The Complete Guide to Laser Hair Removal
Updated: Nov 16, 2022
You've tried it all. Shaving, plucking, creams, waxing, threading, electrolysis. That stuff is for amateurs. It's time that you move on to the professional league. Laser hair removal. It's safe, effective, and permanent. After all, who loves shaving their legs every other day? If you have been on the fence about getting laser hair removal, maybe this guide will help.
How does laser hair removal even work?
A beam of light is emitted from the laser and is attracted to the pigment in the hair. Once absorbed by the hair follicle and hair bulb, the energy from the light heats up the hair structure enough to cause damage. Sometimes during a laser treatment, a visible "plume" may be observed which is a sign of this heat and damage occurring to the hair follicle.
What do the treatments feel like?
The goal is to heat up the hair follicle but not burn your skin. Most lasers used for laser hair removal have cooling tips that protect the skin from the heat generated by the laser. The skin is covered with a clear, cool, water-based ultrasound gel, which also helps to protect the skin. When the pulse of light is delivered, some patients experience a mild pinching or stinging sensation but most patients find the treatment to be tolerable. Occasionally, some clinics or providers will offer numbing creams to the area being treated prior to starting.
How many treatments are necessary?
Most areas require at least 6 treatments however, the number of treatments required for optimal long-term benefits depends on multiple factors – hair thickness, the area treated, and your hair’s growth cycle. Laser treatments work on hair that is in the active growth phase at the time of treatment. Since other hairs will enter this active growth phase at different times, multiple treatments are necessary to treat all the hair follicles in that area.
Yes, you can (and should) shave before your appointment.
Your treatment provider will give you specific instructions since different laser devices may have different recommendations so it is important to follow your provider’s directions.
But here are some general guidelines common to many laser hair removal treatments:
cleanly shave the area to be treated within 24 hours of the appointment, while leaving a small patch of hair 1-2 mm in length as a representative sample for the provider (You may skip this step if your hair growth was already assessed by the provider during your consultation).
No plucking, electrolysis, bleaching, or depilatories should be performed at least two weeks prior to treatment. The hair must be present, have short stubble, and with its natural hair color in order to be treated effectively.
Do not use any topical products that cause photosensitivity (e.g. hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, retinol, and benzoyl peroxide) in the treatment areas for three days before treatment.
Avoid sun exposure to the treatment area, and do not use UV tanning beds at all for two weeks before treatment. Be sure to use a recommended broad-spectrum mineral sunblock with an SPF of 30 or above on a daily basis (rain or shine).
What happens immediately after a treatment?
Immediately following your treatment, the area may appear a bit red and swollen. Three to seven days after treatment you may experience what seems to be a regrowth of hair. Most of these hairs are being shed as a result of your treatment and are not regrowing, but instead being purged by the body. Between treatments, you should not wax, bleach, or pluck your hair, but it is permissible to shave. (Plucking or waxing removes the entire hair shaft, which removes the vehicle for the laser to work and bleaching removes the pigment target for the laser).
Are there any special instructions to follow after the treatment?
Improper post-treatment care, including excessive heat or sun exposure to the treated area, may increase the chance of scarring, pigmentation changes, and skin texture changes.
Avoid excessive heat in the treatment area, such as hot tubs, saunas, or exercising for 24 hours after laser hair removal treatment.
Avoid sun exposure to the treatment area, and do not use UV tanning beds at all for two weeks after treatment. Use a broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF of 30 or above on a daily basis (rain or shine).
Do not use any topical products that cause photosensitivity (e.g. hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, retinol, and benzoyl peroxide) in the treatment areas for three days after treatment. Use a gentle cleanser and lotion on treated areas.
When do you need to come back?
General guidelines for treatments should be scheduled as follows:
Facial Areas: Every 4-6 weeks
Trunk Areas: Every 6-8 weeks
Leg Areas: Every 8-10 weeks
You heard that some lasers won't work on certain skin tones or certain hair types. Is that true?
Yes, it's true. Not all lasers are created equally. There are many lasers nowadays that are safe for most skin tones, even darker complexions, but it is extremely important to have a consultation with your provider before your treatment and ask all of these questions before putting yourself in a harmful situation. Regarding hair types, it is true that laser hair removal tends to be less effective on lighter hair colors. In general, laser hair removal typically caters to people with dark hair and fair skin, as the stark contrast between the skin pigment and hair is what the laser can more easily recognize and target.
The consultation is very important to every aesthetic procedure for a variety of reasons, but in particular, you want to be able to understand the possible risks of every procedure as well as have the opportunity to ask any questions you still have. You should feel very comfortable with your provider, the clinic staff, and the planned procedure.
Cardona DPC and RefineMD offers free consultations on aesthetic procedures. To schedule a free consultation, you can call the office at (904) 551-4625 or go to our online schedule here.