A Complete Guide To: Laser Hair Removal26 Sep 2012
Laser hair removal is the modern way to achieve perfectly smooth skin. After years of shaving, waxing and using hair removal creams in a futile attempt to remove your unwanted hair, or at least on a long term basis anyway, are you fed up with seeing no results. The archaic hair removal methods of yesterday just don’t cut it in the modern none stop society in which we reside in. After all, shaving and waxing may win us the battle but our hairs are ultimately winning the war – Until now…welcome laser Hair Removal.
What is Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal is the process of removing unwanted hair using a laser. There are many types of lasers which can be used to remove hair depending on varying factors such as your skin type but we will get to this later on.
A Brief History
Don’t panic this isn’t going to be a history lesson, however I always feel a bit of background knowledge is a great way to set the stage and provide a greater understanding.
Truth be told laser hair removal, or the concept behind it, isn’t as futuristic as you may think. There are 5 key time periods that were crucial to the development of the laser hair removal you see and use today.
In the 1960s the first lasers which were known as wave 1 lasers and emitted a continuous wave a light. This continuous beam however rendered wave 1 laser s useless as the beam could not be controlled which caused too much of a risk to the skin being permanently damaged.
In the 1970s came the wave 2 lasers. These lasers where a vast improvement to the ones seen a decade earlier allowing for targeting of individual hair follicles by sending a beam of energy via a fiber optic probe. The wave 2 laser were not sent off for testing and as a result was pulled by the FDA as it was difficult to use and ineffective for its claims.
In 1980s the wave 3 lasers were created. These laser were not much of a advancement from the previous and although they did offer improved targeting then the wave 2 lasers they were still tedious and ineffective for laser hair removal which saw them being removed from the market.
1990 is where laser hair removal started to take its current form in the form of the wave 4 laser which was finally cleared by the FDA for official use. The lasers used a carbon based lotion as a chromophore (what the laser targets). The laser heated up the carbon which would release a kind of shock wave to the hair follicle destroying it in the process. The only problem with the wave 4 laser is that it could also cause damage to surrounding cells and tissue.
In 1997 the wave 5 laser was introduced. The wave 5 laser targeted melanin in the hair and was cleared by the FDA. Being easy to use and having a cooling system built in it greatly increase the safety and effectiveness. Wave 5 lasers are used all round the world today and are currently the latest in laser hair removal technology.
How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?
It would make sense that we start from the beginning, as in order to understand how laser hair removal works it is necessary that you first have a basic understanding of hair. A single hair is composed of a shaft – this is the hair which is visible on the surface of the skin and the root which lies beneath. Located at the base of the root is the hair follicle, this follicle is a mammalian skin organ that produces our hair. The production of hair happens in three stages which include the growth stage (anagen), cessation stage (catagen) and the rest stage (telogen). At the end of the growth stage the hair naturally falls out meaning that at anyone stage hairs are being created, being shed and then being replaced by the hair follicle. An important note to make here is that the hairs on the human body are not synchronised to the same growth schedule meaning that each hair is different and while one may be being created another is being shed.
Laser Hair Removal Using Candela GentleLASE System:
The Kryptonite Of Hair
The key principal behind Laser Hair Removal is SPTL (selective photothermolysis). This sounds kind of complicated and well to be honest it is but basically put it’s the matching of a precise wavelength of light and pulse interval to achieve the optimal effect on the targeted tissue, without causing any surrounding damage to any nearby neighbouring tissue.
We all have our weakness and until now our hairs were a razor blade and wax strips. However because hair has regenerative capabilities so to speak these methods only provided temporary solutions. As many of you reading this know you can spend a long time in the morning in the shower removing your hair only to see it re-appear days later. I know it’s annoying!! However it was only a matter of time before we found hair’s kryptonite…melanin. Melanin gives hair its colour, there are two types named Eumelanin that gives hair a brown or black colour and pheomelanin which gives blonde and red hair.
A highly concentrated laser is aimed at the hair which is absorbed by the melanin in the skin. The energy then heats up the hair safely which subsequently damages the follicle (which creates hair), hindering the future growth without harming and damaging skin in the surround area.
