments from the comfort of your own home and you will save a lot of money!
There are cycles of hair growth and the hair is only destroyed in it’s active phase. Therefore since the hair enters different phases of its growth at different times, an average of 6-8 procedures is required at intervals of 8-12 weeks to eliminate the absolute majority of hair follicles in a certain area.
Is Laser Epilation Suitable for Me?
Both men and women turn to specialists to remove unwanted hair. The procedure is carried out in a wide range of areas: armpits, bikini zone, legs, arms, back, chin, upper lip and more.
The laser selectively heats the dark pigment – melanin. Therefore, the lighter the skin is and the darker and coarser the hair is, the better the results are. The most suitable candidates are people with fair skin and dark hair. White, gray, prenatal hairs cannot be depilated. Red hairs are very hard for depilation. If you have these characteristics, consider ELOS hair removal.
Finding the Best Type of Laser for You
Nowadays there are 3 types of laser depilation which are produced by different manufacturers. The devices are alexandrite, diode, and neodymium. IPL hair removal (Intense Pulse Light) systems are also used for depilation although they are not lasers.
The most popular devices in the market are:
- Alexandrite: GentleLASE, Apogee
- Diode: LightSheer, MeDioStar
- Neodymium: GentleYAG, Deka Synchro HP
- Combined alexandrite/neodymium systems: GentleMAX, Apogee Elite, Deka Synchro PLA: Y
- IPL system: Sciton BBL, Palomar Starlux
In fact, many manufacturers offer several types of lasers or a combination of them on the same platform.
In order to determine what type of laser is right for you, you need to know your skin type. In 1975 Thomas Fitzpatrick developed a classification of skin types which is widely used today. This classification is based on the individual skin reaction to sun exposure and distinguishes skin types depending on the degree of burn or sunburn a person experiences.
Here is a brief description of the 6 types of skin by Fitzpatrick:
- Type 1: Very light European (Celtic). The skin is tender, milky-white, often with freckles, the hair color is red or very light, and the eyes are light blue or green. The pigment in the skin of such people is formed in a small amount. The skin quickly burns and doesn’t tan.
- Type 2: Bright European. The skin is light with a few freckles. The eyes are light-colored; the hair is blonde, light brown or chestnut. It quickly burns and tans easily.
- Type 3: Dark European. The skin is slightly dark, without freckles. The eyes are often brown; the hair is dark brown or dark chestnut. Sometimes it burns and easily tans.
- Type 4: South European or Mediterranean type. The skin is dark, olive-tinged, the eyes and hair are dark. They usually do not burn but very quickly get tanned. Example: the indigenous population of South European countries, Spaniards, Asians.
- Type 5: Middle Eastern type. The skin is very dark. The hair and eyes are dark. The skin tans quickly and never burns. Example: indigenous people of India, China, and other Asian countries.
- Type 6: African-American type. The skin is very dark, the hair and eyes are black. The skin never burns.
Alexandrite lasers are the best choice for 1-3 types of skin;
- Diode is appropriate for 1-4 types;
- Neodymium is suitable for 4-6 types.
* Neodymium lasers have been specially developed for darker skin types. For example, patients with skin types of 5 and 6 can not use other types of lasers. In this case, when using enough power to remove hair, the risk of burns is very high.
Of course, laser epilation should not be performed on tanned skin. It is a very important factor for obtaining the best results when using any type of laser.
The Principle of Laser Epilation
Lasers intended for permanent hair removal emit light with a wavelength that is selectively absorbed by the pigment melanin contained in the hair and in the epidermis which is the most superficial layer of the skin. The suitable candidate’s melanin content in the hair is much higher than in the epidermis. Thermal energy destroys the hair itself as well as those cells from which the hair usually grows again. In addition, the epidermis is further cooled during the procedure. With a laser flash thermal energy is absorbed mainly by the hair and the laser practically does not effect on the skin.
The laser’s ability to emit a beam of light in a very narrow wavelength range is a key factor that allows safe laser epilation procedures. IPL systems do not have this advantage. They have a wider spectrum and affect both the hair and the surrounding skin structures. At the same time, the effectiveness decreases and the risk of burns increase.
Necessary Procedures to Undergo
The average number of laser epilation procedures is 6-8 times. The interval between the procedures is 8-12 weeks depending on the zone. This is due to the fact that the laser light acts only on the mature hair follicles. The number of such follicles is on the average of 5 to 20 percent. Thus, with each procedure, only a part of the follicles is depilated. This rule is the same when working with any laser.
Is this a Guaranteed 100% Result?
The human body is too complicated to guarantee a 100% result. No professional expert will promise you this. After all, there are many factors, for example, a hormonal background which significantly affects the growth of hair. After the course of procedures, the vast majority of people have only prenatal hairs which remain.
After a few years the hairs can grow back again, however, they are much thinner and lighter than they were before. In this case, you can go through a corrective procedure for laser depilation. From a small number of patients, often for medical reasons, hairs can grow again after a while and this can apply to absolutely all types of lasers.
What about the Pain
As a matter of fact the laser, from the point of view of physics, radiates heat in an infrared range which is absolutely harmless. The laser acts only on the hair bulb. Other tissues do not undergo heating because the laser does not see them. That’s why the procedure is not performed on tanned skin because the content of melanin in a tanned skin is increased. This can worsen the results of the procedure even despite the most effective system of cooling the skin with a cryogen.
Most patients experience only minor discomfort. Feelings resemble an impact with an elastic band if it is pre-stretched and released. Pain is felt only during the pulse and immediately disappears after it. Most people normally tolerate the procedure and do not use an anesthetic. However, if you have very sensitive skin (the treatment zone also matters), a special cream can be applied to reduce the pain (EMLA).
