Ditching Your Razor For A Laser?
by Dr. Suzanne Gokel, DO
co-written with Jasonjit Singh
Is shaving getting under your skin? Are you tired of constantly tweezing and waxing? Are you ready for permanent smooth, soft skin? Then there’s a good chance laser hair removal may be right for you. Lasering is an effective way to permanently reduce hair growth. If you’re tired of dealing with body and facial hair on a daily basis, this may be the best option.
Laser hair removal works by emitting laser light that targets hair pigments at the follicle. This damages the follicle causing it to inhibit or delay hair growth. Be wary of any potential side effects from the treatment such as blisters, pain, pigment changes and skin burns.
Ideally it works best on people with light skin and dark hair. This treatment can be riskier for darker skinned people because some lasers have trouble distinguishing between hair pigments and skin pigments. Keep in mind that lasers come in different wavelengths and some are better designed for darker skin than others. This issue can lead to hypo/hyper-pigmentation scarring. While the scarring often goes away after a few months, there is a risk it can persist. Laser hair removal also does not work as well on people with blonde hair in the areas being treated due to the lack of detectable pigment. While the ideal candidate is someone with light skin and dark hair, it is always worth getting a consultation and exploring options.
It is also good practice to ask a physician about any concerns you may have prior to starting a treatment program. One should consult with a doctor to determine if they are a good candidate for hair removal before going through with any kind of program. The majority of the time, people achieve great results which can be a getting-ready game changer. Even with only 50-70% success in hair reduction, the need for other modes of hair removal can be dropped.
Laser Hair removal typically requires 6-8 sessions for optimal results. These sessions are usually spaced out every 4-8 weeks based on the typical life cycle of hair, and also depending on the part of the body being treated. So it can take as much as up to 12-18 months to complete the process.
During that time, it is important to minimize risk while preparing and maintaining proper skincare practices. This includes:
- Avoiding excess sun exposure prior to treatment, as well as the weeks following the treatment. Tanned skin is at higher risk for scarring and pigment changes (as described above).
- Wear sunscreen daily, and if outdoors reapply every 2 hours especially to the areas undergoing treatment, such as legs or arms. Also apply sunscreen after a laser treatment.
While undergoing treatments, communicate to your doctor or nurse if you are experiencing a lot of discomfort. This is a guide to what precautions one should take and for understanding the effects of laser hair removal on your body. We do not expect you to ‘grin and bear’ through the treatment. After treatment, apply a cooling agent to help with pain and tenderness.
By taking the necessary steps to protect your skin, you will maximize your results for great looking skin!