Laser Hair Removal 101

Laser Hair Removal 101

Updated 20/10/2020

Did you know we humans used to be completely covered in hair growth?

Oh, how we have evolved.

“Hirsutism” is the medical term for excess hair growth.

The most effective and permanent way to treat someone with this condition is with a laser.

Helping our clients get rid of embarrassing hair growth and knowing we are making a real difference in their confidence, makes laser hair removal a very rewarding treatment to perform.

Causes of excess hair growth

  • the pill
  • steroids
  • thyroid
  • genetics
  • medication
  • hormones

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a problem that affects between 5–15% of women and often presents as a male hair pattern or acne.

So, why have laser hair removal?

  • it helps to reduce scarring
  • there is minimal maintenance
  • it offers long term reduction of hair
  • it reduces the number of ingrown hairs

A common question often asked by our clients is, why do I require more than one treatment?

The reason a course of laser hair removal is recommended is that it’s important to catch hair in the anagen stage of hair growth, or the ‘active stage’.

When the hair is fully connected to the blood supply, it is impossible to tell at what stage the hair growth is at, so a course of treatments will remove the hair when it is at its most active.

What exactly is laser hair removal?

Laser works by beaming a concentrated light into the hair follicle; the pigment absorbs this light which then destroys the hair.

Each laser pulse takes less than a second. Small areas include the underarm, lip, and chin, which can take minutes to treat. Areas such as the arms, legs, chest, and back may take 30 minutes or more.

Laser only treats dark, coarse hairs; it will not treat white, blonde, grey, or red hair; this is because the laser is attracted to pigment.

At our clinic, we recommend six to twelve treatments and then regular maintenance, over time, treatment is pushed out to just a couple of times a year; exactly how often depends on the client’s hormonal hair growth.

We believe honesty is the best policy with our clients, we always explain that laser hair removal is not permanent; we aim to get an 80 to 90% reduction of unwanted hair, so our clients are not under any false illusions about their future treatments.

Prepping for laser hair removal

  • before undergoing laser hair removal treatment, we recommend against plucking, tweezing, or threading, which stimulates hair growth; turning it from fine, vellus hair into coarse, terminal hair
  • ideally, you don’t want to be waxing, because the laser targets the root of the hair, which is temporarily removed by waxing
  • it is really important that you are wearing no fake or gradual tan, and that the areas being treated have not been directly exposed to the sun, because laser is attracted to the pigment in the skin
  • ideally, the length of your hair should be a few millimeters above the skin’s surface before treatment
  • so you get the most from your treatment, the laser light is always adjusted to your particular colour, thickness, and location of hair
  • for those who have more pigment in the skin, you will be prone to marking easily, we always advise using a pigment prevention cream five days from the day laser treatment is performed. This mask contains heat shock proteins and helps to eliminate any concerns with burning

Ipl versus laser

A question often asked by our clients is, what is the difference between these two treatments?

IPL has a multi-wavelength, which targets more than one structure in the skin, such as pigment, hair, or veins – because it’s not a direct wavelength, the light is scattered, meaning it doesn’t do one thing well.

IPL can also lead to a number of undesirable effects, especially with Fitzpatrick skin types 4,5, and 6; this increases the risk of burning and hyper or hypo-pigmentation.

Instead, we recommend using a medical-grade laser – Candella – and a cooling system, because heat is focused in one area and the laser emits only a single wavelength, it does a great job of directly targeting the hair in the follicle.

Understanding the consultation process

Below is a list of questions you can expect to be asked before treatment:

  1. What areas are you interested in having treated?
  2. What do you normally do for hair removal?
  3. In the last two weeks, have you been in the sun or had a fake or gradual tan on the area to be treated? If the answer is yes, the treatment cannot be performed, as laser light is attracted to the pigment in the skin.
  4. How long ago did you have hair removal?
  5. Have you waxed or plucked in the last four weeks? Again, if the answer is yes, this may indicate that your hair will grow back quickly, drawing blood to the hair follicle.
  6. Before a laser treatment can be performed, hairs must be no longer than 2 cm as the hair must be showing above the surface in order to target the hairs.
  7. You are allowed to shave or trim between treatments, but no plucking, tweezing, waxing, or threading.
  8. Are you aware of any hormonal imbalances you may have, such as PCOS?
  9. Are you pregnant?
  10. Are you currently on any medication? If you are on Roaccutane for instance, you cannot have a laser for six months, as this medication thins the skin.
  11. Due to the intensity of the heat, it’s normal for the skin to appear a little swollen and red, so it’s important that you avoid heat treatments such as the sauna, direct heat, or the gym for 24 hours after treatment.
  12. It can take up to two weeks for your hair to completely fall out of the follicle, so you need to be exfoliating from the following day.

Conclusion

Laser is a medical treatment and should not be taken lightly, because if administered incorrectly, there is a real potential to do harm.

Anyone, whether trained or not, can legally operate a laser machine; a scary thought when some of the side effects include burning, pigment changes including hypopigmentation, hyperpigmentation, scarring, and reactivation of herpes viruses.

We don’t write this to scare you, because laser does have fantastic results, and in the right hands it is safe and effective with results far superior to conventional methods of hair removal – it is your skin, so you need to make sure the hands that administer your treatment are well trained.

Many of the reactions linked to laser can be minimised, especially with the correct use of wavelength for the person’s skin and hair type, and by using a cooling system on the skin.

Ensuring you have a thorough consultation and are offered sound post-treatment advice is also key if the treatment is to be administered safely.

7 thoughts on “Laser Hair Removal 101

  1. Rita says:

    Love the article Samantha! Going to take some ideas down in that consultation process to use for my own laser clinic. I also love the fact you’re upfront and honest with your clients letting them know only 80 to 90 percent of their hair will be removed.

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      Shelley, I honestly wish I could, but pigmentation is so complicated that everyones skin needs to be addressed on their own merits. Also I am going to have to tell you, that rarely do pigmentation creams work, they are good for lightening and brightening superficial pigmentation, but anything deeper needs to be addressed with laser, providing your skin is not to light you will get a good result, as it literally pulls the pigment from deep within the dermal layers. Hope this helps Samantha

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