How does laser hair removal work?

At the present time four laser wavelengths are available for the treatment of unwanted body hair. In essence, these wavelengths target pigment granules in the hair (melanin) in an effort to destroy hair follicles. Hair follicles are capable of producing hairs of various thickness and colors. Dark hair contains the pigment melanin which serves as the target for energy at these wavelengths. Four wavelengths, 694nm. produced by the Ruby laser, 755nm. produced by the Alexandrite laser, 800nm. produced by the Diode laser, and 1064nm. produced by the Neodymium-YAG laser, have been shown to be effective in the removal of pigmented hair. The pulsed laser energy is absorbed by the pigmented hair shaft and transferred to the surrounding follicle. The heat build-up caused by the absorption of energy by the hair itself is capable of creating follicular damage and retard or prevent future hair production by that follicle.

How successful is the process of laser hair removal?

Don’t pay attention to false and misleading claims by so called experts. Patients will achieve varying degrees of success. The application of these laser energies to the skin results in almost complete removal of all actively growing hairs. The number of hairs that are permanently removed as a result of one treatment can vary. Part of the difficulty in eradication of unwanted or excess hair lies in the fact that the follicle has tremendous regenerative capabilities and that these recuperative powers are highly variable from individual to individual and from one anatomic site to another.

In most instances multiple treatments are necessary in order to achieve permanent hair reduction and in some instances treatment may fail to permanently remove all the hair in a given anatomic site. In order to understand the process it is important to understand the biology of hair growth itself. Hair growth cycles are divided into three phases. The anagen follicle or growing hair is the major target for laser energy and represents the most vulnerable phase of the hair growth cycle. Telogen or resting hairs are not actively growing and appear to be more resistant to the laser energy. The transitional phase between anagen and telogen phases known as the catagen phase is brief but also relatively resistant to laser removal.

chin hair removal
Laser Hair Removal (chin)

Depending on the body site, various percentages of hairs are in the anagen, catagen and telogen phase. As a result, it is necessary to treat a given anatomic area more than once in order to attempt to achieve permanent hair removal. Since the anagen phase is most vulnerable, a period of one to three months between treatments is necessary to allow the resting or telogen phase hairs to once again enter the anagen cycle and become more sensitive to the laser energy.

How is the laser treatment performed?

Laser hair removal is a time-consuming but relatively straightforward process. You may be given a prescription for topical anesthetic cream and may also be instructed how to apply this cream (BLT) at home. We can also apply the cream in the office if desired. This cream greatly reduces the discomfort associated with the laser hair removal process. Prior to treatment the hairs will be shaved and the laser treatment will proceed. Treatment times vary from a few minutes for areas such as the chin and neck to a few hours for extensive areas of the legs, back and chest. After the procedure cool compresses and soothing gels are applied to the treated area and patients spend time relaxing before being discharged. Patients are asked to return in one week for a follow-up visit and then are examined monthly in order to determine when it is best to re-treat the involved areas.

What will I look like after treatment?

The application of laser energy to the skin results in a pink color and on occasion crusting in the area will develop lasting a few days. Discomfort similar to a sunburn may be noted over the first 24 hour period and in extensive cases Tylenol or mild Codeine containing analgesics may be used. In certain instances, especially in darker complected individuals, temporary pigmentation changes may be noted. One may notice hair within the follicles for up to two weeks after therapy, however, this will fall out leaving smooth, hair-free skin.

What do I have to do before the treatment begins?

During your initial consultation you will be asked to provide a detailed medical and hormonal history. When indicated, we will obtain blood tests in order to uncover any hormone-related causes which may be associated with the excess production of body hair. Patients who are darker skin type may use a bleaching cream (Hydroquinone 4%, or Kojic Acid) for three to four weeks prior to treatment in order to lessen the effects of brown melanin pigment in the skin surrounding the hair follicle.

What are the risks associated with laser hair removal?

Laser hair removal has proven to be a very safe procedure when performed in physicians offices, not at spas and strip malls. Since laser pulses are a constant energy, there is little chance of scarring associated with this process. In certain instances temporary increased or decreased pigmentation will be noted within the lasered sites, especially in more darkly pigmented patients. In certain cases there may be some degree of crusting during the postoperative period which is treated by the use of bland emollients or topical antibiotics.

Nurses and physicians are on call 24 hours a day to assist you through your postoperative period and to answer any questions you may have during this time.

What are the costs involved in the procedure?

Laser hair removal involves the use of sophisticated expensive laser equipment in order to deliver precise and effective energy pulses. During your initial consultation the areas to be treated will be determined and a fee quote per treatment session will be given to you. This fee involves the cost of the procedure, dressings and postoperative visits. The fee for re-treatment sessions at one to two month intervals may be the same or less than the initial treatment depending on the extent of follow-up treatment needed. Our aim is to provide safe, effective and affordable laser treatments for patients wishing to avail themselves of this service.

What can I expect?

Laser treatment for hair removal currently represents one of the most exciting areas within laser medicine and surgery. Patient variation and the nature of hair follicle growth make it difficult to predict the exact outcome in every case. We are committed to excellence and will attempt to provide a pleasing cosmetic result for all of our patients, however, no specific guarantees can be made with regard to the final outcome.