Laser Hair Removal

Are you plagued with hair growing in places you don’t want it? Are you constantly shaving and wish that the hair would just go away? Laser hair removal may be just the ticket for you.

This is a medical procedure which uses laser energy to produce a long-term hair reduction. These waves are energy beams that heat the hair. This energy is transferred to the hair follicle down the shaft of the hair. This heating produces inflammation which sends a signal to the hair follicles to go into a resting phase.

The lasers produce a light of a single color or a single wavelength that is taken up by the desired targets. In the case of using a laser for hair removal, the target is the melanin pigment contained in the hair shaft which then transfers the heat to the hair follicle. When the light beam hits the hair follicle the intense heat destroys the hair follicle or sends it into a resting phase. In most cases the hair re-growth is very slow and it can take several treatments to provide an extended hair free period.

Laser hair removal was first introduced in the late 1990s and was limited to white skined people who have dark hair. This was due to the risk of targeting the melanin on the surface of the skin which could result in a burn. In the early years, dark skinned individuals could not use the lasers because the lasers were unable to distinguish between skin pigment in hair follicles. Today, all of this has changed with the advent of a new line of lasers, the YAG.

Today, some dermatologists claimed that permanent hair removal can be achieved using current technology. While the technology has been in existence for almost 10 years it is still a relatively new procedure. Because of this information is not always accurate and not always consistent.

In some cases excessive hair growth will happen in an abnormal pattern that can be inherited or due to medications, malnutrition, tumors or metabolic problems. This issue is often more difficult psychologically in women than it is in men. There are several different ways to remove unwanted hair which include shaving, plucking, electronic tweezers, waxing and creams but only laser is now offer a permanent hair reduction solution.

Patients who are interested in this procedure should consult a dermatologist who will adapt the skin type, hair color, thickness and location of the hair, previous hair removal methods, medical history and any tattoos or moles in the area to be treated. After a preoperative evaluation the appropriate treatment methodology can be determined and realistic expectations can be discussed.

Prior to treatment, patients are advised to avoid tanning beds and not to use sunless tanners. Sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher should be used and there should be no plucking, waxing or electrolysis done in the area. Patients can shave or use creams to remove hair until the treatment has been completed. Prior to the day of treatments the areas should be shaved and a prophylactic oral antiviral medication might be started. If the hair to be removed is in the nasal or anal area an oral antibiotic may also be prescribed.

The day of treatments, this area should be clean and free of any cosmetics. The doctor may use an anesthetic cream or spray. During the procedure everyone in the room must wear protective eyewear in order to protect the retina of the eye from an inadvertant beam from the laser.

In many cases three or more treatments could be required to achieve permanent growth reduction. Dermatologists have found that individuals who have darker hair respond best to laser, while lighter hair is less responsive. Doctors do have topical medications which can be used in an effort to increase the receptiveness of lighter hair to laser treatment.

Once the treatment is finalized the patient can use an ice pack and over-the-counter pain relief medication. Topical antibiotics might be used if localized blistering and minor burns appear. Patients are told to avoid sun exposure and to use an SPF 30 sunscreen after treatment. Side effects can include pain, swelling around the hair follicle, redness and inflammation which lasts one to three days, herpes outbreak and an occasional bacterial infection. Any permanent skin pigment changing or scarring is very rare although loss of freckles or lightning of moles in the treatment area can occur.

The five most popular areas for hair removal are over the back, bikini line, facial hair, over the legs and the upper lip. Patients should receive laser hair removal treatment only by a licensed dermatologist who has experience in the procedure. In some cases this procedure is paid for by the insurance companies so patients should pre-certify their procedure and work out a payment schedule with their physician prior to the treatment.

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