First off, what does the word “LASER” actually mean?
We’ve heard the word ‘laser’ many times, but did you know what it actually means. As a matter of fact, did you even know that the word ‘laser’ is an acronym? Probably not! Anyways, it means:
Keep in mind that the term “radiation” is almost always misinterpreted as something ‘negative’ or as something to stay away from at all costs! But actually, while there is ‘bad’ types of radiation that you should stay away from, the term ‘radiation’ is simply used to describe the process of ionizing radiation. But in our case, the ues of the word ‘radiation’ is only referring to a transfer of energy, where energy would move from one place to another, through processes known s conduction and convection. These processes cannot alter DNA structure do you need not fear that you’ll exit your cosmetic clinic as a mutant turtle!
How does laser for hair removal work?
To sum it up, laser when used for the purposes of removing your unwanted hair, causes targeted and selective ‘damage’ to the tiny, unwanted hair by heating dark matter (not the contrasting lighter-colored skin around it) which is called melanin. This selectively targeted melanin is what causes hair growth and generates hair follicles. Once this is destroyed, without damaging any part of the rest of your skin, then that particular area that was exposed by the laser will not be able to grow hair again.
Is every laser beam the same?
Absolutely not. Now different companies have different ‘name brands’ for their own particularly designed lasers. However, there are TWO main lasers utilized in the market today. These are:
Alexandrite (755) or “Alex”, and
Both of these lasers are significantly different from one another. There is no ‘better’ one since each would depend on the particular patient and his or her unique goals.
Alex Vs. Yag –> What exactly is the difference?
Alex (755) laser beam –
- Extremely attracted and drawn to melanin (thus removes hair as well as colored skin lesions)
- Extremely effective on fair-colored skin (skin types I – III)
- Not effective at all for skin types IV – VI
- Patients using Alex beam should prevent themselves from sun exposure for at least a month BEFORE treatment
- Much more effective than its counterpart on thin hair.
- Most patients report less discomfort than “YAG”.
- In general, a more effective laser (so usually less treatments are needed).
YAG (1064) –
- Attracted to melanin and hemoglobin (this means it treats several health issues besides just removing hair. It helps with: colored lesions, loose or hanging skin, unnaturally growing veins, wrinkles, and enlarged pores, tattoos; also treats “ingrown hairs” otherwise known as “shaving bumps”, and toe nail fungus… Yes. Fungus!)
- Generally is safe to use for every skin type (I – VI).
- Can be used on sun exposed skin (3-4 days post).
- Effective on thick, coarse hair.
- Not ideal for thin, refined, or textured hair.
- Many report more discomfort during treatment than Alex laser beams.
How many treatments are needed?
Since I know you’re curious to better understand the every-mysterious hair-growth process, well, hair grows in numerous phases (called anagen, telogen, and yes I know you guessed it, categen). However, laser hair removal treatments (our friends Alex and Yag) can only affect the currently active hair growth phase, which in our case is (I know you probably guessed it ) the anagen phase. This is why more than one session is required to kill off and eliminate all the phases of growth, not just when you physically see that your hair has all fallen out.
The actual total number of sessions anyone needs to complete the hair removal process is one that depends on several factors. Among these factors are the area being treated, color of the skin, thickness of hair, and gender.
However, here is the ‘average’ number of treatments needed in general:
Face: 6-10 treatments conducted ever 4-6 weeks.
Body: 4-6 treatments conducted every 8-12 weeks.
Can all hair colors be treated?
Nope. Unfortunately, laser doesn’t work well on hair that is lighter colored such as red, grey, and white, as well as other ‘finer’ color hairs such as vellus.
In general, coarse and thick hair with very light-skinned patients are the easiest type to treat (think of the contrast of colors between thick, dark hair and light white skin. The greater the color contrast, the more effective for laser hair removal treatment.
What are the most common side effects and risks?
During the actual treatment: some pain and discomfort (can be eliminated with pain killers at the doctor’s discretion, or with a drama TV show on Netflix ;).
Common post treatment side effects: redness, itching, and some light swelling around the area(s) treated. Expect to undergo such side effects for just 2-3 days max.
Unwanted but rare side effects and risks: hypo- or hyper-pigmentation (too little or too much color on treated areas compared with the rest of your normal-colored skin), blistering, scarring, changes in the way your skin feels (skin texture), rare occurances of acne flareups, swelling around the hair follicles, rare infections, and burning of the skin.
What areas can be treated?
If the area on your body grows hair, then it can be treated! But make sure that there are absolutely no issues or contraindications. Here, talk to your doctor or cosmetic health professional about your medical history in detail and don’t ever just assume that you’re a prime candidate for laser hair removal just because you look and feel healthy. Therefore, ALWAYS conduct a consultation with your provider or health professional before undergoing laser hair removal!
What are contraindications?
Regarding “contra”indications, f you have any of these pre-existing condictions or if you’re currently or recently taking any of the listed medications, then you are not allowed to be treated at all.
- Gold Therapy (If you don’t know whatit is, then you don’t have it)
- Seizures that can be caused be light
- Photo-sensitive medication (otherwise wait 3 weeks until your last dose to undergo laser hair removal treatments)
- Accutane (last dosage should be at least 6 months ago)
- Medical history of cancer in your family
- Any strangely colored lesions or marks on your skin
- Herpes – pre-treat with an antiviral drug such as Valtrex… But, if you’re active, then under no cicumstances can you undergo treatment until you’re dormant again.
How do I prepare for laser hair removal?
- Do not wax, tweeze, or conduct any sort of electrolysis for at least 4 weeks prior laser treatment.
- For those with fair skin colors (skin types I -III), you should have had little-to-no sun exposure for at least 4 weeks prior treatment.
- For those with darker color skin (types IV – VI), then you should have had little-to-no sun exposure for at least 3-5 days prior treatment.
- No threading for 10 days
- No use of tanning beds for 14 days
- Shave the area being treated clean, on the same day of being treated or the night prior
- No make-up, lotion or deodorant should be worn on the day of your treatment
- No topical Retin-A for 3-5 days
- No oral Retin-A for 3 weeks
- No Accutane for 6 months
How much does it cost?
Obsviously, the prices for laser hair removal sessions are going to vary wildly from clinic to clinic, not to mention from city to city and state to state.
In general, costs could range anywhere from $100 per area per treatment to $900 per area per treatment (all depends on the size of the area and amount of hair). Yes, I don’t blame you if you think it can be expensive. But in addition to the fact that it’s so much more convenient NOT to shave and deal with all that extra hait, but also take into consideration the amount of money throw on on razors, waxing, threading, plucking, and god knows what else (people are led to do some pretty crazy things to prevent their hair from growing back.
Are there any post-treatment instructions?
Yes!.. And please, please follow strictly.
- No sun exposure for at least a 1 week. Also, if you’ve been blistered or burned, then make sure to stay out of the sun until healed… otherwise you will scar very badly!)
- Apply cool compresses to any red or swollen areas on your body.
- No Retin A for 24 hours
- No direct heat for 24 hours (ie: hot showers.. This is a tough one for me, since I truly love mine… but I do follow this religiously as I have learned the hard way.. hehehe)
- It will look and feel like a sunburn… treat it like one!
- MAKE SURE TO ENJOY being hair free Sort of like a (r