Melanin is a natural pigment found in certain cells of our body that is responsible for giving our hair, eyes and skin color. The more melanin produced by your body, the darker your hair, skin or eyes will be. Laser hair removal relies upon the fact that the melanin in your hair absorbs light. Since light is energy, any absorbed light creates heat.
The first trick is to get the pigment (melanin) in the hair to absorb enough light to create enough heat to permanently damage the hair follicle, without having the skin absorb the energy. Remember your skin gets its color from melanin, too. If the hair follicle around the base or bulb of the hair is sufficiently heated, it will no longer produce hair. Doctors and scientists have discovered that by using a specific wavelength of light and properly cooling the epidermis (outer most layer of skin), the melanin in the hair will absorb most of the energy. This will create enough heat to destroy the hair follicle. The word LASER is actually a fancy acronym for producing a single, specific wavelength of light.
That all seems logical, but why then does it take multiple laser treatments to get rid of the hair in a particular area? Hair goes through three phases, anagen (active growth), catagen (resting phase) and telogen (shedding phase). As it turns out, the transference of heat to destroy the hair growing capacity of a hair follicle only works when the hair follicle is in the anagen or growth phase. Furthermore, all hair follicles are generally randomized, meaning they are not all in the same phase at the same time. Also, the duration of a particular phase differs for different areas of the body. For example eyebrow hair is only in the growth phase for 4 months while scalp hair has a growth phase of 2-3 years. The anagen (growth) and telogen (shedding) phases last the longest with the catagen (resting) phase typically lasting 2-4 weeks regardless of the body area involved. Therefore, treatments are usually scheduled 5-6 weeks apart to allow hair follicles to enter the anagen phase.
Since hair growth varies between follicles and different body areas we usually say hair removal takes approximately 6 treatments, but for some patients it may take more and for others it may take less. Anyone that tells you laser hair removal only takes a few treatments probably does not understand the physiology of hair growth.
There are other factors as well that contribute to the success of laser hair removal, most importantly skin color. Remember melanin is also responsible for skin color as well as hair color. Therefore, the melanin in your skin competes for the light energy being delivered by the laser. As a result, there are different lasers that should be used on individuals of differing skin color due to ethnicity.
LaserMed’s Dr. Jean Chapman has invested in the latest technology and has many lasers to ensure patients of all ethnicity can be safely treated. Dr. Chapman can answer all your hair removal questions.
Is it painful?
By cooling the skin prior, during, and after treatment most patients do not find this procedure painful, although in some cases there might be a minimum amount of discomfort. The feeling has often been described as being snapped by a rubber band on your skin. After a procedure it is not uncommon for the skin to feel like it has been sunburned. This feeling usually subsides by the end of the day. For patients that are extra sensitive to pain we can prescribe a topical anesthetic cream to be applied 45 minutes before coming in for the procedure.
How long after the treatment will it take for the hair to disappear?
Treated hair usually grows out and falls off, unless it is removed during the treatment. However, since only hair follicles which were in the active growth phase will be permanently removed, some hair will return. This is why treatments are performed approximately every 4-6 weeks, to ensure that the new follicles in the active growth phase are permanently disabled. It will usually take 5-8 treatment sessions to totally clear a desired area.
Are there any special instructions I need to follow after a hair removal procedure?
There is really no after treatment care required. In some cases patients will see in the treated area redness (erythema) or welts, but this condition will quickly subside. Since many patients indicate the treated area feels like sunburn immediately after treatment, they might find a cooling Aloe Vera gel comforting. Sun-tanning, however, is not recommended for a few days after during the duration of the treatment period, since increased melanin in the skin can interfere with more effective hair removal and cause more pain during each procedure.
How long do I have to wait between procedures?
In most cases patients may schedule treatment sessions as close as 4 weeks apart for facial hair and 6 weeks for body hair. However, since hair growth cycles vary by body area the time between sessions may vary slightly.
Once the hair is removed will it ever grow back?
When the hair follicle is disabled it will never regenerate hair. However, since the follicle can only be disabled during the hair’s active growth phase, it is possible that during a span of treatments not all hair follicles will have been through their active phase. This may require an annual touch up session.
Can blond or white hair be removed?
Yes, but with less effectiveness. The best candidates for laser hair removal are patients with light complexions and dark hair. However, modern technology offers us lasers with different wavelengths that can treat any skin color. White and blond hair still presents a challenge in that melanin is absent in these hair colors. Meladyne is a substance that can be used daily for 2 weeks prior to each procedure that does not dye the skin or the hair, but infuses melanin into the hair follicle. This makes it possible to remove white or blond hair to some degree.
Is the treatment safe?
Yes, the treatment is very safe. Until laser hair removal technology developed electrolysis was the only permanent method available, but electrolysis is a slow time consuming process. It is not unusual to take years, using electrolysis, to adequately remove the hair in a small area such as a bikini line or underarm. Laser based hair removal has made it possible to quickly and painlessly remove hair in all areas, including large areas such as backs and legs.
How much does it cost?
Charges are based upon the size of the area to be treated and the number of treatment sessions required. Most hair removal patients require 5-8 sessions to get all hair in the particular area to cycle through its active growth phase. Costs start at $125 – $500 per session depending upon the body part being treated. LaserMed Skin & Vein Clinic also offers Care Credit Patient Payment plans.