Laser hair removal, like Intense Pulsed Light (IPL treatments, works by a process called selective photothermolysis. In laser hair removal, the energy of the laser is absorbed disproportionately by the hair and especially the hair follicles and transformed into heat, destroying the hair follicle.
Typically, after 3-5 treatments, over 80% of hair in the target area will be removed. To maintain complete hairlessness in the treated area, semiannual maintenance sessions may be necessary. The treatments are relatively short, taking, for example, approximately an hour for removing back hair, less than 1% of the time required for electrolysis.
In general the procedure is relatively painless, compared with, for example, hair removal by waxing. Discomfort is felt more by persons with thick, dark hair, although as the amount of hair reduces at each treatment, the discomfort is also likely to decrease. Discomfort also varies with skin color, since darker skin absorbs more of the laser light than lighter skin. Discomfort also varies with the skill of the practitioner, so it is important to make sure your doctor or technician is an experienced hand at the laser.
There is a negligible risk of scarring, especially if your doctor or technician is proficient. It is likely, however, that you will experience a temporary pigmentation change, either a slight lightening or darkening of the skin.
There are many different types of lasers used in laser hair removal. The most common are:
- Alexandrite-A long-pulsed laser that penetrates deep into the skin, studies show 81-95% reduction in female facial hair after 3-5 treatments, and a 43% reduction in bikini-area hair after just one treatment
- Diode-A small laser which derives its light from small diodes of light. Similar to lasers popularly used by dentists. Little data exists on hair reduction, but one study observed hair reductions at 34-53% after six monthly treatments.
- Q-Switched Nd:YAG-Data suggests that this laser is more effective and less painful than alexandrite lasers.
- Ruby-The best-documented laser used for hair removal. On average, patients experience 56% reduction of hair at 6 months after two treatments.
If you are interested in pursuing laser hair removal, contact one of the doctors in this directory. Your doctor will explain your options and his or her personal experience with laser hair removal and other options such as IPL.
Read more articles about skin care.