Laser Hair Removal-When should you drop the razor?
Shree Amin, Priti Patel MD
How does a laser treatment work?
In essence, lasers emit wavelengths of light of specific, single colors. The energy from this light is transferred to the skin and hair pigment (specifically melanin). However, in hair removal, it is crucial to minimize damage to this surrounding tissue, so these wavelengths emitted are targeted to the melanin in hair follicles themselves.
What are the uses/benefits of laser hair procedures?
Laser treatment can be modified to treat several conditions.
The impact laser hair procedures have on one’s hair is determined by a variety of factors including but not limited to:
The type and quality of the laser used and the experience of the person operating the machine
The color and quality of the patient’s skin
The thickness and density of the hairs being treated
The number of treatments a patient needs depends on a few factors. First, it can correlate to their Fitzpatrick skin type. This classification is based by skin color, sensitivity to the sun, and susceptibility to tan. Those with pale or white skin that rarely tan, but burn easily usually achieve permanent hair removal with 4-6 treatments within a span of 4-6 weeks for each session. Darker skin individuals, such as Fitzpatrick 4 or 5 can also have treatments but the laser used may be different. These patients will usually achieve permanent hair reduction or their desired results after an initial course of treatment, but may need up to 6-12 treatments or more to achieve long lasting results. Those with darker skin tones can require more treatments to reach their goals while safely treating the skin.
Safety first! Which laser should I use for hair removal?
It goes without saying that with any type of procedures, the type of laser ultimately influences not just how effective the removal is, but the chances of side-effects. Some lasers that have been deemed suitable by the FDA. Intense pulsed light devices are not exactly laser devices, but work more like flash lamps that continuously emit wavebands of light. This mechanism is similar to lasers, but is less likely to permanently remove hair. Fair skinned people that have dark hair can use IPL devices, alexandrite lasers, or diode lasers, whereas people with dark skin and dark hair may consider using Nd:YAG or diode lasers.
The energy of the lasers can be adjusted so that it is high enough to damage the bulge cells but not so intense that it causes burns or skin discomfort. To minimize the risk of damage to melanocytes, the choice of laser can be matched to one's skin type.
What is the right age to start laser hair removal treatments?
The FDA has not appointed any age restrictions on hair removal procedures. For minors, professional procedures are completed at the operator’s discretion, with provided parental consent. Some professionals may choose to restrict treating anyone younger than 14, while others are willing to begin offering their services to patients as young as 12. Many professionals find that most teens can mentally and physically laser hair removal treatments by age 16. Laser treatments also require mental and physical endurance from the patient, especially a younger one. Treatment compliance and adhering to a schedule is very crucial for proper results.
Often times, peer and societal pressure may cause one to seek out these treatments. It's important to consider drastically changing hormones of puberty when treating younger individuals. While not a reason for exclusion, we counsel our patients that you may require further ongoing treatments to maintain results. Moreover, with activation and appearance of new hair in adolescent years, teens will require more treatments to achieve the same results. For many, laser hair removal results in a boost of self confidence and resolves their self-doubts. Regardless of the reasoning behind one’s decision at any age to undergo laser hair removal, professionals are available to ensure one chooses the best path of treatment for themselves. We at, Aesthetiq Plastic Surgery, would recommend a full consultation with Dr. Priti Patel to determine the best course of treatment and plan to help with your concerns.