Excess hair can be as serious of a concern as hair loss. Having too much hair can make it difficult to maintain personal hygiene. Not to mention, unusual hair growth can make people treat you differently and lead to self-esteem issues. A safe and long-term solution to the problem is – Laser Hair Removal.
Waxing or shaving doesn’t do much for hair overgrowth. Unlike Laser therapy, they aren’t long-lasting. Plus, they are less convenient and more painful. Still, many people miss out on the benefits of the treatment simply because they don’t have the proper knowledge of it.
In that case, the following discussion can be much worth your time. Learn everything you need to know about the procedure and make an informed decision.
What Is Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal is a cosmetic procedure. People who are looking to get rid of excess or undesired body hair benefit from it.
During the treatment, the cosmetic specialist will use a laser (a concentrated beam of light) to damage the hair follicles of the target area. Thus, that specific body part becomes smooth and hair-free in the long term.
Options and Targets
Depending on the outcomes you seek, the laser therapist will choose a beam of appropriate wavelength and intensity. These include Ruby, Alexandrite, Diode, and Nd: YAG lasers.
People suffering from hirsutism (unwanted hair growth) are one of the main benefactors of Laser Hair removal.
In the past, mostly light-skinned people with dark hair were ideal candidates for this treatment. However, with the advancement in technology people of all skin and hair tones can now benefit from the procedure. Common target areas are the upper lip, chin, legs, armpit, etc.
Invention and FDA Approval
Laser Hair Removal became publicly available following its FDA approval in 1995. However, it has been in experimental use for more than two decades before that.
Theodore H Maiman, an engineer, and physicist, invented the first laser for hair removal in 1960. And Dr. R. Rox Anderson and Dr. Melanie Grossman were the first to use it for the targeted and controlled destruction of hair follicles during the nineties.
Today, Laser Hair Removal is one of the commonest and most sought-after cosmetic procedures in the world. It alone constitutes a billion-dollar industry and is predicted to grow more in the coming years. (1,2,3,4,5)
How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?
Your laser therapist chooses a beam that has qualities specific to your goals. These qualities are the wavelength and intensity of the laser.
The deeper you want to penetrate the skin the more wavelength you need. Meanwhile, the intensity determines the heat and speed at which you can damage the hair follicles.
When the therapist applies the laser, the pigment in the hair starts absorbing the light. Darker hair has more pigment. Which means it can absorb more light.
Meanwhile, the surrounding skin is less pigmented than the hair. As a result, the beam only attacks the hair and leaves the skin unharmed.
After being absorbed, the heat travels down the hair shaft and reaches the follicle. This is a tube-like sac responsible for producing hairs.
The heat destroys the cells and structures within the follicle. These include papillae, matrix, and stem cells. Destruction of these vital structures permanently stops or delays new hair growth.
For proper destruction, the follicle needs to be in the Anagen stage. This is the active growth stage for hair follicles.
Types of Laser Hair Removal
There are commonly four types of laser therapy available for hair removal. The therapies differ from each other based on wavelength and intensity.
As a result, each type finds its suitable use according to variations in skin-n-hair tone and cosmetic goals. The four types of laser beams are-
The Alexandrite laser is one of the most widely used beams for hair removal. It has a wavelength of 755 (725-800) nm.
People with light skin tones can benefit the most from this kind of therapy. If you need to remove hair from large areas like the back or legs fast, Alexandrite Laser can be the best option.
Ruby Laser is one of the oldest lasers that cosmetic specialists have been using to remove unwanted body hair. It has a wavelength of 694 nm.
The laser has the mildest of after-effects and is especially suitable for patients whose skin tone is too light. It is comparatively less effective in moving deep or coarse hair.
One of the most versatile laser hair removal therapies available. The Diode laser beams have a wavelength of 800-810 nm. And it can effectively remove almost all kinds of hair types from all types of skin tones.
However, it is not the best laser for removing ultra-light or fine hair. Diode Laser is comparatively expensive and demands more sessions.
