What is Laser Hair Removal?
If you’re bothered by body hair, you probably have a go-to method of removing it. But if that method seems arduous, you might want to consider laser hair removal. Like waxing and shaving, laser hair removal is a hair reduction method — but the results can be significantly longer-lasting. As a result, laser has become standard for people who are looking for a more permanent hair reduction solution.Unlike other methods of hair removal, it relies on a concentrated beam of energy (via a laser) to target the hair follicle below the surface of the skin. The energy from the laser is released as intense heat, which damages these follicles. There are different types of lasers, and each has its own advantages and safety profile. It’s important to do your research before choosing a laser.
Where can laser hair removal be used?One of the most appealing things about laser hair removal is its versatility. Common treatment areas include the arms, legs, upper lip, and bikini area. But the treatment can also be used on the back, the stomach, the neck, fingers, and toes. To put it simply: if there is an area you’d like to treat, chances are laser hair removal could be an option.
What are some of the different types of lasers used for hair removal?
Intense pulsed light is not technically a laser; rather, it is multiple wavelengths of intense (non-laser) light. The light pulses detect contrast between skin and hair follicle and emit multiple waves of light energy to that follicle. The ideal candidate for IPL has fair skin and dark hair. People with deeper complexions (i.e. who have more melanin) should avoid IPL, as the light energy may have trouble distinguishing between hair and skin, and burn the skin as a result.
This type of laser is created by passing through an alexandrite crystal to produce a specific wavelength. This is a relatively short wavelength, making it ideal for a range of skintones from fair to medium, and allowing it to cover a relatively large area. This laser can be used on fine hair, as well as coarse hair.
This laser has the longest wavelengths of all of the lasers — and, as a result, the lowest melanin absorption rate. This means that the laser is less likely to target melanin in the skin (and cause burning). Instead, the laser bypasses the skin to go directly to the root of the hair. For these reasons, the Nd: YAG is suitable for people with deeper skin tones, though more treatments may be required for optimal results. (In other words, it’s slower to work than other lasers.)
This laser, which has a wavelength of 810mn, is ideal for coarse, thick hairs. It can be used on fair to medium-deep skin tones. Because the wavelength is relatively long, the laser itself is able to target the hair on a deep level and bypass melanin (similar to the Nd: YAG) which is why it might be a viable option for olive skin tones.
Does laser hair removal hurt?
Unfortunately, laser hair removal is not as painless as, say, shaving. Many people compare the feeling of a laser pulse to someone snapping a rubber band against the skin. There is no anesthetic involved, but many modern lasers will have a built-in cooling blast of air, which can blunt the pain. If you ask us, the discomfort level is similar to that of waxing (albeit in a different way).
How much does laser hair removal cost?Laser hair removal is not cheap, though it could be a sage investment in the long run (especially if you are already spending money on monthly waxes!). The price can vary greatly depending on the area you’re treating. For smaller areas, such as the upper lip or toes, you can expect to typically pay less than $100. For larger areas including the arms, legs, and back, you may have to pay a couple of hundred dollars or more. Your geographical location is another consideration (treatment in cities is generally more expensive). Lastly, you’ll need to multiply the cost per session by the number of treatments needed, which is generally around two to six treatments per area.
What are the risks?Scarring, burning, swelling, redness, infection, and hyperpigmentation (skin darkening) or hypopigmentation (skin lightening) are all risks of laser hair removal. You should not undergo laser hair removal if you are prone to keloid scarring and/or have broken skin.
What outcomes can I expect after treatment?Because laser hair removal is performed over the course of multiple appointments, results may not be immediately apparent after your first appointment. After your first treatment, you might notice hairs fall out in the weeks leading up to your second treatment. As you complete your treatments (which are usually 4-6 weeks apart), you will begin noticing fewer hairs.
How long do results from laser hair removal last?Every person is different, but the hair-diminishing results can last anywhere from months to years. Eventually, many people do experience some hair regrowth. Whether a hair returns depends on the intensity of follicle damage; follicles that have been weakened (but not killed) from treatment are likely to grow back (albeit usually sparser). For this reason, you may have to return for touch ups every few months.