Earlier this year I wrote posts that addressed the various options available for treating hyperpigmentation (chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and over-the-counter products). My last post, Laser Therapy 101: Cleaning Up Summer Fun, described laser therapy as an option for treating skin with dark spots and scars made worse by sun damage. But what about dark spots caused by hair growth and our attempts to remove unwanted hair? My next big topic for Laser Therapy 101 is using lasers to remove unwanted or excess hair as well as treat hyperpigmentation and scarring from ingrown hairs caused by shaving (pseudofolliculitis barbae).
Pseudofolliculitis barbae (PSB), commonly known as “shaving bumps,” is common with men in the beard area. Susceptible areas for women include the bikini area and underarms. Unfortunately, waxing, tweezing, and shaving can make the irritation and scarring worse. For some, it becomes increasingly difficult to shave or remove hair using anything other than depilatory creams.
Excess or unwanted hair can be a result of genetics or develop because of normal changes in hormone levels or abnormal hormone changes caused by disease, such as polycystic ovary disease. Women can suffer from excessive growth of facial hair on the chin, cheeks, and upper lip. For women with this condition, the social implications can be devastating.
Fortunately, we are now at a time where we can offer a real solution to men and women who have previously had to suffer without much in the way of real treatment options. While shaving, tweezing, threading, and waxing are options to temporarily remove unwanted hair in mild cases of excess hair growth, laser hair removal can dramatically reduce hair and improve the overall skin texture and tone with long-lasting results.
I must emphasize that there are many different lasers – so before using laser therapy, you have to do your homework. In addition, it’s crucial to exercise special caution for olive and dark skin tones. In any treatment program that uses lasers for hair removal and treatment of hyperpigmentation, your laser technician or dermatologist is trying to destroy abnormal melanin. Melanin also gives us our normal skin color, though. So we need to target melanin enough to reduce the hair follicle and abnormal dark spots but not so much that we affect normal color and appearance.
During laser hair removal treatment, a laser beam bypasses the outer layer of skin to reach individual hair follicles. The laser works by damaging the hair follicle, which reduces future hair growth. When performed by a trained professional, the laser isolates its target to the hair follicle and in no way damages the skin. In fact, skin in the treated area will often look smoother and healthier as the inflammation from the hair follicle is decreased with each laser hair removal treatment. Although hair removal is commonly done on the face, neck, underarms, and bikini areas because of PSB, it can also be performed on the scalp, chest, arms, abdomen, and legs.
Along with traditional laser hair removal, a technique called Laser Genesis can be used to enhance the results while improving the skin's overall appearance. Laser Genesis eliminates the scarring, discoloration, and thickening of the skin due to ingrown hairs and shaving, tweezing, and waxing of body hair. Optimal results typically require 4-8 laser hair removal sessions with or without Laser Genesis.
When it was first invented, laser hair removal was limited to the treatment of individuals who had light skin and dark hair. This is no longer the case. Today, in the right hands, laser treatment for hair and scar removal is absolutely safe for all skin tones and colors. However, in the wrong hands, you risk permanent loss of color and/or skin tone discoloration. There are also cases when you should not have dark spots lightened because they are a symptom of a disease requiring medical attention. This is where doing your homework also comes in.
Find a cosmetic dermatologist who treats all skin tones and has the right laser equipment, experience, and expertise to treat your hair and skin color. The results can be phenomenal – baby smooth skin that is blemish and hair free!