Most people with unwanted hair agree that traditional hair removal options such as shaving, waxing or plucking can be tedious if not painful. These removal options are also impermanent, making them time consuming. Laser hair removal is a popular alternative to these options, offering long-term or, in many cases, permanent hair removal for the appropriate candidates. Patients in Oregon and Washington can schedule consultations with Silver Falls Dermatology to learn more about laser hair removal options.
What is Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal is a treatment which selectively targets hair follicles to remove hair permanently or long-term. The treatment works by directing specified wavelengths that are absorbed by melanin within the hair follicle, effectively damaging them to prevent any future hair growth. Damaging the follicle in this way is what makes laser hair removal a more effective option compared to shaving, waxing or other methods. Laser hair removal can be an effective option for hair on the legs, underarms, chest, back or bikini area. Several laser hair removal devices are available for professional use; your Silver Falls Dermatology provider can explain the best device for your treatment during a consultation.
Who is a Good Candidate for Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal candidates typically have dark hair and light skin. This allows the laser to target the melanin within the hair follicle without causing damage to surrounding skin. In patients with lighter hair, the treatment may not be effective in disrupting hair growth. For those with darker skin, laser hair removal may cause damage or discoloration. However, as laser technologies advance, the number of patients who can safely receive laser hair removal grows. During a consultation, your laser hair removal provider will evaluate your skin tone and hair color. This is done using the Fitzpatrick table, which defines a safe range of skin tones for various treatment options. In addition, patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not undergo laser hair removal. At-home laser hair removal devices are available, but these are not generally advisable as it can be difficult to determine your candidacy without seeking an expert provider’s opinion. These at-home devices are typically not tested as rigorously as professional devices, meaning that they may not be as safe or effective.
The Laser Hair Removal Procedure
Prior to laser hair removal, you may receive a numbing or cooling topical treatment. Some devices use a cooling instrument, however, so this is not always necessary.
As the laser is directed to the treatment area, you will feel a warming or pinprick sensation. This occurs as the laser energy heats and damages the pigmented cells within the hair follicles. The laser hair removal process can take as little as a few minutes or over an hour depending on the size of the treatment area. During your consultation, your provider will explain expectations based on the technology used and the area where you are receiving treatment.
Laser hair removal only affects hair in the anagen phase of its growth cycle. This means that not all hairs within the treatment area will be removed in a single session, and multiple sessions are necessary. Most patients require two to six total treatment sessions to remove all of the hair in the targeted area. This will vary according to the treatment area, as hair growth speeds vary.
After Laser Hair Removal
Most patients will experience some redness, slight swelling, and sensitivity following laser hair removal. These side effects typically last no longer than a few hours. Gently applying ice to the area can help alleviate discomfort and swelling. Some patients may experience an initial skin reaction after the treatment, in which case your provider will apply a steroid cream to reduce inflammation. The skin will also be photosensitive following laser hair removal, so you should avoid direct sun exposure or indoor tanning for at least six weeks. Use SPF daily.
Following each laser hair removal session, the hair will gradually shed over several days. Laser hair removal is permanent for many patients, but some regrowth is possible. If hair does regrow, it will be much lighter and finer. Most patients who see hair regrowth after laser hair removal do not find it necessary to repeat their treatments.