Laser hair removal
Laser hair removal is a medical procedure that uses laser light to remove unwanted hair. It is the most popular among various forms of laser beauty treatments available.
Why should I be aware of this?
Laser hair removal is used for people who want to remove unwanted body hair. Although laser hair removal does not guarantee permanent hair removal, it does extend the hair-free period, which can vary from several months to many years. With multiple treatments, long-term hair removal is possible.
How does this affect me?
Laser hair removal is one of the most effective ways of stopping or at least managing unwanted hair growth, but it is important to realize that no hair removal process is faultless.
Complications from laser hair removal are rare if you go to a qualified doctor. Bleeding during the laser treatment is extremely rare, as is the possibility of infection resulting from treatment.
Some side effects which have been observed in a few patients include:
- Incomplete hair removal or regrowth. Some hair may be resistant to the laser treatment or may regrow after the treatment.
- Darkening of the skin (hyper-pigmentation). This is usually a temporary condition, but in rare instances, is long lasting or permanent.
- Lightening of the skin (hypo-pigmentation). This is of special concern with people who have darker skin. Laser hair treatment is more successful on fair skin, but darker skin also can be treated.
- Blistering and scarring.
- Changes in the skin texture.
- Crusting or scabbing. If this occurs, it is temporary.
- Hair changes. New hair growth may be finer and lighter in color. In some cases, new hair may grow in areas adjacent to the treated areas. This can be successfully treated with additional laser treatments.
Talk to your doctor about how these risks apply to you.
All about laser hair removal
A laser light beam is passed through the skin, targeting the dark pigment, called melanin, in the hair. When this light beam hits the point where hair growth originates, it destroys the root with its heat instantly. It is possible to treat unwanted hair in almost any area of the body.
Common treatment locations include
- Upper lip
- Bikini line.
In most cases, laser hair removal slows hair regrowth, but it takes several treatments to provide an extended "hair-free" period.
Preparing for laser hair removal
- Meet your doctor to discuss if the procedure is likely to work well for you. *Share your medical history.
- Take photographs of the area to be treated. These photographs should be taken from different angles. These photographs can help in before-and-after assessments and long-term reviews.
- Discuss risks, benefits and expectations from the treatment.
- Do not wax or pluck hairs for three weeks before the treatment.
What you can expect
During the procedure
- You will be asked to wear goggles/dark glasses to prevent accidental exposure of your eyes to laser light.
- After the treatment starts, you might feel a stinging sensation.
- You may notice a strong odor of singed hair, which is normal.
- The time taken for the procedure depends on the area of the body involved. A small area such as the upper lip may take several minutes. A larger area such as the back may require several hours.
After the procedure
- After the procedure no medications or bandages are necessary.
- You might experience some redness and swelling for the first few hours.
- There might be a stinging sensation for the first 24 to 48 hours.
- Some people experience a slight crusting of the skin. If crusting occurs, keep the area moist with petroleum jelly.
After the treatment
- Avoid exercise and exertion for the first 24 hours as perspiration may increase irritation.
- Avoid exposure to the sun for several weeks after treatment.
- Even later, apply sunscreen whenever you go out in the sun. Avoid tanning booths — as the ultraviolet light damages the skin.
- Do not pick at or manipulate the skin in treated areas.
- Do not rub or scrub the treated area. You may gently wash the area with soap and water.
What can I do?
Hair color and skin type are the key factors that influence the success of laser hair removal. It's most successful on people with dark hair (brown or black) and light skin. However, it can also be used safely on people with darker skin types. Laser hair removal does not work for white, blonde, light brown or light red hair.
- Choose a qualified, trained doctor who is board certified in dermatology or a similar specialty.
- Meet your doctor before the procedure and determine your treatment plan.
- Do not go to a spa, salon or clinic that allows nonmedical personnel to perform the procedure.
- Beware of clinics offering ‘permanent hair removal’. They are breaking the law as this cannot be guaranteed. However they are allowed to advertise ‘permanent hair reduction’.
- Lasers cannot remove white or very blond hair, since they work by targeting the pigment. Be careful of clinics advertising treatments for all hair colors.
- The coloring in the hair follicle is the target of the laser used in hair removal, and for this reason laser hair reduction is less effectual on white, gray or extremely blonde hair.
- The lasers work best on new, baby hairs. This is why a number of sittings are required. After the first treatment, the hair that grows back - is the next target for laser treatment.
- The timetable of laser hair reduction treatments is very important to get the best results.
- Laser hair removal is unlikely to remove all your hair in the treatment area permanently - most people have some hair reappearance within a year. Hairs that do grow back are likely to be paler and more delicate, and will also respond more quickly and effectively to repeat laser hair reduction.
- People with inflammation in the body parts where the procedure needs to be performed, they will be asked to wait till the area is healthy.
- If you have recently had certain acne treatments, then you will be asked to wait before starting this treatment.
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