Who Is A Right Candidate?
As you will have noticed if you wear a black t-shirt on a sunny day you will feel hotter than if you had worn a white t-shirt. What has any of this got to do with laser hair removal? Trust me and keep reading it will all become a lot clearer. The lighter the colour the less amount of visible light being absorbed and converted to heat. Laser hair removal systems have taken the t-shirt concept and have applied it to melanin.
Since dark colours (black) convert a higher percentage of light into heat this means that people who have Eumelanin, which if we remember gives that individual dark coloured hair, are better candidates for laser hair removal as more heat is produced which increase the chance of the hair follicle being safely destroyed.
Varying skin types will provide different results:
When it comes to laser hair removal if you have light skin you are a good candidate. Usually if an individual has light skin they require less treatments then someone with darker skin.
People with medium skin can still be good candidates, however speaking generally the persons hair has a larger role to play. If you have a medium skin tone then more likely then not you will need more treatments then someone with light coloured skin.
Previously if you had dark skin then you would have been told that this particular treatment wouldn’t work for you…however with the ever increasing improvements in the laser hair removal industry there are now lasers for dark skin types too.
Like skin type, your hair type also plays an important role in determining if you are a suitable candidate.
As discussed earlier on anyone with dark hair (black/brown) is going to be a good candidate as the dark hair contains more pigmentation, allowing the laser beam to be absorbed to a larger degree.
Medium hair usually covers people that have brown hair (on the lighter side). Just as with the medium skin, a medium hair colour is still treatable but will most likely require more treatments than someone with dark hair.
Light hair is the hardest to treat– this is because those with light coloured hair such as blonde or red have phemelianin pigment which is less proficient at absorbing the laser light.
Note: Since white or grey air does not contain any pigment it is near impossible to treat people with these hair colours.
How Many Sessions Will I Need
The average course is between 4 to 8 treatments due to the lifecycle of the human hair (3 different stages mentioned above). Laser hair removal only works in the anagen phase (aka active growth stage) and as 90% of follicles will be in this stage at any one time, a full course of treatments are needed to make sure that all the follicles have been destroyed hindering future growth.
What Is The Waiting Time Between Treatments?
Once you have completed a treatment it is usually around 2 weeks before the treated hairs shed from the skin. After this the re-growth normally starts to occur 4 weeks later so usually you will have your following treatment every 6 weeks. However this can vary depending on the targeted treatment area.
Image of top 5 laser hair removal areas:
Top 5 areas for women include:
1. Upper Lip
2. Under Arms
3. Bikini Line
Top 5 areas for men include:
Is It Permanent?
Laser hair removal is known as a hair reduction solution. Even though some people who have the treatments have seen permanent results, generally speaking it reduces the amount of hairs that can grow in any given area. Don’t be fooled by the word reduction however as you can generally expect to see a 75% – 95% hair removal. Obviously this will depend on varying factors such as your hair and skin type as well other factors we will discuss further on.
There are a few things that you should do to prepare before your treatment. Firstly and most importantly you should have had a consultation with a dermatologist to understand the laser hair removal process. This consultation will include topics such as how the procedure works, are there any side effects and whether or not you would be a good candidate depending on your hair and skin colour.
Before you start your full course of treatments you should get a patch test done in the area you want your laser hair removal – this is very important as it will determine the intensity of the laser energy that will be required to achieve optimum results as well as revealing any side effects or problems that could arise from the treatment. You would rather a problem occur on the patch test as only a small area will be affected rather than undergoing a full treatment. Basically the main aim of patch test then is to fine tune the laser to yourself and to reveal if any, any side effects or problems that may occur with the treatment – this will minimise any chance of any side effects occurring and maximise the effectiveness of your results.
Avoid Sun beds And Tanning:
The skin should be kept as natural as possible. It is usually recommended that tanning should be avoided for around a month to six weeks prior to treatment. Also the same goes for any fake tan sprays and creams – these need time to completely fade before your treatment.
