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About laser hair removal
This technique makes use of laser light to produce permanent results. The light targets melanin in hairs which in turn converts the light energy into heat. The heat is then transferred to the hair's follicle, which in-turn produces inflammation, and this inflammation sends a signal to the follicle to cause it to go into its resting (Telogen) phase (Learn more about hair growth cycle).
If the patient has dark hair and pale skin then most of the light will be absorbed by the hairs. However, if the patient has dark skin and light hair then the light is more likely to be absorbed by the skin resulting in skin damage. Intense pulsed light (IPL) is often used for darker skinned patients.
The cost of removing hairs by laser is relatively high, but this type of treatment is one of the most effective in permanent hair removal.
A laser is a device that produces light of a single colour or wavelength. These hair removal lasers produce pulses of high-energy light that is taken up by the melanin pigment contained within the hair's shaft. However, the skin also has melanin which also absorbs the laser's energy. Therefore, the light has to be applied long enough to heat the hair, but not too long to heat up the surrounding skin, causing damage. The darker a patient's skin, the more difficult it is to avoid injuring the surface of the skin while performing treatments.
There are 3 main types of lasers used today, and depending on the type of hair and the colour of the skin, it is important to choose the most appropriate laser for each patient. An experienced specialist will be able to recommend the most appropriate type. The cost of each machine and therefore the costs of treatments have come down significantly since lasers were first developed and technology has improved.
Typically, an initial series of 5 to 7 sessions are administered at 1 to 2 month intervals, depending upon the location of the hairs on the body that requires attention. Cost of treatment will be dependent upon duration and number of sessions required. The reason a number of sessions are required is because at any one time some of the hair follicles will be in a resting phase. Therefore, there may be no hair in the follicle to absorb the laser's light. The resting phase typically lasts for 5 to 6 weeks, so further treatment will catch these resting follicles when they next move into their growth phase. Following the initial series of sessions, further treatments are administered, usually at progressively longer intervals.
After a single series of treatments, the hairs are usually reduced in amount and thickness for a very long period of time. However, they may not be completely gone. To keep an area completely free from hair, further sessions are always required. These further treatments may eventually be required only at yearly intervals, or even less frequently. This depends on the area being treated as well as the individual, as each person's circumstances will vary.
Any area of the body can be treated except around the eyes. The most common areas treated by laser are the face, upper lip, neck, chest, nipple, underarms, back, abdomen, bikini line, and legs.
Laser treatment of the bikini area has 2 significant benefits: first, it is a very cost-effective way to reduce or eliminate unwanted hairs; and secondly, it reduces or eliminates folliculitis. The bikini area is a common location for folliculitis, which is an inflammation or infection of the hair follicle. Patients with folliculitis will experience itchy and painful lesions, and often notice a hyperpigmentation and darkening of the skin as a result of the inflammation. By using lasers on the bikini line, the side result is that folliculitis is also often reduced or eradicated.
Although some patients may not currently have folliculitis they may still notice the effects of an earlier episode as this often leaves a reddened or darker skin tone. Many of these patients have seen that this reddening is also reduced after laser hair removal treatment.
Typically a patient will require 3 to 6 sessions to accomplish a permanent reduction in the majority (80-90%) of pubic hair in the bikini area. A session can be completed within 10 to 15 minutes and is usually not too uncomfortable. The hairs that remain are many times reduced in diameter, making them less of a cosmetic issue. Generally, this procedure receives high patient satisfaction.
The most common areas for a patient to want to remove facial hairs is on the upper lip, chin and on the sides of the face. Initially, a series of 3 to 5 sessions is required, followed by less frequent sessions as and when required.
Hair removal should not be performed by laser around the eyes (e.g. eyebrow and in-between the eyes); alternative methods such as electrolysis should be considered for these areas.
Many cases of abnormal facial hair growth are as a result of a hormonal imbalance. The cause of this must be determined by a specialist before the patient starts any treatment.
Removal of under arm hairs is one of the fastest procedures in laser therapy; typically a few minutes for each session, and therefore the costs are relatively low. 3 to 5 sessions should be sufficient, with further yearly sessions as and when required.
For some patients, hair on the back can be more than just an aesthetic issue. The hairs can become irritated, and itchy, and can cause their follicles to become infected. The effects are worsened with exercise, warm weather and associated sweating.
Depending on the hair's density, the treatments will vary in duration from 10 minutes to more than 1 hour. A single laser session can cover the whole back and is relatively well tolerated by the patient. Typically, after 4 to 6 sessions a permanent reduction in the majority (80%-90%) of hair can be achieved. Even those patients that do not achieve full permanent results will benefit from reduced irritation and sparser and thinner regrowth.
3 to 5 sessions will be sufficient to have long lasting effective results on the removal of leg hairs. However, treatments on the legs may take up to an hour due to the large area, and so can be relatively high in cost. Annual sessions may be needed to ensure that hairs do not grow back.
Chest and abdomen
3 to 6 sessions will be sufficient to have long lasting effective results. However, treatment of the chest or tummy may take up to an hour due to the large area. Annual follow up sessions may be needed to ensure hairs do not grow back.
For some people excessive arm hairs are unattractive and unsightly. 3 to 5 sessions will be sufficient to have long lasting effective results. However, relatively high-cost sessions on the arms may take between 20 and 60 minutes due to the large target area. Annual sessions may be needed to ensure hairs do not grow back.
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