Laser Hair Removal.... What You Need to Know
Let's face it, shaving is a drag. Whether ridding unwanted hair on our legs, our face, our underarms, or bikini area, our daily attempts to be "smooth and silky" may have many of us contemplating laser hair removal. But is it the right choice for you? The following is an overview of things to consider when making your decision.
How it works
First, a word about how laser hair removal works. Basically, a medical professional presses a hand-held laser to your skin. The light energy then passes through the skin to the hair follicles below. This penetrating light causes permanent damage to the hair follicle, disabling it to the point of no longer being able to produce hair growth. Laser light only affects actively growing hair and since hair grows in different phases over time laser hair removal generally requires multiple treatments for optimal results. On average, patients can expect go through four to five treatments at approximately $500 a session for optimal results.
Currently, there are a variety of different lasers that are implemented to remove unwanted hair. The two most popular include the alexandrite and the diode laser. The alexandrite inhibits hair growth by deeply penetrating the hair follicles in the dermis of the skin. The high rate of temperature then immobilizes the hair follicle eliminating its ability to produce hair. The diode laser works much the same way the alexandrite laser does except that it has a longer wavelength. This may be of benefit for those patients with darker skin who typically require multiple sessions with laser hair removal in order to achieve optimal results. In addition to lasers, there are also pulsed light-based sources that are also used to remove unwanted hair. These devices work on much the same principal as lasers, using a photoepilation process to disable the hair follicle.
It should be noted that laser hair removal does not always lead to the permanent removal of hair. What a patient can expect however is an average of a 90% reduction of hair, with subsequent re-growth resulting in hair that is lighter in color and finer in texture.
Who should consider laser hair removal?
Although laser hair removal can be an attractive alternative to shaving, waxing, depilatories, or electrolysis, it may not be the right choice for everyone. For example, people with naturally dark pigmented skin or individuals with deep tans are not good candidates for laser hair removal. This is because their darker skin absorbs too much of the laser energy sometimes resulting in blistering or permanent skin discoloration. Although improvements have been made in the use of lasers, people with darker skin still often require multiple sessions to achieve a desired affect. This procedure also doesn't work well on individuals with light colored hair, which contains very little melanin. Ideally, people with lighter skin and dark hair are considered the best candidates, because they require less treatments and achieve faster results.
Choosing a medical professional
If you do decide to opt for laser hair removal, there are several things you should do when choosing a provider. First, always set up a consultation with your medical professional before you have any work done. You should feel comfortable and secure that the person who will be performing your procedure is experienced and competent. When you arrive for your consultation, look around. Is the office clean and organized? Are the people who work there polite and professional? When you meet with your medical professional make sure to ask questions. Some questions they should easily be able to answer include, what is their level of expertise and how many years of experience do they have? What is their success rate with clients? Can they provide references? What kind of postoperative support do they provide? On the flip side, make sure your medical professional is asking questions of you. They should ask detailed questions regarding your complete medical history. They should asses your skin type and be straightforward in explaining the advantages and disadvantages of the procedure. These are all signs of a reputable medical professional. Lastly, please keep in mind that laser hair removal is considered to be a medical procedure and, as such, you should try and seek out a medical professional of only the highest quality. This is not the time to "bargain shop" or look or the best deal.
Will it hurt?
Generally speaking, the pain of the laser moving across your skin is slightly painful but mostly tolerable. It is rare that a topical anesthetic is required unless your skin is particularly sensitive. Bear in mind, that following the procedure your skin will continue to be extremely sensitive for a few days so you should ask your medical professional about pain management. Usually, applying ice or an anti-inflammatory topical medication will be enough to bring relief to any possible redness or swelling. You should also limit any sun exposure for at least a day or two after your treatment.
Pros and cons
As with any medical procedure, there are pros and cons to laser hair removal. Some of the advantages include long-lasting or permanent hair reduction. If hair does grow back it tends to grow back lighter and finer in texture. This method of hair removal is also considered ideal in managing unwanted hair growth on such large areas as your legs, your back, or even your chest.
Some of the disadvantages to this treatment include the lack of any data regarding long-term safety and effectiveness. Also, when improperly implemented, laser hair removal can result in burns to the skin or long lasting skin discoloration. Plus, there's no guarantee that the procedure will work. In some cases hair will grow back unless you return for several more treatments, making this a sometimes costly process.
Laser hair removal isn't right for everyone, but it can be an ideal choice for those individuals who want to reduce the appearance of unwanted hair and are ready to give up the razor.
This article was written by Lisa Gonzalez.