How is laser hair removal different from other hair removal methods?
How does laser hair removal differ from other hair removal methods? To understand this question, you first need to understand what laser hair removal is?
What is laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal is a medical procedure that uses a beam of light to remove or reduce unwanted hair from many body areas. Laser hair removal is one of the most effective and efficient methods of long-term hair removal currently available.
How does laser hair removal work?
The hairs in our skin are contained inside tube-shaped sacs called hair follicles.
When a laser device is pressed against a body part, the laser device emits a beam of light that the pigment of the hair follicle will absorb. This pigment is called melanin. This process attacks the hair at the root and the follicle without damaging the skin around it.
As the pulse of light gets converted into heat energy, the hair follicles are damaged so that they will not produce hair anymore. This is why laser hair removal also inhibits or delays future hair growth.
The scientific principle behind this process is selective photothermolysis, which means destruction by heat. The melanin in the hair follicles is the chromophore (it means that it represents the specific target of the laser light). It happens because melanin can respond to specific wavelengths that can penetrate it.
What are the types of lasers?
There are many lasers, and many are effective in hair removal. The difference between them is their wavelength. Some of the lasers used for this purpose are diode laser, ruby laser, alexandrite laser, intense pulsed light source, and neodymium laser.
On which body part can I get laser hair removal?
You can get laser on the face, legs, chin, upper lip, back, arm, armpits, bikini line, etc. It’s possible to treat nearly any body part, except the eyelid or surrounding area and skin with tattoos.
Does laser work on white hair?
As the melanin is the target of laser, pigmented hair is more susceptible to being treated. However, in white bleached or grey hair, there is no melanin, which means that the laser would not work well.
How long does it take for laser hair treatment to work?
Multiple treatments are required to achieve satisfactory results. Typically, it will take 12 to 16 treatments to achieve an entire clear area, but some may need only eight sessions. The interval between treatments will vary depending on the treated area you are targetting.
The European guide of Lasers in Dermatology also suggested the same. It is dependent from person to person, but most dermatologists agree that it would take up to 8 weeks for the hair to start falling out. Also, it is recommended to carry out maintenance laser treatment every 3 - 6 months to maintain the hair removal results you have achieved.
However, there’s no formal recommendation about the ideal frequency of sessions, as long it depends on the area to be treated, the characteristics of the hair, and many individual factors of each person.
Why are several laser sessions necessary for definitive results?
The reason is that hair grows in three different phases, and for the laser to be effective and destroy the air, the hair needs to be in the growth phase.
This phase, in which hair grows actively from the follicle, is called the anagen phase and is characterised by a highly concentrated level of melanin that makes the hair susceptible to the laser. During the telogen phase, the hair follicle is resting.
Several sessions are necessary to capture each hair in that growth phase because each body area has a different anagen/telogen ratio. For instance, the armpit and bikini lines are higher than the legs, so these areas respond better to laser treatment.
What happens during the treatment?
The user will receive special goggles that you will wear as eye protection from the laser.
The professional might shave the area if necessary. Then, a cold gel or a topical anaesthetic will be applied to the skin to reduce pain or discomfort.
The laser device will then be adjusted according to the characteristics of the hair and the skin. A hand-held laser instrument, sometimes with a cooling device on the tip, will be pressed to the skin while a pulse of light is given to the treatment area.
For a small area, it takes only a few minutes. However, for a larger size, such as the back, it might take even 1 hour.
You might feel discomfort and a cold sensation. Not many, but some people may feel discomfort. Pain all depends on the user's pain threshold. The pain often gets described as a rubber band getting snapped against the skin. Most users of the Bareskin device do not experience any pain.
After the procedure, you may want an ice pack or some cream to ease any discomfort.
What happens after the treatment?
For some hours or one day after the treatment, you might notice redness or swelling, similar to sunburned skin.
Over the following weeks, the treated hair will fall out.
For some weeks after laser hair removal treatments, avoid sunlight or tanning beds and use sunscreen daily.
What results can I expect from laser hair removal?
Hairs do not fall out immediately, but you will see them reducing over days to weeks.
Laser hair removal doesn't guarantee permanent hair removal and results vary significantly.
However, most people experience significant results after some months. When hair grows again after treatment, it's generally lighter in colour and more refined.
It is recommended to receive maintenance laser treatments for long-term hair reduction.
Are there any side effects?
The most common side effects are skin irritation, swelling, redness, and pigment changes. (medical terms - hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation). Blisters, erythema, and perifollicular oedema are rare adverse reactions. Most complications are temporary.
What makes laser hair removal different from other hair removal options?
Laser is different in two ways. Way less pain involved and so much faster. If you have ever done waxing or Electrolysis, you would know about the pain involved. Waxing removes body hair by placing hot wax on the skin and then removing the hair follicles by pulling it out of the hair socket.
Waxing is known to be extremely painful for most people. This procedure also causes ingrown hair when the hair starts growing again, and it may get stuck and cause ingrown infections. Electrolysis is just as bad in terms of pain. Electrolysis uses a device that electrifies or electrocutes hair follicles. So basically, the user's hair follicles get electrocuted hair follicle by hair follicles. As you can imagine, this hair removal is rather painful.
Laser hair removal may not be as fast as these methods, but they do not cause ingrown hair or are not as pain full. Also, after using the laser hair removal, your hair will go into semi-permanent hair removal, which can last for months.
But with waxing, shaving and other hair removal methods, you will have to undergo the same procedure many times. These are the big differences between laser hair removal and other hair removal methods.
Why is laser better than other types of hair removal?
Most methods of hair removal are time-consuming, expensive, or painful.
Shaving, epilators, and depilatory creams work by cutting off the hair at skin level. For this, the hair usually grows back in one to three days. However, even if painless, they might cause irritation and ingrown hairs. They are relatively cheap methods, but they have to be done repeatedly.
Waxing is a standard method. It generally causes pain, depending on the personal threshold. It lasts longer as the hair is removed from the root. Hair needs to be given some time to grow out between waxes to have good results. It was a bit more expensive. It has contraindications and side effects, and it can be a messy and painful procedure for many people.
Electrolysis works by destroying the root of each hair at the follicle with needles and an electric current, targeting each strand of hair at a time. However, it can be time-consuming and painful.
Laser Hair Removal is one of the longest-lasting methods. This procedure is precise and quick. Moreover, it is possible to shave in between treatments. It is less painful than other methods. It prevents ingrown hairs and can remove hair from almost any part of the body.
Medically reviewed by: Dr. Irene Mazzuca MD