Over the past 5 years, I’ve watched laser hair removal increase in popularity. As laser hair removal becomes more common, there are some important things about this procedure I feel you should know.
My experiences have revealed that laser hair removal is safe and effective for the right candidate. Because a laser uses light to heat up pigment, the best candidate has light skin and dark hair. A good analogy is to think of walking barefoot across a crosswalk in the summer. The blacktop is really hot but the white lines feel cool on your feet. Just as the dark blacktop absorbs the sun’s light as heat, dark hair absorbs the laser’s light as heat.
Darker and coarser hair will absorb more of the laser’s light, improving the laser’s ability to affect the hair follicle. Conversely, hair that is light and fuzzy or gray lacks adequate pigment to absorb enough heat to adequately treat the hair follicle. In this case, hair removal can be challenging. If you have dark skin, the pigment in your skin can absorb the laser’s light, which can result in blistering, scarring, and discoloration.
Fortunately, the technology has evolved. There are lasers such as the long-pulse Nd:yag laser, which heats the pigment more slowly over time and uses a light wavelength that bypasses the skin. This laser also uses an ice-cold tip to keep the skin cool, thereby preventing the skin from overheating and blistering.
My advice is to go to an experienced laser hair removal specialist who will carefully consider the color of your skin and the type of hair you want removed. In my practice we use three types of machines so we can pick the best machine for our patients’ hair and skin types.
I also remind my patients that laser hair removal is more appropriately called permanent hair reduction. Generally, after the first treatment, my patients can expect a 10-50% reduction in hair depending on how gentle or aggressive the laser setting is. Patients can expect anywhere from 4-8 treatments depending on the setting. Most patients are happy when the hair is 70-80% reduced and the residual hairs become finer and lighter. The satisfaction rate is extremely high because I take care to match the right laser to an individual’s skin color and hair appearance.
There are pros and cons to laser hair removal. When administered correctly a patient will see a huge improvement. Laser hair removal is also much quicker than electrolysis, which can take up to thirty seconds per hair. Compare this to lasers, which remove 8-15 hairs per second! The negative side of laser hair removal must also be considered.
- Laser hair removal is not covered by insurance and can be costly.
- It hurts. I prescribe a numbing cream to my patients but these creams should be used carefully.
- The area is red and a feels like a sun burn afterward.
- You must choose your specialist with caution. Although some provide great care, too many medical spas are more focused on your money instead of quality and will charge you even if you have light, fuzzy, or gray hair that can’t be effectively removed with a laser. You can spend lots of money for unsatisfactory results. Or worse, you can experience bad side effects.
Regulations governing medical spas are different in each state and vary from few to none. There is a history of strong lobbying to block any mandates that would require stricter regulations over these spas. In my opinion, you must investigate the training, experience, and technology of where you plan to go for laser hair removal.
Once you find a qualified specialist, laser hair removal can be a very satisfying option for permanent hair reduction.