For many men and women, unwanted hair can be a nuisance or a nightmare. Until recently, getting rid of it was painful, inconvenient, expensive and usually temporary.
Now, FDA approved laser technology can take care of unwanted hair safely, affordably and permanently. Laser hair removal is effective on just about any area of the body where smooth hair-free skin is desired, such as underarms, face, legs, bikini, back, chest and shoulders. Treatment of a small area can be done in just minutes, while large areas can be done in less than one hour. Permanent hair reduction can be seen after each treatment.
A series of treatments in recommended to achieve best results. A treatment schedule is customized for each patient.
How does laser hair removal work?
Light is absorbed by dark colours. If the summer sun shines on a car with black seats, the seats become extremely hot. White car seats do not. Laser light works in the same way. Hair removal lasers selectively target melanin, which gives hair a darker colour. White, blond or gray hairs, which lack this same melanin, cannot be effectively treated with lasers. When the energy of a laser is absorbed by a brown or black hair, the heat created can damage the hair follicle. The hair follicle is the part of the skin which grows hair. Damaging the follicle prevents further hair growth. Only hairs rooted in the follicle can be damaged by the laser which occurs during the anagen growth phase. Because of this, only a portion of the hairs are permanently removed during a laser treatment. A series of treatments are therefore required to get the best results.
What is the hair growth cycle and how does hair growth work?
Under normal circumstances hair growth in each hair follicle occurs on a cycle. There are three main phases of the hair growth cycle: anagen, catagen and telogen.
- Anagen (active) is the growth phase when the hair is rooted in the follicle. During anagen, the hair contains an abundance of melanin. This is the phase during which laser hair removal treatment is effective.
- Catagen (resting) is when the lower part of the hair stops growing, but does not shed, and the follicle shrinks.
- Telogen (shedding) is the last part of the hair growth cycle. It is the phase during which the old hair falls out in preparation for the development of new anagen hair.
How many treatments are required?
This depends on several factors, especially the area being treated. In general, five treatments are needed for most body areas to achieve good results. Treatments are usually recommended every six weeks. Facial hair in women usually requires more treatments. These are recommended every four weeks. Men with back hair also benefit from more than five treatments for best results.
What areas can be treated?
Almost anywhere. The only area we avoid is the eyebrows. (too close to the eyes)
Who are the best candidates?
The best candidates for laser hair removal have dark coarse hair and fair coloured skin. In these people, most of the laser’s energy is being absorbed by the hair and not by the skin, resulting in the most damage to hair follicles. When is comes to hair colour, good results may be seen with brown or black hair.
The laser has no effect on white, blond or gray hair. Although some lasers can only treat certain skin types, our LightSheer laser is specifically engineered to treat all skin colours.
Once the laser’s energy is absorbed by the hair shaft, heat is transmitted from the hair shaft to the surrounding tissue for several milliseconds after the laser pulse. The LightSheer laser has a cooling sapphire tip which protects the skin and surrounding tissue by absorbing any heat transmitted from the destroyed hair shafts.
Is laser hair removal permanent?
Each laser hair removal treatment will result in hair reduction. Also, the remaining hairs will become lighter and finer with each laser treatment. It takes more than one treatment to affect all hair follicles growing in an a rea. Most people achieve satisfactory clearance after a series of treatments, but individual results may vary depending on medical, genetic and hormonal factors, hair and skin colour and the area of the body treated. Lighter coloured hair may require more treatments than darker coloured hair. The underarms, bikini lines and legs are areas which respond best to laser treatments. A woman’s facial hair or a man’s back hair may require more treatments. At the end of a full course of treatment, the desired outcome is 50-95% clearance in the treated area. Some patients may have an infrequent touch-up after the initial set of treatments for any growth that develops as the body ages.
It has also been observed that some people are non-responders. The reason this occurs is usually unknown, but may be due to an underlying medical condition.
How should I prepare for treatment?
- Avoid tanning for 4 weeks or self tanning products for 2 weeks.
- Avoid waxing, tweezing and threading for 4 weeks.
- Avoid medications which cause photosensitivity reactions.
- Avoid Accutane for 6 months.
- There should be no tattoo, permanent make-up, rash or skin infection in the area to be treated.
- Patients prone to herpes should consider taking antiviral medication before and after treatment.
