Laser Hair Removal
Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal has become increasingly popular over the last two decades; it is a non surgical cosmetic procedure which is widely used to remove unwanted hair and to inhibit their future growth. The procedure, first experimented in the 70s, came to markets in the mid 90s. Since then there have been a lot of developments to make it safe and useful; so much so that its effectiveness is now generally accepted by the dermatologist worldwide.
The original principle on which laser hair removal is based is called selective thermolysis. Hair growth generates from hair follicles in the skin which are composed of melanin. In the procedure a laser beam of selective wavelength is used to target darker areas (the hair follicles) in the skin leaving the surrounding lighter areas unaffected. Hair shaft absorb energy from the laser and as a result the follicles in the deeper layer of skin are burnt and hence disabled.
Initially laser hair removal procedures were only performed for people with the combination of dark hair and light skin tone but with recent advancements in this technology, different lasers have been develop which work safely for darker skin tones as well. Commonly used lasers include;
- Ultimate Light or IPL: Intense Pulsed Light or also known as IPL is a treatment used for permanent hair removal using intense pulses of non-coherent light whose wavelengths range from 500nm to 1200nm. Short bursts of intense broad spectrum are applied to the treatment area. The light is absorbed by the areas where melanin is concentrated. The light energy is converted into heat energy and the temperature rises up to 65-70C which destroys the ability of the hair follicle to re-grow. It has proved to be more versatile in treating a range of hair of different colors.
- ND: YAG: Delivering a long wavelength, the CD YAG laser is the safest laser that can be used with any skin type, skin color, tanning or pigmentation. The presence of melanin is ignored and the treatment is coursed according to patient’s hair and skin color. The chances of burns are very low in this procedure but however, the hair loss is not permanent.
- Diode laser: This laser delivers a beam of longer wavelength than Ruby or alexandrite laser systems. The longer wavelength penetrates deeper into the skin layers to hair follicles without much risk of any epidermal injury.
- Alexandrite: Having a shorter wavelength of 755 nm only, this laser system is not regarded much safe for darker skins. It is only used for very lighter skin tones.
- Ruby: like alexandrite laser system, the Ruby laser hair removal system, with even shorter wavelength of 694 nm, is suitable for extremely light skin tones only. This laser is said to cause certain side effects as well.
All these laser systems are FDA approved and are widely practiced worldwide.
Most laser hair removal systems are pain free so patients are not given any anesthesia and with recent developments the procedures have been simplified and made safer than before. Although laser hair removal machines can be used in informal settings like in spas or even at home, it is recommended to carry out the process under the supervision of a practicing dermatologist. In most cases, the entire procedure takes place in two to three sittings after which a permanent reduction in hair growth can be achieved. However, number of treatments needed to achieve permanent results varies from patient to patient; some may get the desired results in three treatments while others may be required to repeat the procedure after every six months.
It is important to note that laser hair removal will not result in permanent hair loss in two or three treatments; the procedure is approved for reduction in hair growth over time. Maintenance treatments are required to reinforce the effect.
Benefits of laser hair removal
- It is a non invasive technique that gently works to remove unwanted body hair and can be applied to any part of the body
- In the process, it may also treat the skin tone and make it even looking
- It is a pain free process
- The results are long term
One of the most common side effects of laser hair removal is a slight discomfort, swelling or redness in the treated area. This can last up to three days and is not harmful. Some patients may also experience pigmentation or temporary change in skin tone but in a week these symptoms fade on their own. To avoid these side effects from prolonging, doctors highly recommend the use of sun screens after the treatment for up to a period of six months.
Serious side effects include scab formation, pupura, acne and permanent skin discoloration. These are the results of excessive use of laser treatment or due to wrong settings.