There’s no shortage of treatment options for getting rid of unwanted hair in the Seattle market these days. Whether it’s shaving, waxing, or creams, all of these hair removal methods have one thing in common: they’re not permanent. Laser hair removal, however, is a permanent method of ridding your body of hair. Read on to find out more about how laser hair removal works.
How Hair Removal Works
Laser hair removal is a complex medical procedure in which a laser beam targets individual hair follicles underneath the skin. Laser devices send concentrated light beams through the skin, which are then absorbed by the dark pigments in the hair follicle shafts called melanin.
The laser damages each of these hair follicle shafts, which stunts future growth. Laser hair removal is one of the most effective methods for removing hair; however, it doesn’t guarantee permanent hair removal, especially if you only have one treatment or are targeting areas with more hair. It normally takes several laser hair removal treatments to get permanent results, especially when dealing with dense hair.
Types of Hair Removal Procedures
There are several different types of laser hair removal methods, and your physician can tell you which type they use and how hair removal works with their preferred method(s). The first lasers approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for hair removal and reduction were the Ruby, Alexandrite, Diode, and intense pulsed light methods. The Ruby and Alexandrite laser systems have a shorter wavelength, which means they can’t penetrate as deep as other methods. They’ve also been known to produce side effects such as pigment changes, which is the lightening or darkening of the skin. Diode laser systems have a longer wavelength, which means light can penetrate deeper under the skin without causing the side effects of the Ruby or the Alexandrite. This means the Diode hair removal system can be used on darker skin colors. Intense pulsed light delivers the widest range of light, and is used with several different machines, each of which produces different results.
Nd: Yag is a newer laser hair removal system that’s capable of treating all skin colors. However, data on long-term hair removal is insufficient at this point.
Long story short, consult with your physician to determine the method that’s best for your skin type rather than choosing one because it’s the best price or has the best website.
What to Expect with Hair Removal
Laser hair removal should be performed by a licensed physician, most often a dermatologist. It’s important to understand that lasers work best on people with light skin and dark hair, because it’s hard for the dark pigments in the skin to absorb this type of light.
Before you have a laser hair removal treatment, your physician will provide you with goggles to protect your eyes. The physician may also apply an anesthetic to your skin to reduce any discomfort during treatment, depending on your specific treatment type.
During the procedure, your physician will use a hand-held laser on the areas you identified for hair removal. He or she may also use a cooling device to protect your skin. When the doctor initiates the laser treatment, a beam will pass through your skin to the hair follicles. If you’re having a small area treated, such as your face or hands, it may only take several minutes. Larger areas like your back and legs can potentially take several hours.
Once the procedure is complete, you might experience some redness and swelling for a couple hours. A slight burning sensation can also stick around for a day or two. After a laser hair removal treatment, it’s important to wash your skin gently with soap and water. Avoid picking the skin and avoid the sun for at least a week afterwards. Always wear sunscreen when you’re outside in the future. You can expect a 10-to-20% reduction in hair growth with each treatment on average, and you should continue treatments every 4-to-8 weeks, depending on the plan you and your physician decide upon. You may need an additional maintenance treatment every 6-to-12 months after that as well.
Side Effects and Risks of Hair Removal
You can expect to experience minor discomfort and irritation for a day or two. The most common side effects of laser hair removal treatment include temporary discomfort, swelling, crusting, and redness. These side effects should only last a few days at most. If they last longer, call your physician immediately.
Other potential side effects that may occur in a small percentage of patients include blisters, herpes simplex outbreaks, bacterial infections, and temporary skin lightening or darkening.
Again, laser hair removal does not guarantee hair will not grow back. However, by understanding how laser hair removal works and developing a detailed game plan with your physician, you can increase your odds of future success with a Seattle hair removal treatment.
For more information, contact us at Island Dermatology today.