Laser hair reduction is a medical procedure that uses a concentrated beam of light (laser) to remove unwanted hair.
During laser hair reduction, a laser emits a light that is absorbed by the pigment (melanin) in the hair. Light energy is converted into heat, which damages the tube-shaped sacs inside the skin (hair follicles) that produce hairs. This damage inhibits or retards future hair growth.
Although laser hair reduction effectively retards hair growth for long periods, it usually does not result in permanent hair removal. Multiple laser hair removal treatments are needed for initial hair removal, and maintenance treatments may also be necessary. Laser hair reduction is more effective for people who have light skin and dark hair.
Why it’s done
Laser hair reduction is used to reduce unwanted hair. Common treatment sites include legs, armpits, upper lip, chin and bikini line. However, it is possible to treat unwanted hair in almost any area, except the eyelid or the surrounding area.
Hair color and skin type influence the success of laser hair removal. The basic principle is that the hair pigment, but not the skin pigment, should absorb light. The laser should damage only the hair follicle and avoid skin damage. Therefore, a contrast between hair and skin color (dark hair and light skin) results in the best results.
The risk of skin damage is greater when there is little contrast between hair and skin color, but advances in laser technology have made laser hair removal an option for people who have darker skin. Laser hair removal is less effective for hair colors that do not absorb light well: gray, red, blond and white. However, laser treatment options for light colored hair are still being developed.
The risks of side effects vary according to skin type, hair color, treatment plan and adherence to pre-treatment and post-treatment care. The most common side effects of laser hair removal include:
Skin irritation Temporary discomfort, redness and swelling are possible after laser hair removal. Any sign and symptom usually disappears in several hours.
Pigment Changes Laser hair removal can darken or lighten the affected skin, usually temporarily. Skin lightening mainly affects those who do not avoid sun exposure before or after treatment and those who have darker skin.
Rarely, laser hair reduction can cause blisters, scabs, scars or other changes in skin texture. Other rare side effects include graying of treated hair or excessive hair growth around treated areas, particularly on darker skin.
Laser hair reduction is not recommended for eyelids, eyebrows or surrounding areas, due to the possibility of serious eye damage.
How You Prepare:-
If you are interested in laser hair reduction, choose a certified doctor in a specialty such as dermatology or cosmetic surgery and who has experience in laser hair removal. If a medical assistant or a licensed nurse will do the procedure, make sure a doctor supervises and is available on site during treatments. Be careful with spas, salons or other facilities that allow non-medical personnel to perform laser hair removal.
Before laser hair reduction, schedule a consultation with your doctor to determine if this is an appropriate treatment option for you. Your doctor is likely to do the following:
- Review your medical history, including medication use, history of skin disorders or scarring, and past hair removal procedures
- Discuss risks, benefits and expectations, including what laser hair removal can and can’t do for you
Take photos to be used for before-and-after assessments and long-term reviews
At the consultation, discuss a treatment plan and related costs. Laser hair removal is usually an out-of-pocket expense.
The doctor also will offer specific instructions to prepare for laser hair removal. These might include:
- Staying out of the sun. Follow your doctor’s advice for avoiding sun exposure, usually up to six weeks before treatment, and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily.
- Lightening your skin. Avoid any sunless skin creams that darken your skin. Your doctor also might prescribe a skin bleaching cream if you have a recent tan or darker skin.
- Avoiding other hair removal methods. Plucking, waxing and electrolysis can disturb the hair follicle and should be avoided at least four weeks before treatment.
- Avoiding blood-thinning medications. Ask your doctor about what medications, such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs, to avoid before the procedure.
Shaving treatment area. Trimming and shaving is recommended the day before laser treatment. It removes hair above the skin that can result in surface skin damage from burnt hairs, but it leaves the hair shaft intact below the surface.
What You Can Expect
Laser hair reduction generally requires a series of two to six treatments. The interval between treatments will vary by location. In areas where hair grows rapidly, such as the upper lip, treatment can be repeated in four to eight weeks. In areas of slow hair growth, such as the back, treatment can be every 12 to 16 weeks.
For each treatment, you will wear special glasses to protect your eyes from the laser beam. An assistant could shave the site again if necessary. The doctor can apply a topical anesthetic to the skin to reduce any discomfort during treatment.
During The Procedure
The doctor will press a handheld laser instrument on your skin. Depending on the type of laser, a cooling device on the tip of the instrument or a cold gel can be used to protect your skin and reduce the risk of side effects.
When the doctor activates the laser, the laser beam will pass through your skin to the hair follicles. The intense heat of the laser beam damages the hair follicles, which inhibits hair growth. You may feel discomfort, such as a warm prick, and you may feel a cold sensation from the cooling device or gel.
Treatment of a small area, such as the upper lip, may take only a few minutes. The treatment of a larger area, such as the back, can take more than an hour.
After The Procedure
You may notice redness and swelling during the first hours after laser hair reduction.
To reduce any discomfort, apply ice to the treated area. If you have a skin reaction immediately after laser hair removal, your doctor may apply a steroid cream to the affected area.
After laser hair reduction and between scheduled treatments, avoid exposure to the sun, both natural sunlight and tanning beds, for six weeks or as directed by your doctor. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen daily.
Hairs do not fall out immediately, but you will shed them over a period of days to weeks. This may look like continued hair growth. The repeated treatments are usually necessary because hair growth and loss naturally occur in a cycle, and laser treatment works best with hair follicles in the new-growth stage.
Results vary significantly and are difficult to predict. Most people experience hair removal that lasts several months, and it might last for years, but laser hair removal doesn’t guarantee permanent hair removal. When hair regrows, it’s usually finer and lighter in color.
You might need maintenance laser treatments for long-term hair reduction.