Simply Hair Removal
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Laser Hair Removal

If you're looking for a permanent solution to getting rid of facial or body hair, it won't be long before you come across ads for laser hair removal which seem like the answer to your prayers.

But unfortunately it's not a simple matter of paying your money and your problem is no more.

Laser hair removal is a relatively new solution to the problem of excess hair. Although it was used experimentally for some years, it has only been available to the general public since the 1990s.

The treatment consists of targeting a laser to "attack" darkly pigmented facial and body hair, while leaving the lighter skin unharmed. This means that it can be more easily used on individuals who have fair skin and dark unwanted hair and it is not effective on those with excess grey, light or red hair.

Some methods which are called laser hair removal actually use a xenon flash lamp which emits full-spectrum intense pulsed light(IPL). This is not a laser as such but this method of removing hair works on the same principles.

How Effective is Laser Hair Removal?

Hair grows and regenerates from the papilla region of the skin. Lasers can only penetrate the skin by a small amount - which may be as little as 2mm and while this may be enough to target some hair, coarse hairs are often generated much deeper within the skin - about 7 - 8mm. Lasers lose energy the deeper they penetrate and so become less effective.

Although the FDA has approved laser treatment as offering permanent reduction in the amount of hair growth, they do not allow the term permanent removal to be used for lasers. And even then their definition of permanent is not what you and I would expect - they term a treatment permanent if the hair is reduced for just one growth cycle - which may be just a few months. Details of how you can check whether a particular device you are thinking of using for laser treatment has been approved for use in hair removal can be found at the FDA website. For example, a search for the Tria hair removal laser system will bring up a copy of the official approval document.

No studies at the time of writing (10/06) have proven that laser hair removal is effective over a period of years.

With this in mind, it is a matter of some debate whether the hair reduction you might experience with laser or Intense Pulsed light is worth the cost and hassle of treatments.

A beauty therapist writes for Wikipedia about her experiences using laser hair removal:

"My laser clinic performs various laser skin procedures including laser hair removal. However after several years of practicing laser hair removal I have discontinued treatment with most of my laser hair removal systems. I have not seen real efficacy in removing unwanted hair. Usually the hairs are "shocked" into dormancy for a period of months to years. Regrowth is much slower than with traditional methods. Still in terms of the cost and the hassle of never ending treatments, I recommend my patients stick to a regimen of shaving, waxing, or plucking. A very small number of my patients have had good clearance with the laser. However even these patients are stuck manually epilating the sparse hairs that just will not respond to laser. I would also like to add that my practice's results are not uncommon from what colleagues have told me."

Yet laser hair removal may be worth it for you if you have large areas of excess hair to remove - as you may find laser treatment an effective way of quickly removing hair from some parts of the body and may find it more convenient than other methods for large areas even if you do not experience permanent removal of hair. It often depends on your budget.

How Painful is Laser Hair Removal?

Laser Hair Removal ads are not allowed to claim that the treatment is pain free - it is not! Cooling devices (using a chilled gel, contact cooling, cryogen spray or air cooling) are generally used to reduce the discomfort involved.

Number of Laser Treatments Required

Multiple treatments are required to experience results as the laser can only act on hair at the right stage of growth - resting hair follicles are not damaged by the laser. The beauty salon or laser hair removal clinic offering treatment will probably advise taking a package of treatment over several months. With larger areas such as legs or back you may have to return over an even longer period.

Treatments are usually spaced out with a month or two between each session depending on the area to be treated.

Advantages of Laser Hair Removal

  • Quick to clear large areas of unwanted hair
  • You may very well experience a permanent reduction in hair growth
  • Treatment available for most parts of the body
  • Treatments spaced a month or two apart
  • Short treatment time compared to electrolysis

Disadvantages of Laser Hair Removal

  • Expensive
  • You will have to deal with some regrowth
  • Not suitable for all hair colors, skin types

See Also