A procedure like laser hair removal comes with plenty of questions. How does it work? Is laser hair removal painful? What are the safety concerns? Is it right for me?
There are plenty of reasons why someone would want to undergo laser hair removal. Maybe your genetics include an uncanny ability to grow hair, leading to the need to shave daily. And with razors can come bumps and irritations for sensitive skin. Plucking and waxing can be short term solutions, but both are expensive and time-consuming over an extended period.
Laser hair removal is an extremely viable solution to remove unwanted body and facial hair safely. Here are a few frequently asked questions, answered to help ease any reservations you may have about the procedure.
What is Laser Hair Removal?
Laser procedures have been used to treat various skin conditions for over 50 years now, and the technology has made many advances in the last decade to make it even more effective.
Basically, the laser emits a powerful light energy, converted to heat, that targets the pigmentation of the hair and destroying it at the follicle. The damage to the follicles inhibits or delays future hair growth in the targeted areas.
Most areas on the body can be treated with laser hair removal, including larger areas.
Laser hair removal is commonly used on the:
- Arms and/or legs
- Bikini area
- Face, more often on the chin or upper lip
Is laser hair removal safe?
Yes, laser hair removal is a normal and safe procedure when performed by a board-certified dermatologist. However, laser hair removal is most effective against dark hair and lighter skin tones.
However, many hair removal lasers are less effective at treating lighter hair colors and can run the risk of unwanted discoloration of the skin for those with darker skin tones. Though technological advancements and skilled dermatologists have made it possible to treat dark skin tones better.
If you’re unsure, the best course of action is to schedule a consultation with your dermatologist. Everyone is different, and your dermatologist will be able to determine if you’re a viable candidate for laser hair removal.
Is laser hair removal painful?
Any time lasers are involved in the conversation, or the basic idea of burning hair follicles with light energy, it’s understandable that the question of pain also jumps to the forefront. As is the case with many physical procedures, every individual’s tolerance to pain and uncomfortable situations varies.
However, many patients report feeling a slight tinge of pain, like warm pinpricks or a rubber band being snapped against the skin.
How long does the procedure take?
The time it takes for laser hair removal largely depends on the size of the area being treated. It can take as long as an hour, but laser hair removal is often categorized as a “lunchtime procedure.” Meaning it’s something that can often be taken care of in a matter of minutes.
What does aftercare of laser hair removal look like?
Usually there’s no real down time after a laser hair removal procedure. As stated earlier, the “lunchtime procedure” implies that it can be done in a short period with the patient able to return to work later in the day.
However, patients should take a few precautions to avoid potential side effects. Mostly it involves general protection from the sun like:
- Avoiding direct sunlight contacting the treated area for a long period (like laying out by the pool)
- Use a water-resistant sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher
- Refraining from using tanning beds, sun lamps, or other artificial tanning equipment.
It’s normal to feel some redness and mild swelling after treatment. It might resemble and feel like a mild sunburn. Just be sure to follow up with your dermatologist as every case is different. Additionally, reduce any discomfort by applying a cool compress to the treated area.
When will results take affect and how long will they last?
Patients should notice results immediately. During the procedure, hair is vaporized by the laser. It’s normal to see and smell small plumes of smoke while the treatment is underway.
Initial treatments often yield a reduction of 10-25% of hair. Results are largely dependent across individuals based on hair color and thickness, skin tone, specific areas treated, and the type of laser used.
To remove hair completely, it’s normal for patients to need up to 6 treatments. Treatments are usually spaced out over several weeks. Afterwards, it can take months and even years for hair to regrow in the treated areas. And when it does eventually grow back, the hair is usually finer and lighter in color with much less volume.
Are there other possible side effects?
Side effects are possible, but less likely to occur when performed under the supervision a board certified dermatologist. Beyond the normal discomfort of swelling and redness that dissipates after a few days, more serious side effects are much more rare, but can include:
- Skin lightening or darkening
- Herpes simplex outbreaks (cold sores)
If these side effects should occur, most of them are treatable and will return to normal eventually. However, changes to skin color can be permanent, which is why ensuring that any laser treatment you undergo is performed under the supervision of a board certified dermatologist is of the utmost importance.
Is Laser Hair Removal Right for You?
Generally, laser hair removal is a very safe, normal, and painless procedure. While side effects can occur, in most cases patients see fast results with little discomfort.
The best way to know if you’re a viable candidate for laser hair removal is to talk with your dermatologist. They’ll have a better idea of your medical history and how your specific skin and hair type will be affected by laser hair removal.
So if you have unwanted hair that you are tired of constantly getting rid of, make sure to schedule a consultation at Dermatology Center of Acadiana with one of our board certified dermatologists to find out more about your specific situation.