Definition of Laser Hair Removal
It is a procedure, which uses laser technology for the removal of unwanted hair on the body. An intense and pulsating beam of laser is used for this treatment. During the procedure, a beam of laser rays pass through the skin towards the hair follicles, causing damage to them, leaving behind hair-free and smooth skin.
The areas that are commonly treated with this therapy are armpits, legs, chin and bikini line and upper lip. It is important to note that this therapy does not ensure complete and permanent hair removal in 1 session. Some hair has resistance to laser therapy and may grow back after the treatment. However, the new hair that grows back is usually lighter and finer.
What are the Causative Factors of Increased Hair Growth or Hypertrichosis?
Hypertrichosis is an increased abnormal growth of hair in unusual pattern over any skin surface. It can be genetically linked or can also be due to side effects of medications. Malnutrition, hormones, tumors and metabolic disorders can also be cause of hypertrichosis.
How does the Therapy Work?
The therapy is based on the principle of selective photothermolysis or SPTL. The laser rays cause selective heating of melanin in the part to be treated. As the heat is absorbed better by the darker objects, the melanin pigments absorb the heat from the laser energy more than the other tissues exposed to the laser treatment. There is localized damage to the area due to the heat generated along with absorption of heat by melanin. Due to the damage thus caused, the black and brown hair over the skin is destroyed by this therapy.
It should be noted that the therapy works best for people with lighter skin and dark hair. However, newer laser techniques are available for people with dark skin.
Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal
Few side effects may occur in some patients, which are mentioned below:
• Irritation of skin, scrubbing and crusting of skin.
• Change in pigment pattern of skin. The therapy may cause darkening or lightening of the skin, but these effects are temporary. It is most commonly seen due to the incorrect use of laser settings.
• Scarring or blistering of skin.
• Patients may notice an immediate redness or swelling of skin after the therapy. There may also be a stinging sensation that lasts for 1 – 2 days after treatment. Patients should wash the part gently by using mild soap and water for few days after the therapy to get relief from this.
What do the Patients need to do Prior to the Procedure?
A visit to a dermatologist to discuss the procedure is essential. Patients can discuss possibilities of side effects, risks involved in the procedure and benefits of the therapy with the doctor during the visit. They can also discuss the outcome of treatment and costs involved. Taking photos of the area to be treated before the therapy is beneficial for assessing the results after the treatment.
The physician can check the skin type of the person, the hair color, presence of skin tanning, location and thickness of hair, etc. to plan an effective hair removal treatment for the patient. Use of other hair removal methods in the past can also affect the planning.
The physician inquires about the medical history of patients including history of scarring, cold sores, thyroid disease, ovarian disorders and use of medications during the visit. After complete evaluation of the patient, the physician can decide an appropriate laser suitable for the patient and the treatment settings required for him. Patients should discuss their expectation with a physician during the visit. The need of multiple sessions, maintenance therapy required and possibility of adverse reaction after the therapy should be discussed with the physician.
Instructions to be followed before Laser Hair Removal Therapy:
Patients should avoid excessive exposure to sun prior to therapy. Side effects like blistering or discoloration of skin are increased due to tanning of skin. If the patients have skin tanning then it is advisable to wait till the tanning fades before beginning the laser therapy.
Waxing, electrolysis or plucking of hair should be avoided before the laser treatment. Hair removal techniques like this may disturb hair follicles, causing interference with the treatment. However, patients can do shaving for hair removal as it preserves hair follicles and shaft. It may also improve the results.
Patients are given special goggles to wear during the treatment to avoid damage to eyes from laser rays.
Laser Parameters, which may affect the Results:
Laser energy of different wavelengths can be used for hair removal ranging from near-infrared radiation to visible light. The wavelength of laser rays used depends upon the skin type of the patient. Alexandrite Laser with wavelength of 755 nM can be used for people with pale skin and is not safe to be used for darker skin.
Pulsed diode array with wavelength of 810 nM or near infrared rays can be used for people with pale or medium skin type. Nd:YAG laser rays with wavelength of 1064 nM are very beneficial for people with darker skin. However, it can be safely used for people with any skin type.
Another important consideration for choosing the right laser beams in this therapy is pulse width. Longer pulse width is quite safe for people with dark skin. The repetition rate of pulse width is also very important. Shooting approximately 2-3 pulses continuously at the targeted area can lead to increased heating of the area. This results in faster and highly efficacious results in hair removal.
Width of laser beam, also called spot size, can affect the outcome of therapy. The spot size should be 4 times wider than the depth of the area to be treated. Laser used for hair removal can have spot size of 8-18 mm. Energy levels or Fluence is another factor affecting the results of treatment. High energy levels can give better results
Sessions Required for the Therapy:
Patients usually need multiple sessions for complete and permanent hair removal. Patients typically need 6-8 sessions depending upon the skin color and type of hair to be treated. Coarseness of hair, gender of the patient and reasons of hirsutism can also affect the number of sessions required for each patient. People with coarse hair and light skin do not need many sessions. People with darker skin need more sessions. Finer hair is very difficult to treat and needs more sessions. Some areas, like men’s faces, need more sessions for effective treatment.
The effects of the treatment are not very encouraging for people with very light hair.
The sessions are usually spaced at the interval of 8-12 weeks. The time interval between 2 sessions may vary depending upon the area to be covered and the length of hair cycle. Faces need more frequent sessions at the gap of 3-4 weeks and legs need sessions that are less frequent. An ideal way to space the sessions well is to wait till the hair is shed after the first session and then let the hair grow back sufficiently before the next session.
The top 5 benefits of the therapy:
• Improves your personality with effective results: Patients can enjoy a smooth and hair-free skin after the treatment.
• Boosts confidence: Laser hair removal helps in making you look the best and improves your self confidence. Patients can avoid those uncomfortable grow-in stages of hair after the therapy.
• Saves money: The therapy may seem to be expensive at the beginning, but it saves lot of money for the patients in a long run. Regular waxing and electrolysis is no longer needed and it can help patients to save a lot on regular expenditure. The therapy just costs $200-600 per session at experienced laser clinics.
• Saves time: The daily routine of hair removal by shaving can be very time consuming. Laser hair removal can help patients to get a hair-free skin permanently saving their time on this daily routine.
• Elimination of ingrown hair: discomfort, self consciousness and infections caused by ingrown hair can be prevented with laser hair removal therapy.
Laser hair removal is a state-of-the-art hair removal treatment that uses a high technology for giving smooth and hair-free skin to patients for indefinite period of time.