Are you bothered by unwanted hair on the face or body? Have you thought about laser hair removal but are not quite sure if it is right for you? How does it compare to electrolysis for facial hair? Here’s what you need to know:
- Laser hair removal is as the best option for long lasting permanent hair reduction. Electrolysis is slow and not always effective.
- If your skin is very dark either African American or dark pigmented South east Asian, the Nd:Yag laser is the only laser safe for you
- Female patients possible hormonal imbalance problems should be evaluated and treated prior to laser hair removal
- Treatment in a doctor’s office vs a spa is associated with fewer complications
How does it work?
The laser light, in wavelengths between 600-1100 nm, is absorbed by the pigment producing cells within the hair root. Since melanin or pigment is the target, laser hair removal is not effective for blond or white hair. Since the skin’s pigment cells may absorb some of the laser light intended for the hair follicle, the Nd:Yag laser which penetrates deeper is safest for the darkest skin types. The other commonly used lasers such as the Gentlelase or the Diode laser are safe for most skin type, however, the ideal patient has fair, untanned skin and dark hair.
Home –Use Devices
What about home laser hair removal devices- do they work? And, are they safe? There have been only a few small studies of 20-30 patients evaluating these devices, most have been sponsored by the manufacturer. The results ranged from 41% hair reduction 6 months after treatment to 64-72% at the three month mark. By comparison, laser hair removal conducted in a doctor’s office results in 80% hair reduction at 6 months.
These devices are not safe for darker skin types; 33% of darker skinned patients developed blisters when using the device. There is also concern about damage to the eyes with incorrect use.
What Results can be expected?
Healthy patients with fair skin and dark hair may expect up to 80% permanent reduction after a series of 6 treatment sessions. Multiple treatments are needed in order to target all the hairs in the growing phase. (there are 3 stages in the hair cycle: growing, resting and shedding.) Prior to treatment, a consultation with a complete medical history is important. Any patients with irregular menstrual cycles need to be screened for endocrine diseases such as polycystic ovarian syndrome. Patients with hormonal disorders will not have a long lasting response to laser hair removal until their underlying disease is treated. Day spas that perform laser hair removal, rarely perform a detailed history, which can result in lack of response for a number of patients.
What are the Complications of Laser Hair Removal?
After treatment the skin area may be temporarily red or puffy for up to a day. In acne prone patients, laser treatment can flare up acne for a short time. Facial laser hair removal can flare up herpes simplex in patients with this condition; pretreatment with an anti-viral medication can prevent this.
Less common side effects are: blisters, temporary increased pigmentation or loss of pigmentation. These reactions occur with overheating of the skin, usually in dark skinned or tanned patients. Increased pigmentation usually resolves with time and use of skin lightening products. Patients who experience this effect can usually be safely treated with lower energies or with a different laser.
In summary, laser hair removal, done by an experienced provider is safe and effective. It is a great way to get ready for summer!