Laser Hair Removal

All about permanent hair removal

Unwanted hair can appear just about anywhere on the body but is particularly distressing when it appears on the face, neck, and hands, which are regularly exposed to view. Laser hair removal is a means of eliminating this unwanted hair through selective photothermolysis -- the targeting of specific matter (in this case, the melanin in hair) with heat and light in order to destroy it without harming the surrounding skin.

Laser hair removal is an FDA-approved procedure but is unregulated in certain states, meaning anyone can perform the procedure. Other states require that laser hair removal be practiced only by a licensed physician or by a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner working under a physician's orders. Many states allow for a happy medium, requiring that the treatment be administered by a licensed professional, but extending licenses to include estheticians as well as the medical practitioners listed above.

Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal

Although similar, electrolysis and laser hair removal are not the same procedure. Electrolysis is a much older procedure that targets and destroys hairs through the delivery of an electric current by means of a needle inserted into the follicle. It is the only FDA-approved method of permanent hair removal. Laser treatment, on the other hand, produces "permanent hair reduction," inhibiting the growth of hair so that it appears lighter, finer, and less dense.

Electrolysis also has an advantage over laser hair removal for those with light hair or dark skin. Because it targets melanin, which gives both skin and hair their color, laser hair removal works best when there is a stark contrast between the pigments -- namely, when there is dark hair on light skin. Although some success has been achieved with black hair on dark skin, laser hair removal is not effective on blond or red hairs, regardless of skin color.

Both electrolysis and laser hair removal require several treatments for full effect, with a few weeks between treatments to allow for some hair regrowth so that the same ones can be targeted. Prices vary depending on location and practitioner, so contact your local laser electrolysis center for rates. You'll also want to book a consultation so that the treatment can be tailored to your skin and hair types and your specific needs.

After Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal is not permanent. While the hair that returns may be lighter and sparser than before, hair will continue to grow in the treatment area. However, treatments may become less frequent as hair takes longer to return.

While perfectly safe, laser hair removal does have side effects. The most common are redness, swelling, and bumps at the site of treatment. These appear immediately after treatment and usually subside within 48 hours.

The hair will begin to shed within a few days and should be completely gone after 3 weeks. Hair may appear to be growing during the shedding phase, but it is actually just working its way to the surface. Gently exfoliating can help bring the hair to the surface sooner.

Once shedding has finished, you should enjoy a smooth, hair-free period of at least a couple weeks, though duration will vary according to area, skin type, and hair thickness and color.