Before going directly to the procedure the doctor makes sure that the patient doesn’t use, suffer or is going through any of the following:
- tanned skin in the area of the procedure;
- the application of any other methods of hair removal, except for shaving, for 1 – 1.5 months before the procedure (effectiveness decreases);
- individual intolerance of the procedure (increased sensitivity of the skin to light);
- taking certain medications: Isotretinoin (Roaccutane), steroid hormones, certain antibiotics (especially tetracycline), anti-inflammatory drugs (Naproxen, Ibuprofen), antidepressants (Prozac);
- acute or chronic recurrent herpetic infection;
- diabetes mellitus in the stage of decompensation;
- various acute and chronic skin diseases;
- the presence of burns, abrasions, scratches, other violations of the integrity of the skin;
- pregnancy or lactation;
- propensity to form hypertrophic or keloid scars;
- oncological diseases;
- some diseases in the pathogenesis of which an important role is played by the reaction of the skin to light: pellagra, systemic lupus erythematosus, porphyria; and
- patients with psoriasis, disorders of the blood coagulation system, vitiligo and strong histamine reactions (urticaria) must be treated very carefully.
Only after making sure that there are no contraindications the doctor can start the procedure. The doctor evaluates the patient’s skin type, hair color, pain sensitivity and on the basis of this information adjusts the device individually for each patient. Then he takes the manipulator of the device and passes it over the patient’s skin. The device supplies short laser pulses in front of which the cryogen is carefully sprayed onto the treated area which prevents the skin from overheating. The cryogen itself is environmentally friendly and completely safe, it instantly cools the skin, and the laser flash is much less painful.
The duration of the procedure depends on the area of the treated zone. The procedure of laser depilation above the upper lip, for example, takes only a couple of minutes.
Other Permanent Hair Removal Methods
Electrolysis is an option where the procedure removes each hair separately. Therefore, it is very long, painful and not cheap. However, this is the only method to depilate gray, white and fleecy hairs permanently. It is necessary to undergo several procedures. This method is absolutely not suitable for large areas but only for small areas of skin, for example, on the face.
As with any other procedure laser epilation potentially has side effects or complications.
The temporary side effects:
- redness (up to 3 days);
- swelled skin around the hair follicles in the form of small blisters (up to 3 days); and
- tingling or numbness.
Although these side effects generally last much less than 3 days.
More serious complications are:
- skin burn;
- formation of bruises;
- temporary changes in the degree of skin pigmentation (hypopigmentation that is the appearance of lighter areas of the skin, hyperpigmentation is the appearance darker ones). The changes in pigmentation, although temporary; it may persist for several months or even years.
Only Reducing Hair Density
The hair density can be reduced alone and for this, it is necessary to go through 3-4 procedures instead of the full course. In order to achieve an even reduction in the density of hair, the master must perform the procedure very carefully and leave no omissions. Also, it is necessary to make intervals of at least 12 weeks between procedures in order to be able to evaluate the result of each procedure and stop on time.
Before & After the Procedure
- Do not remove hair with any kind of wax hair removal, electric epilators or any other method that extract roots for 1 to 1.5 months before the first laser depilation procedure and throughout the course. Hair roots should be present in the skin; otherwise, laser depilation simply does not work.
- You cannot sunbathe 4 weeks before the procedure;
- the treated area should be shaved with either a women’s electric razor or with any kind of disposable razors 1-2 days before the procedure. The presence of long hairs on the treated area can lead to skin burns and insufficient effectiveness of the procedure;
- after the procedure, do not rub the skin;
- do not visit the sauna for 3 days;
- do not wash the skin with hot water;
- do not use cosmetics that contain abrasive granules;
- you can not sunbathe for 2 weeks after the procedure;
- the loss of all processed hair occurs within 3 weeks after the procedure. After the loss of all hair, a period of several weeks is observed, when the hair does not grow. Then new hairs begin to appear, indicating the urgency of the next procedure (on average 2 weeks after the appearance of new hairs); and
- it is necessary to continue the course of procedures until the desired result is achieved. It is not recommended to interrupt the course.
The Cycles of Hair Growth
Hair grows cyclically while different hairs at the same time are in different phases. There are 3 main phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen.
- anagen (growth phase) – hair is actively growing;
- catagen (transitional phase) is the period of regression of the hair follicle. Hair is no longer growing.
- telogen (the phase of loss) is the last phase of hair growth. It is also called the “phase of rest”. The old hair falls out, and after a while in the rested hair follicle begins to grow a new hair which pushes out its predecessor.
Then the cycle repeats.
The laser acts only on the hair that is in the growth phase (anagen). Therefore, it is necessary to undergo several procedures in such a way that each new hair that entered the anagen phase is processed. The length of the hair growth cycle varies in different parts of the body, for example, on the face; the interval between procedures should be about 8 weeks and on the legs and back about 12 weeks.
Causes of Excessive Hair Growth & How it Can Influence on the Course of Procedures?
There are many reasons for excessive hair growth, which can significantly affect the results of laser hair removal, for example:
- congenital predisposition;
- hormonal disorders and diseases leading to hormonal imbalance (for example, polycystic ovaries in women);
- insulin-resistant conditions;
- some diseases of the thyroid gland;
- taking certain medications;
- normal aging process; and
- excessive use of such methods of hair removal, as wax depilation or use of electro-epilator.
Before the beginning of the course of laser hair removal patients with excessive hair growth, especially in unusual areas, must visit their doctor and make sure there are no diseases leading to excessive hair growth.
Women with an unusual amount of hair growth must consult with an endocrinologist and gynecologist because the cause may be polycystic ovary syndrome or an elevated level of testosterone. Men with excessive hair growth are advised to take an insulin resistance test.