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Laser Hair Removal FAQ

What is Laser Hair Removal?

Laser hair removal is a procedure by which hair is removed from the body by utilizing a long pulse laser. Lasers are developed and designed from years of research. The laser parameters are carefully defined by studying the anatomy of the hair follicle and precisely matching the laser light and pulse duration to the follicle size, depth and location to inhibit the re-growth of the hair.

Laser hair removal is performed by a specially-trained Hylagen laser specialist who distributes the light of a long pulse laser onto the skin. The laser works by disabling hairs that are in their active growth cycle at the time of treatment. Since other hairs will enter their growth cycle at different times, several treatments are necessary to disable all of the follicles in a given area.

Am I a Candidate for Laser Hair Removal?

Both men and women seek laser hair removal services to have unwanted hair removed. Hair removal is commonly done on the hairline, lip, chin, ear lobe, shoulders, back, underarm, abdomen, buttocks, pubic area, bikini lines, thighs, face, neck, breast, arms, legs, hands, and toes.

Laser works best on pale skin and dark coarse hair. The closer you are to this combination (i.e. the lighter the skin and the more coarse and dark the hair), the better the results will generally be.

When choosing your hair removal options, select an environment whose main priorities are your safety, health, and results.

Is Laser Hair Removal Permanent?

The general opinion is that laser hair removal is permanent, and the Food and Drug Administration approved it as “permanent reduction,” but doesn’t work on everyone. Generally, this means that you shouldn’t expect laser to remove every single hair from an area. Most people need to follow up with electrolysis treatments for any remaining hairs for complete clearance as hair becomes too fine for laser to target and you reach diminishing returns. Most will also need touch-up treatments 1-2 times a year after the initial set of treatments for any new growth your body develops with age.

Keep in mind that it’s also difficult to judge whether someone’s lack of results is due to the person’s potential underlying medical condition that causes continuous growth and makes it seem like laser isn’t working, whether the treatment wasn’t performed properly, or whether for some people it just doesn’t work and we don’t know why. Basically, you can’t determine this for yourself unless you try it.

A set of at least 4-6 treatments at specified intervals are generally necessary to achieve substantial hair removal with laser. Factors that determine the length of treatment include the particular area to be treated, the texture of hair, frequency of treatments, history of temporary measures to remove hair (waxing, tweezing, shaving, and depilatories, etc.) etc.

Electrolysis is considered a permanent hair removal method that has been used for the past 125 years. It involves treating one hair at a time and can take a considerably long time to complete a large area. Ultrasound hair removal is the latest and highest recommended method for small areas (generally, chin, upper lip, eyebrows, etc), as well as for fine and light-colour hair. The most cost-efficient treatments to completely clear an area should start with laser to remove the bulk of the hair and finish with Ultrasound hair removal to remove the remaining finer sparse hair.

What Should I Expect Before and After Treatment?

You should shave the area to be treated 1-3 days before treatment. No waxing or removing hair with the root with any other way is allowed 2-3 weeks before and throughout the course of treatment as hair needs to be in place to be targeted by laser. The area should be shaved as closely as possible so that laser can target the most energy towards the hair follicle and not waste energy on the part of the hair above the skin’s surface.

After treatment is completed (underarms take under 10 minutes, back treatment can take 1 hour or so), you should apply aloe vera to soothe the skin for a few days. Within 2-3 weeks, you should experience shedding of all treated hair. At first, hair will look like its growing back in, but it is just coming through the skin to shed. Shedding starts at about 1.5 weeks and can last until 3.5 weeks post-treatment or so. Exfoliating and/or scrubbing gently in the shower can help speed up the process. After shedding finishes, you might experience little black dots still “stuck” in the skin. These are commonly referred to as “pepperspots” and will shed eventually, but might take a bit longer. Exfoliate to help those out as well.

After shedding occurs, you should experience a hair free period for a few weeks, until next set of hair that was dormant before starts to come in. Once you have enough to justify one, go in for another treatment. This usually happens within 4-6 weeks post-treatment. Patient continues this process until he/she has reached diminishing returns and the remaining hairs are too fine for laser to target, or until you have reached you desired reduction.

How Many Laser Treatments Will I Need and How Far Apart are They Scheduled?

Most people need at least 4-6 initial treatments spaced 4-6 weeks apart. This is because hair grows in 3 phases and is killed in the first “anagen” active growing phase. Several treatments are needed to target ALL hair in the active growth phase. Approximately 4-6 weeks after every treatment, additional treatment is required to eliminate the hairs that came out of the dormant phase and are now active. After 4-6 treatments or so, patients should experience a considerable percentage of hair reduction. Depending upon hair type and genetic factors, some clients may require additional treatments beyond these initial treatments. If it seems like the treatments are not working after 6-8 treatments, patients should look into possible underlying reasons.

Usually, treatments are spaced 4-6 weeks apart to start, and gradually move to 6-8 weeks apart after the initial 3-4 treatments.

