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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hair Removal: Laser Hair Removal


*This is the second post in a three-part series on hair removal.

In our first post about hair removal, we talked about the semi-permanent method of waxing. In this second post, we’ll address a more permanent method – laser hair removal. Currently, electrolysis is the only treatment that can be called permanent, as laser hair removal can leave behind some fine, small hairs that sometimes can’t be eliminated by a laser. Still, it’s a great option for people looking to eliminate the need for shaving in some areas. Here’s the skinny.

What is laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal is one of the most permanent hair removal solutions available. It is very common, and works by beaming highly concentrated light into hair follicles, which kills the follicle and keeps new hair from growing. Although it may take several treatments to remove most hair, laser hair removal has become quite popular due to its effectiveness and relatively quick results.

Are there different types of laser hair removal?
Yes and no. The principle is the same for these types of treatments, but there are a few different lasers that doctors choose from.
  • Alexandrite is a near-infrared laser that is most effective on pale skin.
  • Pulsed diode array is a near-infrared laser that works best on pale to medium-toned skin.
  • Nd:YAG laser is a near-infrared laser made for treating darker skin types, although it can be effective on lighter skin, as well.
  • IPL/intense pulsed light is not actually a laser, but it is sometimes used as a laser for pale to medium-toned skin.

What areas are safe to laser?
It’s safe to laser just about any area you want. This includes eyebrows, legs, arms, underarms, bikini area, chest, feet, back or anywhere else on your body. I always recommend letting a professional do this for you, rather than using some of the at-home gadgets now available.

What are the cons of laser hair removal?
Although it is an effective method of hair removal, there are some drawbacks. These include:
  • Multiple sessions – The average patient needs about seven treatments to remove most of the hair in their desired area. However, this depends on a variety of factors, including the size of the area, type of hair or type of skin. Some patients may only require two or three sessions.
    • Hair grows in several phases, and a laser can only affect hair that is currently growing. This explains the need for multiple treatments, as hair grows at different rates.
  • Expense – The average cost per session, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, is $235. However, this is once again dependent on the size of the area being treated, how many sessions are required and more.
  • Skin irritation or discomfort – Laser hair removal is not totally painless. Some people experience side effects like inflammation, redness, blistering or even hypo- or hyper-pigmentation at the site. Your doctor should give you some anti-inflammatories, cooling creams or other means to help relieve this discomfort.
  • Sun damage – If you’re going to have laser hair removal, make sure you won’t be getting much sun exposure immediately afterward. It’s important to wear sunscreen every day, of course, but extra important if you’ll be outdoors and your recently lasered area will be directly exposed to the sunlight.

How should I prepare for laser hair removal and care for the site afterward?
Before each session, make sure to:
  • Avoid electrolysis, plucking or waxing, as these activities temporarily remove the root of the hair. If there is no root, laser hair removal will not work.
  • Avoid sun exposure for your desired area. This can lead to more complications during and after the procedure, and also make the treatment less effective.

After the treatment:
  • Wear sunscreen of at least 30 SPF on your treated area, and avoid exposing it to direct sunlight.
  • Use a mild anti-inflammatory, cooling creams or cold compresses if you experience inflammation, burning sensations or discomfort in your treated area.
  • Redness is to be expected, but if you experience painful blistering that lasts several days, call your doctor. Although it is rare, laser hair removal can result in burning of the skin.

If you’d like to learn more about laser hair removal at Advanced Dermatology, click here. If you’d like to make an appointment, click here.

Have any questions about laser hair removal that I didn’t address here? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll try to answer them. 

30 comments:

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