Spa 101: Laser Hair Removal
Fifty years ago, it would’ve been a Back-to-the-Future-type of experience; who would’ve thought that we’d be using something as technologically advanced as lasers to aid in hair removal? Of course, 50 years ago was 50 years ago, but FDA-approved laser hair removal actually became commercially available in the mid-1970s! While it might still sound like a scary procedure to some, laser hair removal has been practiced by cosmetic physicians and trained specialists for decades now and can be a no-fuss way get rid of unwanted hair, anywhere on your body. And although the general opinion is that laser hair removal is permanent, and the FDA approved it as “permanent reduction,” it doesn’t always work on everyone.
What is it and how does it work?
Laser hair removal is a procedure where hair is removed from the body using a long pulse laser. A hand-held laser device, operated by a specially-trained laser specialist or a doctor depending on where you go, sends pulsed light out onto the skin to disable the hair follicle. Generally, it takes about 10-14 days for the hair to fall out. Since other hairs are at different points of the growth cycle, several treatments are necessary to completely disable all of the follicles.
There are actually ideal candidates for laser hair removal based on skin tone and hair color. Since the lasers target darker pigments, the ideal candidate is someone with fair skin, and darker, coarser hair. Anyone interested in getting the procedure should get a consultation.
What to Expect:
- While your hair may not be gone forever, you should see a noticeable reduction and won’t need to shave or wax as much before the laser treatments.
- As with most non-invasive cosmetic procedures, multiple treatments are needed – usually 4-6 treatments, spaced out about a month apart to achieve the best results.
- Each treatment will vary in time, depending on the size of the area being treated – each appointment can take range from either a few minutes or a few hours. A smaller area, such as the bikini or the under arm, can take as little as ten to fifteen minutes, whereas the back or leg can take up to an hour.
- Laser hair removal prices vary, but for the most part, it’s a more costly procedure than a waxing or threading appointment, especially since it requires multiple treatments. Ask about package rates wherever you go to get the treatment done to get a better deal.
Side Effects/Ouch Factor:
- While most people can expect a bit of a temporary rash, the discoloring will go away and leave no side effects. Since everyone is different though, some have reported permanent skin discoloring and uneven skin tone in the treated area. Be sure to listen to your practitioner and follow post-treatment care as directed.
- Depending on the type of laser used, hair type, body area getting treated, and personal threshold, the discomfort level of the treatment will vary.
- The first session generally hurts the most, and then subsides with further visits; some say the feeling is like a rubber band being snapped against the skin.
- Those with thick, dark hair will usually experience a little more pain than those with thin hair, because darker hair absorbs more of the laser light.
How to prepare before your treatment:
- No need to grow your unwanted hair out before the treatment. Depending on the laser, hair can be shaved even on the day of treatment, or require a few days worth of growth.
- Avoid tanning or sunburn prior to the procedure. Laser hair removal has not shown a high success rate with people with red or blonde hair and darker skin tones.