Nd: YAG Laser
This is considered the best laser hair removal option for darker skin tones. Nd: YAG Laser beams have a wavelength of 1064 nm and are the most advanced type.
Who Can Benefit From Laser Hair Removal?
Anyone who is dissatisfied with their body hair distribution can benefit from laser hair removal. Of course, your specialist shall run some basic medical examination before confirming your eligibility for the treatment.
However, for some patients, excess hair can be more than just a minor appearance issue. It can become a medical condition that can hamper their way of life. Sufferers of these conditions can benefit tremendously from the therapy-
Hirsutism is a condition that affects women. Sufferers experience abnormal hair growth on the face, back, chest, and abdomen. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or other hormonal imbalances are two of the main reasons. Androgenic drugs and steroid medicines can also cause Hirsutism.
Laser therapy can be very helpful for the patients in this case. Needless to say, you also have to adhere to the treatment for the underlying disease.
Have you experienced bumps on your cheek after shaving? It can be quite a menace. The bumps can become inflamed and cause pain or irritation. Ultimately they scar the area and destroy its naturally smooth and youthful look.
The condition is known as razor bumps or shaving bumps. There is a harder medical terminology for it- pseudofolliculitis barbae.
When you swipe the razor across the skin, you might have altered the anatomy of the hair follicles. This causes in-grown hairs which ultimately lead to bumps.
Usually, men with curly or coarse hair suffer from this condition. Laser hair removal can be an excellent long-term cure in this case.
It is a condition where there is excessive generalized hair growth. Unlike Hirsutism, it affects both sexes and isn’t necessarily associated with diseases.
For many people, it is a condition they have experienced since birth. Excess growth can occur all over the body or can affect only a specific area.
Hypertrichosis can be an uncomfortable condition. Excess hair means more irritation, itching, and inflammation. Plus, the individual might struggle with various mental issues. Laser Hair Removal can be the perfect solution here.
Trans women can greatly benefit from laser hair removal. It can help them deal with the undesired male pattern of hair in their bodies. Proper treatment will lead to a smoother and more feminine appearance of the skin in that area.
Is Laser Hair Removal Safe?
Laser Hair Removal is undoubtedly a safe procedure. Otherwise, certified physicians wouldn’t recommend it and FDA would have never approved it.
However, you might want to ask if it is specifically safe for you. Some factors make certain individuals less suitable for the procedure than other people. Here they are-
Skin and Hair Color
The four types of laser beams can indeed cover all skin tones and hair colors. However, the ideal candidate for this procedure is still someone with lighter skin and darker hair.
This doesn’t mean you must belong to a particular race or nationality for the treatment to work. But your hair needs to be significantly darker than your skin. Otherwise, how can the laser beam differentiate between the two?
If you have fair skin and blonde hair or dark skin and dark hair, there isn’t much contrast between the two parts. As a result, Laser therapy will be less effective, require more sessions and lead to more skin scarring.
Current Drug Therapies
If the drugs you are taking cause excess growth, you won’t benefit from the therapy if you keep continuing them. Hormones, corticosteroids, anti-seizure medications, and antidepressants are some such drugs.
You would have to either stop taking the drugs or schedule the Laser therapy when you have stopped taking the medication.
Some patients might be on medications that make the skin oversensitive to light. For example, acne medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and antibiotics. Patients on these medications have to stop them before getting laser therapy.
Existing Medical conditions
If you have psoriasis, vitiligo, or bleeding disorders, laser hair removal isn’t the best option for you. Also if you had severe reactions to antihistamines in the past, your laser practitioner might hold off the treatment.
Also, there isn’t enough evidence that tells us that the procedure is safe for pregnant women. Until it is proven without a doubt that the therapy won’t affect the mother or the baby, it is advisable to not seek this treatment when you are pregnant.
Laser Hair Removal can help individuals whose excess body hair has become a cause for discomfort. The therapy can significantly improve your appearance and boost your self-esteem. However, be sure to receive the therapy from a certified laser practitioner or cosmetic specialist. Otherwise, it can do you more harm than good.