Is Laser Hair Removal Painful?

In one pulse, the laser can remove all the hair on a patch of skin the size of a 2p(depending on the specific laser spot size ranging from 9-18mm on average – i.e. the “head” of the laser from which the power is coming with every pulse). Everyone’s pain threshold is different, but generally laser hair removal is not much more painful than waxing, but the sensation is different. It resembles a rubber band snapping against the skin for a quick second with each pulse.

What Are the Possible Risks and Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal?

The possibility exists that some side effects or complications can occur given various variables, including:

Normal

  • Itching, during treatment
  • Redness for up to 3 days
  • Swelling (around mouth of follicle) for up to 3 days
  • Pain, tingling, or feeling of numbness (cold spray)

Rare

  • Crusting/scab formation (on ingrown hairs)
  • Bruising
  • Purpura (purple colouring of the skin) on tanned areas
  • Infection
  • Temporary pigment change (hypo-pigmentation or hyper-pigmentation)

Side effects occur infrequently and, as a rule, generally are temporary. If any of the above last for more than 3 days, make sure to contact your technician and/or doctor. There is a possibility that settings were set too high and the technician needs to know in order to adjust on your following treatment.

What are the possible causes of excessive hair growth and how can it affect my treatments?

The causes of excessive hair growth pattern are many and varied, including:

  • Heredity
  • Pregnancy
  • Glandular and/or hormonal imbalances (possible PCOS condition for women), including diseases causing these effects
  • Insulin resistance issues
  • Reactions to certain medications
  • Normal aging processes
  • Excessive temporary removal methods like waxing, tweezing, creams and depilatories, etc.

Every laser candidate should explore a possible underlying reason of the extreme hair growth before starting laser because if there is something in the body consistently triggering hair growth, laser treatments might seem ineffective because the body will keep developing new hair. So, it will always seem like there is not reduction, when in fact it’s NEW hair your body is producing that you are seeing, not that treated by laser growing back. Women with PCOS hair growth patterns (upper lip, chin, cheeks, etc) should see an endocrinologist and have hormonal tests taken. Men can get tested for insulin resistance etc. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you might have an underlying medical condition causing excessive hair growth before starting laser hair removal. Once the condition is controlled through treatment/medication, laser hair removal can then be performed. Laser can affect the hair that’s currently present, but cannot prevent NEW hair from developing.

What is the Hair Growth Cycle and How Does Hair Growth Work?

Under normal circumstances hair growth in each hair follicle occurs in a cycle. There are three main phases of the hair growth cycle: anagen, catagen and telogen.

Anagen (active) is the growing phase or when the hair fibre is produced. During anagen, the hair contains an abundance of melanin, the pigment which gives your hair its colour. This is the phase during which laser hair removal treatment is most effective.

Catagen (club hair) is the period of controlled regression of the hair follicle. This phase is when the lower part of the hair stops growing, but does not shed, and the follicle is reabsorbed. It will be difficult for permanence to be achieved when the hair is in the catagen growth cycle.

Telogen (tired) is the last of the hair growth cycle. In this resting phase, the old hair falls out in preparation for the development of a new anagen hair. Permanence cannot be achieved when the hair are in the telogen growth cycle.

Remember, anagen is followed by catagen, a period of controlled regression of the hair follicle. Ultimately the hair follicle enters telogen, when the follicle is in a so-called resting state.

Normally this cycle of hair production will continue for the duration of the individual’s life. However, other factors can influence, promote and inhibit hair production. How well the laser can eliminate the hairs, depends on the skin type/colour, hair type/colour and what initially caused the hair to grow.

How do I determine my Fitzpatrick Skin Type?

In 1975, Thomas B Fitzpatrick, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, developed a classification system for skin typing. This system was based on a person’s response to sun exposure in terms of the degree of burning and tanning the individual experienced. For successful removal of hair, wrinkles, veins, sun spots, and scars using LASER technology, it is necessary determine your correct skin type.

TYPE I: Highly sensitive, always burns, never tans.
Example: Red hair with freckles or Albino

TYPE II: Very sun sensitive burns easily, tans minimally.
Example: Fair-skinned, fair-haired Caucasians

TYPE III: Sun sensitive skin, sometimes burns, slowly tans to light brown.
Example: Darker Caucasians, European mix

TYPE IV: Minimally sun sensitive, burns minimally, always tans to moderate brown.
Example: Mediterranean, European, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian

TYPE V: Sun-insensitive skin, rarely burns, tans well.
Example: Hispanics, Afro-American, Middle Eastern

TYPE VI: Sun-insensitive, never burns deeply pigmented.
Example: Afro-American, African, Middle Eastern

Can I just reduce the density of hair on an area instead of removing it completely?

Yes, this can be achieved with having only a few treatments instead of the complete set of 4-6 and by an experienced Hylagen technician who is careful not to miss areas during treatments.