What to know about laser hair removal

Unwanted body and facial hair can have a negative impact on how we feel, what we wear and what we do. Choices to hide or remove unwanted hair include bleaching, shaving, plucking, using creams and epilation (if the device can take out multiple hairs at one time).

Longer term, potentially more effective options include electrolysis, which utilises an electrical current to rid the body of individual hair follicles.

Another option is laser therapy, available at laser clinics in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and throughout Australia.

So, what exactly is laser therapy? And what do you need to know before you go for your laser hair removal treatment?

Read on to get all the info on laser therapy.

How does laser therapy work?

Lasers emit a light wavelength utilising one specific colour. When it’s directed toward the skin, the light’s energy is transferred to the hair and skin pigment melanin. This laser then becomes quite hot and damages the surrounding tissue.

But to minimise damage to the surrounding tissue and remove hair permanently, the laser needs to target specific cells. The cells referred to here are the hair follicle stem cells, which sit within the hair bulge. As the skin surface also contains melanin, which laser therapists work to avoid damaging when providing treatment, recipients are carefully shaved before undergoing laser treatment.

Does laser therapy permanently remove hair?

Laser hair removal treatment can either permanently remove hair or permanently reduce the density of the hair growing in a particular area of the body. Permanent hair density reduction means some hairs will regrow after one course of therapy and patients will require ongoing laser treatment to continue to stem hair growth.

Permanent laser hair removal means none of the hairs in the area treated with lasers will regrow upon completion of a first course of therapy. No ongoing laser treatment is required after this course of therapy.

How many treatments are required?

The amount of treatments you’ll require depends on your Fitzpatrick skin type. This classifies your skin by its sun sensitivity, its likelihood of tanning and its colour.   

Fitzpatrick types one and two are people with white skin who burn easily and rarely tan. People with dark hair can usually reach permanent hair removal after four to six treatments conducted every four to six weeks. People with fair hair will typically only achieve hair reduction and after their first treatment course they may require six to 12 treatments every month.

Type 3 includes light brown skin that sometimes burns and slowly tans to light brown. People with dark hair typically achieve permanent hair removal with six to 10 treatments conducted every four to six weeks. People with fair hair will typically only achieve reduction. After their first course of treatment they may require three to six repeat treatments every month.

Types 4 and 5 include people with moderate brown to dark brown skin who rarely burn and tan well. People with dark hair can typically achieve permanent hair reduction with six to 10 treatments conducted every four to six weeks. They may require ongoing removal maintenance every three to six months. Unfortunately, people with fair hair are unlikely to respond to such treatment.

Re-treatments are undertaken when the hair has grown enough to reach the bulge’s level.

Is there any risk of side effects?

Your specialist will advise you to wear goggles to avoid any risk of eye injury during treatment. Initial treatments often come with some pain, as this is mainly due to not removing all the hair in the area to be treated before the laser procedure. Hairs missed when shaving the area will absorb the laser energy and heat the surrounding skin surface. The pain diminishes over time and with more treatments.  

The skin typically feels hot for 15-30 minutes after laser treatment. There may be swelling or redness for up to 24 hours after the treatment. More serious side effects include too much or too little skin pigmentation, blisters or permanent scarring.

This typically happens with people who have had a recent suntan and the laser settings haven’t been adjusted accordingly. Finally, these side effects can occur if the recipient is taking particular medications that don’t respond well with treatment. You should always consult your specialist if you have any concerns pre-treatment.

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