Laser hair removal is a medical procedure that uses a concentrated beam of light (laser) to remove unwanted hair.
During laser hair removal, a laser emits a light that is absorbed by the pigment (melanin) in the hair. The light energy is converted to heat, which damages the tube-shaped sacs within the skin (hair follicles) that produce hairs. This damage inhibits or delays future hair growth.
A course of 6-12 sessions every 4-12 weeks will generally be required due to the ‘hair growth cycle’ as only ‘active hairs’ can be targeted and treated at any one given treatment time, meaning, the ‘inactive’ hairs will require treatment as they become ‘active’. Because of this you will need multiple treatments, four treatments are usually necessary to see noticeable hair growth reduction, in order to treat all of the hairs in different growth cycles.
Once an area has been treated with the laser it can take up to fourteen days for the destroyed hair to fall out. Common treatment locations include legs, armpits, upper lip, chin and the bikini line. However, it’s possible to treat unwanted hair in nearly any area, except the eyelid or surrounding area.
Hair colour and skin type influence the success of laser hair removal. The basic principle is that the pigment of the hair, but not the pigment of the skin, should absorb the light. The laser should damage only the hair follicle while avoiding damage to the skin.
At Laser Chic we have the two gold standard lasers for all skin types (ALEXANDRITE and ND:YAG). The risk of damage to skin is greater when there is little contrast between hair and skin colour, but advances in laser technology (ND:YAG) have made laser hair removal an option for people who have darker skin. Laser hair removal is less effective for hair colours that don’t absorb light well: grey, red, blond and white.
Before laser hair removal, schedule a consultation to determine if this is an appropriate treatment option for you. Your practitioner will do the following:
- Review your medical history, including medication use, history of skin disorders or scarring, and past hair removal procedures
- Discuss risks, benefits and expectations, including what laser hair removal can and can’t do for you
- Take photos to be used for before-and-after assessments and long-term reviews
At the consultation, discuss a treatment plan and related costs. Laser hair removal is usually an out-of-pocket expense.
You should make sure that the area to be treated is clean and fully hairy. It is vital that you do not remove any hair from the root in the run up to your treatment (4-6 weeks), so no plucking, threading, epilating or waxing. This is because the root is needed for the laser to do its job.
A patch test will be required one week in advance. Laser Hair Removal patch tests are a necessary part of the assessment stage prior to your full treatment. The patch test provides information to both you and your practitioner. A patch test is the use of the laser carried out on a small area of skin, just as it will be in your full treatments.
Its main purpose is to determine the best laser to use and what precise grade of laser energy is required to achieve the best results for your skin and hair type. This is because each laser has its specialities, lighter skin, darker skin, fine hair and so on. But within each laser there are also numerous settings that can be adjusted to give you the most effective treatment. As needed more than one patch tests could be tried using different lasers to ensure we are using the best laser for you.
Its secondary purpose and use is a mini sample for you to gauge what your treatment will be like and how it will feel. If you are wondering what really happens, the sensation, if it is painful, how your skin will react and so on then the patch test is the perfect opportunity to get all of this answered without being booked in for a full treatment.
Lastly, a patch test will indicate to you and your practitioner any adverse side effects or highlight any problems prior to a full treatment. Since it is carried out on just a small patch of skin, if there are any problems they will be minimal. The test is done one week before your first full treatment so that any reactions have time to appear and your treatment plan can be adjusted if necessary, to ensure effective results with minimal side effects.
With highly trained specialists using the lasers, risk of side effects is very minimal but the patch test is a very good safety net for you and your practitioner to be absolutely certain and proceed safely ahead with your full treatment plan.
Laser hair removal can work wonders for many people for whom excessive body hair is a source of distress. But like any other treatment procedure, this method of hair removal also carries the risk of certain side-effects, although these adverse effects are extremely rare.
Since the laser targets the melanin in the hair follicle it can also damage the melanin in the skin. After laser treatment the skin will be sensitive and irritated for a few days and it is not uncommon to notice some slight swelling or redness in the treated area. In some instances the side effects can be more serious and include burning, peeling, or blistering of the skin and even slight loss of skin pigmentation and skin discolouring.
However, laser, sometimes, causes patches of hypo-pigmentation and hyper-pigmentation which usually take a few months to resolve. Permanent pigment alteration is rare.
Risks of side effects vary with skin type, hair colour, treatment plan and adherence to pre-treatment and post-treatment care. The most common side effects of laser hair removal include:
- Redness and Swelling – Skin redness and swelling around the hair follicles, of a mild to moderate degree, is common in most people immediately after a laser hair removal session. However, it subsides on its own in a couple of days, in most cases. A warm, tingling sensation during the treatment session is felt by all patients undergoing laser hair removal.
- Skin Blistering, Crusting and Scabbing – A few clients may develop blisters on their skin after laser hair removal. These blisters are temporary and resolve in a few days. Skin crusting is also observed in a few clients undergoing laser hair removal, for which antibiotics have been found very useful. Skin scabs, although very rare, may develop if the blisters and crusts do not heal and progress. If you happen to develop any of these signs, you should see a skin specialist immediately for appropriate treatment and temporarily suspend your laser hair removal sessions until your specialist advises you to restart.
- Skin Pigment Changes – Hyper-pigmentation and hypo-pigmentation, i.e. darkening and lightening of the skin pigment respectively, are also observed in many patients after laser hair removal. The good news is that these patches of skin lightening or darkening, usually, disappear in a few weeks to months following the laser treatment so that the skin regains its normal tone. However, in rare cases, these patches may persist permanently. Dark skin is much more prone to develop these pigment alterations. This is because laser rays act by targeting the melanin pigment in the dark hair and if the skin is dark or tanned, the melanin in the dark skin also absorbs the laser energy and undergoes skin depigmentation or lightening and in some cases, skin darkening. Hyper-pigmentation following laser hair removal has greater chances of resolving than hypo-pigmentation.
- Other Effects of Laser Hair Removal on Skin – Excess laser energy absorbed by the skin can even lead to skin burns in rare cases. Scarring of the skin, though rare, may occur as one of the consequences of skin burn or infection.
Hairs do not fall out immediately, but you will shed them over a period of days to weeks. This may look like continued hair growth. The repeated treatments are usually necessary because hair growth and loss naturally occur in a cycle, and laser treatment works best with hair follicles in the new-growth stage.
Results vary significantly and are difficult to predict. Most people experience hair removal that lasts several months, and it might last for years, but laser hair removal doesn’t guarantee permanent hair removal. When hair regrows, it’s usually finer and lighter in colour. You might need maintenance laser treatments for long-term hair reduction.