Tired of having to pluck those pesky chin and upper lip hairs? Wish your back or legs were effortlessly smooth? Ready to stop shaving and waxing your armpits and bikini line whenever the weather gets warmer? Laser hair removal might be the solution for you. In as little as 4 quick sessions with little discomfort and no downtime, laser hair removal is a great way to save yourself the time and annoyance of other hair removal tactics.
Laser hair removal is one of the most common cosmetic dermatology treatments in the US. Popular with men and women, during a treatment, a concentrated light beam is focused on the skin where unwanted hair is growing. The light energy is absorbed by the pigment in the hair, becomes heat energy, and damages or destroys the hair follicles, preventing new hair from growing. Commonly treated areas are the armpits, legs, upper lip, chin, and bikini line. You can get any area on your body treated except for the eyelid and surrounding area. Laser hair removal works for any size area.
Laser hair removal works best on lighter skin tones with darker hair. Because the laser targets the pigment in the hair, a good contrast between skin and hair helps the laser treatment be most effective without damaging the skin. While it is harder for a laser treatment to be successful in people with darker skin tones or with gray, white, blonde, or red hair, there are some laser treatments that will work, and laser technology is constantly being improved to treat a broader range of people. If you have a darker skin tone, it is important to make sure that your dermatologist has a laser that is safe for your skin, such as the Nd:Yag and diode lasers. You’re also a good candidate for laser hair removal if you are targeting coarse, fast growing hair, such as the hair on your face, armpits and bikini line. Some pre-existing health conditions like herpes and eczema can be triggered or re-activated by lasers, so make sure to talk to your doctor about how to prevent any complications. Also, do not seek laser hair removal if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
First, make sure to choose a doctor or dermatologist that is board-certified and experienced in the use of lasers. Be careful with dermatology cosmetic centers that don’t have skilled medical professionals overseeing the laser treatments. You should also have an initial consultation before your laser sessions begin, where you discuss your medical history, your risks/benefits/expectations, and the cost and length of treatment time. To prepare for your sessions, your doctor will probably advise you to stay out of the sun and tanning beds, don’t use any skin darkening products, stop waxing and shaving, stop taking blood thinning medications, and use a bleaching product if you have darker skin. You should also shave about 24 hours before your treatment -- stubble can cause damage to your skin.
Your laser treatment can last anywhere from a few minutes for a small area like the upper lip to an hour for larger areas like your legs or your back. You will be given protective eyewear to make sure your eyes aren’t damaged by the light from the laser. And your doctor may put a cooling gel on the skin before applying the laser. During the treatment, your doctor will pass the handheld laser device over your skin. It will probably feel like a rubber band snapping your skin. After the procedure is done, you may be given cold packs or anti-inflammatory creams. You will have some redness and possibly swelling, but you will be able to return to your normal activities.
While you will need multiple sessions to effectively remove hair from the treated area, you will probably not see regrowth for months, and possibly even years. When/if the hair does grow back, it is usually thinner, lighter in color, and less dense. Laser hair removal will permanently reduce your hair growth, but may not permanently eliminate it. After your laser hair treatment sessions are complete, you can expect around 70% hair reduction. The number of sessions you will need to have and the time in between each session depends on a few factors: the size of the area you are treating, where on the body the hair is growing, and your unique body patterns. Hair grows on different schedules on different parts of your body -- typically faster on the face than on the rest of the body. A good estimate is to plan on 4-6 sessions with 4-8 weeks in between each session. You will also probably need an annual maintenance session to keep the area hair-free.
Make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist at Vanguard Dermatology. A dermatology and cosmetic center located in the greater New York City area, Vanguard offers a number of laser treatment options that can safely and effectively meet your unique needs.