Laser hair removal, or intense pulsed light (IPL), works on the principles of selective photothermolysis. Pigments in the skin attract light at a certain wavelength. These pigments are in the form of melanin, also found in the hair shaft and follicle. The energy produced by the laser or IPL is selectively absorbed by the hair shaft and ultimately the follicle, destroying the cell located in the bulb and base of the follicle responsible for hair growth.
Women and men alike can have laser hair removal treatments, and advances in laser technology means that virtually all skin types and almost all hair types can also have the procedure. The one exception: light-colored or white hair may not be removable with laser hair removal because it lacks sufficient pigment to absorb the energy produced by the laser. However, any Fitzpatrick Skin type from I to VI is a candidate for laser hair removal. This mean that everyone from the fairest skin type, typically someone from Ireland, to the darkest skin type, such as an African-American, can benefit from laser hair removal. The type of laser utilized depends on the hair color, thickness, density, and skin type. Lasers such as the alexandrite and diode are effective for the lighter skin types, while the Nd:YAG laser can be used on the darker skin types without causing collateral skin damage.
Almost any area of the body can have unwanted hair removed, including the face, the area between the eyebrows, neck, bikini lines, underarms, back, chest and legs.
Any discomfort depends on several factors. Pain tolerances differ, but most people liken a laser hair removal procedure to the snap of a rubber band. Certain areas of the body tend to be more sensitive than other areas, but this also may vary from person to person. At Ethos Spa, we use a topical anesthetic, lidocaine, to lessen any discomfort associated with the procedure. We also employ dynamic cooling, using a device that blows very cold air across the area to be treated. The combination of topical anesthetic with dynamic cooling makes laser hair removal very tolerable. Finally, light sedation using oral medications may also be employed in conjunction with the above methods for those with very low pain tolerance. Our goal is to make the procedure as comfortable for you as possible.
The number of treatments depends on a variety of factors but typically 4 to 6 treatments are sufficient to see a significant reduction in hair. You may experience significant reduction in fewer or more treatments. Multiple treatments are required because laser hair removal is effective only during the growth phase of the hair cycle. If it is destroyed in the resting or transition phase, the hair is likely to grow back. More hair on the face, as opposed to the legs, tends to be in the active growth cycle at any given time. Individuals with finer or lighter colored hair may require more treatments than average. Your healthcare provider will discuss issues that apply to your treatment with you.
The time between treatments often depends on the location of the intended removal. Hair on the face tends to grow much faster than elsewhere, and treatments are performed on average every 4 weeks. Hair on the legs grows at a slower rate and treatments may be performed every 6 to 8 weeks. These are general guidelines. A good rule is to call your provider when you start to experience significant hair growth in the treatment area.
It is important that you not remove hair by waxing, plucking, or threading in the treatment area as presence of the hair is necessary to remove it. However, you can shave the affected area, bleach it, or use depilatory creams to remove the hair. Your provider may also ask you to shave the area the night before the treatment so the area is not irritated when the procedure is performed. Avoiding the sun while you are getting laser hair removal treatments is very important, as well. We also advocate using sunscreen daily, not only for the protection against premature aging but also while getting laser hair removal. People may also opt to perform laser hair removal during the fall and winter in preparation for spring and summertime. Many types of lasers cannot be utilized if a tan is present, whether from the sun, tanning beds, or chemicals. Tans increase the likelihood of adverse reactions. However, some lasers such as the Nd:YAG laser can be utilized on tanned skin.
You also need to stop use of any topical medications that are skin irritatants, such as hydroxy acids or retinoic acid. Arrive for the treatment with clean skin free of any creams, lotions, oils or makeup on the area to be treated. You laser operator will also clean the skin prior to the treatment.
You may notice some redness at the site of the laser hair removal. This tends to dissipate quickly, often lasting only hours to no more than a few days. You may also expect some swelling, typically at the hair follicle. This is a normal response and usually subsides. If you notice any blistering, crusting, or pigment changes notify your provider immediately.
Laser hair removal is unlikely to remove 100% of your hair for life. Seventy to 90% reduction in hair growth is a good result. When hair regrowth does occur, it typically tends to be much finer and lighter in color. People with lighter colored and finer color hair may experience less reduction. Darker skin types may experience less reduction in hair growth. Be wary of any treatment or provider that claims they can remove all of your hair permanently. At some point, you may experience a regrowth, and laser hair removal may not be as effective, especially if the hair is lighter or finer in quality. Rarely, some people may experience in increase in hair growth.
The most common complications include hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation, a relative lightening or darkening of the skin. Darker skin types are at a higher risk due to the presence of increased amounts of melanin in the surrounding skin which may absorb the laser energy intended for the hair. More serious side effects such as a burn or scarring can also occur. It is very important that the treatment provider understand skin types and laser-tissue interactions. to start treatments at a safe level. During subsequent treatments, your provider may use higher energy settings if there were no adverse reaction from prior settings or treatment was ineffective. If you do experience any side effects it is important to contact your provider immediately.
Not everyone can enjoy the benefits of laser hair removal. Consult this list of contraindications and your healthcare provider. Individuals with:
Pacemaker or internal defibrillator
Superficial metal or other implants in the treatment area
Current or history of skin cancer, as well as premalignant moles
Severe concurrent conditions, such as cardiac disorders
Pregnancy and nursing
Impaired immune system as in AIDS and HIV, or use of immunosuppressive meds
Disease stimulated by light-Systemic Lupus, Porphyria, Epilepsy
Poorly controlled endocrine disorders such as diabetes or Poly Cystic Ovary
Any active condition in the treatment area, infection, sores, eczema, psoriasis
History of skin disorders or abnormal healing, keloid, or dry fragile skin
History of bleeding disorders or use of anti-coagulants such as Coumadin
Medications such as Accutane(use within 6 months), tetracyclines, St John's Wort
Use of medications which may stimulate hair growth such as Minoxidil
Facial laser resurfacing or deep chemical peeling within last 3 months
Tattoo of permanent makeup in treatment area
Excessively tanned skin from sun, tanning beds, or cream within 2 weeks
Electrolysis, waxing, and plucking within 6 weeks prior to treatment
Visit Ethos Spa, Skin and Laser Center to schedule your complimentary consultation with one of our physicians.