- Shave the area to be treated the day before treatment. It is best if the outline of where hair is growing is just slightly visible.
- You should not be pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
- You must never have received gold injections.
What should I expect after treatment? The healing process after laser treatment varies with several factors including skin colour and the area treated on your body. Slight redness or swelling usually only lasts a few hours, but can last longer. Visible stubble may occur for 2-3 weeks due to old hair being expelled from disabled follicles. This hair falls away easily with gentle rubbing.
Things to do:
- Apply aloe vera gel to the treated area until healed. Keep moisturized.
- When showering or washing, gently pat dry and do not rub.
- A “cold pack” may be placed over the area to reduce swelling for the first day.
Things to avoid:
- Avoid using any harsh topical creams (AHA, acne creams, anti-wrinkle creams, etc.)
- Avoid any heat such as hot baths, hot tubs, saunas or exercise that induces sweating for at least 3 days.
- Avoid friction from clothing, rubbing, scratching and do not pick or remove scabs and crusts. If there are no scabs or blisters, make-up may be used but removed gently.
- If underarms were treated, avoid deodorant until the next day.
- Avoid sun exposure of the treated area for 1 month. Cover up and use SPF 30 or higher should be applied to the area for the next 2 months to avoid skin changes and ” browning” which may occur with even minimal exposure to sunlight.
What are the possible causes of excessive hair growth and how can they affect treatments?
The causes of excessive hair growth pattern are many and varied. They include the following:
- Glandular and/or hormonal imbalances in women, including diseases causing these effects.
- Insulin resistance issues.
- Reactions to certain medications.
- Normal aging processes.
- Excessive temporary removal methods like waxing, tweezing, creams and depilatories, etc.
Candidates for laser hair removal with excessive hair growth should explore a possible underlying cause before starting laser treatments. If there is something in the patient’s body consistently triggering hair growth, laser treatments may appear to be ineffective because the body will keep developing new hair. In these cases it will always seem like there has been no hair reduction after treatment, when in fact it’s NEW hair that is being produced. Women with hair growth pattern consistent with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) such as upper lip, chin, cheeks, etc. should see an endocrinologist and have hormonal tests taken before embarking on a course of laser hair removal treatments. Men can get tested for insulin resistance etc. Patients should speak to their primary care physicians if they are concerned that an underlying medical condition is causing excessive hair growth.
Remember, laser can affect the hair that’s currently present, but cannot prevent NEW hair from developing.
How do I determine my Fitzpatrick skin type?
In 1975, Thomas B Fitzpatrick, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, developed a classification system for skin typing. This system was based on a person’s response to sun exposure in terms of the degree of burning and tanning the individual experienced. For successful removal of hair, wrinkles, veins, sun spots, and scars using LASER technology, it is necessary determine your correct skin type.
TYPE I: Highly sensitive, always burns, never tans.
Example: Red hair with freckles or Albino.
TYPE II: Very sun sensitive, burns easily, tans minimally.
Example: Fair-skinned, Fair-haired Caucasians.
TYPE III: Sun sensitive skin, sometimes burns, slowly tans to light brown.
Example: Darker Caucasians, European mix.
TYPE IV: Minimally sun sensitive, burns minimally, always tans to moderate brown.
Example: Mediterranian, European, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian.
TYPE V: Sun-insensitive skin, rarely burns, tans well.
Example: Hispanics, Afro-American, Middle Eastern.
TYPE VI: Sun-insensitive, never burns, deeply pigmented.
Example: Afro-American, African, Middle Eastern.
Can tanning affect laser treatments?
Although many lasers cannot be used in patients with tanned skin, the LightSheer laser has special settings which allow it to treat hair safely. It is probably best, however, to wait 4 weeks after sun tanning to begin laser treatments and to use SPF 30 or greater for four weeks after each treatment.
What should I expect during my office consultation?
You will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire to help plan your treatment. You will then be shown a brief video all about laser hair removal. If time permits, those who wish can usually have their first treatment following their consultation. (see: How should I prepare for treatment?)
Our laser works rapidly making treatment times very brief. Facial treatments can be done in just minutes, while underarms and bikini lines usually take just 10 to 15 minutes. Most patients can easily return to their usually activities, though slight redness may be present for a few hours. Expect to be in the office for 30 to 45 minutes for your consultation. Subsequent appointments can be much shorter, depending on the area being treated.