Unwanted hair can be a nuisance and removing it a tedious task. A wide variety of hair removal techniques are practised in everyday life including shaving, waxing, and the depilatory creams. Most of the conventional techniques give either non-permanent hair removal, is quite painful, be both, or be neither.
A more cosmetic and practical method of hair removal that has gained much popularity in the last decade is laser hair removal. It uses pulsed laser light to damage and destroys the hair follicles, preventing their regrowth. It might be a tad bit expensive but it is considered mostly permanent and only mildly painful.
About Hair in Particular
Hair is made up of two parts:
- the hair follicle, which is the root of the hair, the anchor in the skin,
- and the shaft or the visible part of a hair.
The hair grows in cycles of three phases that repeat over time.
- Anagen or the growth phase
- Catagen is the transition phase when the hair growth slows down and
- Telogen, the resting phase lasting months, the growth stops resulting in hair fall and a new follicle comes up to take its place.
Hair grows at variable lengths with an average rate of 1.25cm per month.
Areas Under Treatment
Laser hair treatment can be used for removing unwanted hair from any part of the body. More commonly it is used for hair on the face, legs, arms, underarms, and bikini line. It is not recommended for eyelids, or around it for the safety of the eye. And it is also not recommended for areas with tattoos or permanent makeup.
The laser is a concentrated light beam that targets the pigment, melanin. It is found in skin and hair but most concentrated in the hair follicle.
The hair is exposed to the laser light, given in pulses or short throbs. The light travels down the shaft and accumulates in the follicle, which heats it and destroys it.
One thing to note is that if the hair is in the resting phase, it will not pick up the light, so it will not be damaged.
Before The Procedure
Laser treatment is a medical cosmetic procedure and a person deciding to go for it should make sure they are going to a certified and trained professionals. The professional may be a dermatologist, aesthetician, or plastic surgeon.
It is advised to stop all sorts of hair removal of the area-under-treatment for about four to six weeks before and for the same after the procedure. This includes waxing, plucking, or electrolysis. It is also necessary to avoid sun exposure and sun tanning before and after the procedure. Some professionals recommend shaving the area 24 hours before the procedure. Moreover, there should be no beauty products in a specified area.
Before the procedure, the hair will be trimmed to a few millimetres in length if not previously done, and a topical numbing cream or ice is applied. The numbing cream prevents any stinging or burning by the laser. The equipment and laser details are adjusted to the colour, thickness, and area of the skin-under-treatment. An eye-protecting gear is provided and a cooling gel or device is applied to protect the outer layer of skin from the heat. The hair is then exposed to the laser; a small quarter size area receives the laser pulses for almost a second. It might feel like a warm prick or a hit with a tightened rubber band.
After the procedure, ice packs and anti-inflammatory creams/lotion may be used to reduce any discomfort and a follow-up appointment is scheduled in the next 6 weeks.
The hairs fall off progressively over the next one-month. The laser therapy leaves the skin feeling sunburnt for a couple of days and it should be treated like one; cool compresses, skipping warm baths, avoiding sun and tanning, and applying moisturizer and aloe gels.
There may be initially red bumps but they settle down in a week. Blistering is rare but may occur in darker skin tones because of higher pigment levels. Other uncommon side effects include swelling, rashes, scarring and changes in skin colour.
The Permanency of Laser Treatment
Destroying each and every single follicle in one go is not practically possible. Moreover, the hair follicles are at the different phases of growth. When the hair follicle is completely destroyed, the result is hair permanently removed. If it is partially damaged or is in the telogen phase, it will grow back after some time. The outcome is also dependent on the skills of the professional. For these reasons, laser hair removal usually requires 3 to 12 sessions every 4 to 6 weeks to gradually eliminate hair growth. The hair that regrows is usually lighter and shorter, and much less ingrown. The maintenance laser treatment is milder or other methods of hair removal can also be done.
Since the laser affects melanin, the darker the hair is compared to the skin, the better results it will give. Newer technologies, ND YAG lasers, have reduced the need for such defining contrast and are likewise beneficial for darker skin colours as well. Yet the best results are commonly seen in lighter-skinned people with dark hair.
Sun exposure and tanning is avoided for at least 4 to 6 weeks before the procedure to lighten the skin.
Lasers are known to give clearer, smoother skin with permanent hair loss. The sunburnt effect is temporary and relieved in a couple of days. Other side effects are rare and include greying of hair and increased hair growth in the treated area, instead of reduction.
Depending on the area under treatment, the hair growth, the number of sessions required, and the skill set of the operator, the charges for one session range from 100- 700 dollars.
Laser Hair Removal At Home
Experts say laser devices available for home use are less intense in action and the results may not be as precise and smooth as with clinically done removal. There may even be chances of pulsing same areas multiple times without the realization of the after-effect.
Laser hair removal is a permanent and somewhat painless approach of hair removal. Incompletely destroyed hair follicles may re-grow, requiring multiple sessions of laser therapy over two to three months. Lighter skin colours with darker hair give the best results. Discussing the requirements, possibilities of side effects and aftercare with the trained professional beforehand prevents any undue consequences. It might be a little expensive and painful but the outcomes get us thinking; no pain, no gain.