No Waxing, Plucking and Tweezing:
Because the hair is required to be in the follicle you should not wax, pluck, tweeze and thread for around 3-4 weeks prior to treatment. However the exception to this rule is if you are having laser hair removal on your face as hair on the facial area grows back at a faster rate – normally avoid the above techniques for a minimum of 2 weeks before. If you require removing your hair shaving is permitted as this method keeps the hair and follicle intact.
Also in addition to the above you should refrain from bleaching your hair.
Prepare The Skin:
The skin should be cleansed from any creams, lotions and cosmetics.
Post Treatment / Aftercare
After care is just as important as preparing for laser hair removal. To make sure that you achieve the best results you should follow these post treatment guidelines.
Immediately after your treatment you will most likely experience redness and bumping of the skin. This usually lasts for around 2-3 hours after the treatment however depending on your skin type if you have sensitive skin it can take or day or two for this to subside. If you experience any discomfort you can apply a cold compress to the area, also some after sun treatments can be used however make sure to ask your clinician before you apply.
Avoid Sun Exposure:
You should avoid spending too much time in the sun after treatments. Sun cream should be used at all times throughout the course of the treatments using a SPF 25 or higher.
Don’t Irritate The Treated Area:
Do not irritate the treated area by scratching or picking at the affected area.
Bathing and Showering:
You cannot have a bath or a shower during your treatments…only joking. You may continue to wash yourself however the treated area should only be washed with a mild soap. Avoid scrubbing and make sure to dry yourself through the process of patting and not rubbing when drying yourself with a towel.
It is important to mention that anywhere from between 5 to around 30 days after your treatment you may see shedding of the hair. Some people understandably mistake this for new growth – you can help remove this hair by washing very gently with a washcloth.
Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt?
This is one of the most common questions that surrounds laser hair removal. Many people have the treatment done without the need for anaesthetic however to reduce any chance of pain an anaesthetic cream can be applied to the area before hand to numb the treatment area immediately.
Most modern laser hair removal devices also have inbuilt cooling systems which also help to reduce any pain that may be felt.
Because pain tolerance varies between each individual some people will feel some pain whilst others will hardly feel a thing. Most people that do feel pain describe it as feeling like an elastic band being snapped across the skin.
Laser hair removal is FDA approved and is generally a safe procedure when carried out by a fully qualified and experienced laser hair clinician. Some of the side effects can include:
Normal Side Effects:
These side effects are normal and are experienced by the majority of people that get the laser hair removal treatment.
• Redness of the skin
Temporary Side Effects:
As the title suggests these side effects are temporary and can appear and disappear within a short period of time.
• Redness of the skin
• Slight Swelling
• Skin Blistering (chances of this happening with modern laser hair removal systems that have inbuilt cooling systems is rare.
• Hypo-Pigmentation – This again is quite rare – mainly seen on people that have dark skin
Herpes and Abnormal Scarring:
Anyone who carries herpes could see an outbreak with laser hair removal. This can usually be solved by antiviral medication being administered beforehand. Also anyone who has a history of abnormal scarring should speak to the clinician beforehand. If you are a carrier of herpes or have a history of abnormal scarring you should speak to your local GP before deciding on getting laser hair removal just to make sure the treatment will be safe for yourself.
Why should what you eat have an effect on laser hair removal? Well generally it doesn’t, however Beta Carotene can interfere with the treatment.
Beta Carotene is a group of natural chemicals that is known as carotenes or carotenoids. You have probably heard the word carotene before and know that it is responsible for the orange colour found in vegetables and fruit such as carrots.
Some example foods that contain Beta Carotene include carrots, squash, broccoli, lettuce and sweet potatoes.
Because Beta Carotene is deposited in the skin, it produces a slight yellow/orangey colour to your skin. This absorbs the laser energy which in effect stops it from reaching the hair follicle. Because Beta Carotene remains in the body for months after it is eaten it is recommended that anyone wanting to have laser hair removal should limit the amount of Beta Carotene they ingest.
The London Premier Laser clinic uses the latest, state of the art laser technology. The system we use is called Candela GentleLASE. The Candela GentleLASE is great for laser hair removal but can also be used to treat other medical conditions.
Please watch the video below to learn more about the Candela GentleLASE system:
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