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Dr. Andrew Rynne
MD
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Skin Disorders Laser Hair Removal

Laser Hair Removal

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Laser hair removal is an effective method for permanent hair reduction. This means that you will definitely see a stable, long-term reduction in the total number of hairs in a given area. Lasers send a beam of highly concentrated light that is selectively absorbed by dark pigment (melanin) present in hair follicles and destroys the hair within the follicle. Go for laser hair reduction at a clinic where the procedure will be performed under the direct supervision of a trained dermatologist.

 

Laser hair removal is becoming an increasingly popular cosmetic procedure. The promise of smooth, hair-free skin forever is indeed quite alluring for most of us. Laser hair removal can also mean the end of despair for people who are fighting with unwanted hair due to some underlying medical condition. The traditional methods of hair removal such as shaving, plucking, waxing, and depilatories (creams) are temporary. Lasers hair removal is the only currently available solution for permanent hair reduction.

 

Laser Hair Removal

How does laser hair removal work?

Lasers send a beam of highly concentrated light that is selectively absorbed by dark pigment (melanin) present in hair follicles and destroys the hair within the follicle.

 

Many different types of lasers and light sources are available in the market. Alexandrite, diode, Neodymium YAG and intense pulsed light sources are some of the more common ones. The lasers initially used for hair removal were designed for working on dark hair on light skin. Newer lasers such as the Nd: YAG lasers are safe and effective on darker skin tones including African-American skin.

Where can I get laser hair treatment done?

Go for laser hair reduction at a clinic where the procedure will be performed under the direct supervision of a trained dermatologist. Dermatologists are doctors trained in the treatment of skin and hair diseases. The procedure may be performed by a trained technician but a dermatologist should be available at the clinic to supervise and mange any problems that may arise. Do not hesitate to ask the credentials of the dermatologist and the technician.

 

A good clinic will schedule a pre-procedure consultation with you and be transparent about what results to expect depending on your skin and hair type, number of sessions required, and post-treatment care. Results and treatment duration vary from person to person, so think twice about any clinic that makes unrealistic promises of complete, permanent, and painless hair removal for one and all.

Why is a pre-treatment consultation with a dermatologist important?

During this session your dermatologist will assess your skin type, i.e. its susceptibility to tan or burn, hair color, area from which hair needs to be removed, hair type (fine or coarse hair), and presence of moles, tattoos, and tan in the area to be treated. In addition, your medical history, especially a history of ovarian or thyroid disease, past isotretinoin use, cold sore (herpes simplex) infection, and abnormal scarring will be discussed. Following this assessment, you will be informed about expected results and pre-treatment precautions.

What pre-treatment care is usually required?

You will be asked to avoid tanning and use of and sunless tanners and use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher. You will be instructed not to undergo plucking, waxing and electrolysis in the treatment area, though you may shave a couple of days prior to the treatment. Prophylactic antibiotics or antiviral are usually not required your doctor sees a possibility of infection in the treatment area.

What to expect during a laser hair reduction session?

The area to be treated will be made clean and dry. If required, the hair will be trimmed with scissors to a few millimeters above the skin surface. The laser and light source will be set according to your skin color, hair color, hair thickness, and the location of the hair.

Depending on the laser or light source used, you will be provided appropriate eye-protection to prevent the laser beam from entering your eyes. A cold gel or a cooling device may be used to protect the outer layers of the skin. Some lasers have an inbuilt cooling system and you will feel the cold when the laser is applied to the skin.

Your technician will apply a pulse of light to the treatment area and observe the response. The laser pulse will feel like a pinprick against the skin. If you feel excessive pain, let the laser technician know this immediately. The laser settings may have to be adjusted accordingly or an anesthetic cream applied to reduce your discomfort.

The treated area may show some redness and mild swelling after treatment. This is quite normal and will subside on its own within a day. Most clinics will apply ice-packs or some anti-inflammatory lotion to the treated area. Over-the-counter medicines may be prescribed for pain relief if required.

Your next appointment will be scheduled about 4 to 6 weeks later. At the next session you will have less hair in the treatment area.

How effective is laser hair reduction?

Laser hair removal is an effective method for permanent hair reduction. This means that you will definitely see a stable, long-term reduction in the total number of hairs in a given area. Unlike what some clinics may claim, it does not mean permanent removal of all hair in an area.

The degree to which the hair can be reduced in a sitting varies from one body part to another. Thin skin areas such as arm pits or bikini area respond better than thick skin regions such as back and chin. Anywhere from 10 to 25 percent reduction in hair growth can be seen after each session. Most people need a series of treatments over time which will result in the removal of the unwanted hair.

The hair reduction is long term. In some people it may last for many years. Others may require maintenance treatments over time to maintain their degree of hair loss.

Are there any side effects of laser hair removal?

Laser hair treatment is generally a very safe procedure with no long term side effects. However, complications can occur in some cases. Your doctor should inform you of these and should treat them appropriately.

Some redness or swelling immediately after treatment are normal and resolve without treatment. Some degree of pain or discomfort may also be experienced, but most of it can be easily managed with over-the-counter pain medicines.

All other adverse events are rare. Blisters and burns occur in some cases. Recent history of sun exposure or immediate sun exposure after treatment increases the risk. You should try to avoid direct sun exposure for at least one week following all laser hair treatment.

Blisters and burns can at times lead to pigment changes in the skin, which could either be hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation. Scarring and keloids are extremely rare complications of laser hair reduction.

Change in freckles, color or moles or tattoos may be seen after laser treatment. Discuss these with your doctor prior to the commencement of treatment.