Say buh-bye to red bumps, ingrown hairs, shaving, waxing, and tweezing for good!
Every year, more and more people—even men—are seeking laser hair removal as a solution to their shaving, tweezing, and waxing woes. Last year, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, laser hair removal took third place (behind injectables and fillers) as the most popular non-surgical cosmetic procedure performed. Here is what you need to know before you go.
How does laser hair removal work?
The concentrated light and heat from the device being used are absorbed by the pigment in the hair follicle, leaving the surrounding skin unaffected. The hair follicle is subsequently damaged, which ultimately stunts further growth. After a few weeks, the damaged hair follicles eventually fall out.
What should I expect during and after the treatment?
You should be given a pair of protective goggles to wear before the procedure gets underway. The technician may protect your skin from the heat of the laser with a cold gel or a cooling tip on the laser device. If you’re worried about pain, it’s all about your tolerance level. Some have described the experience as totally painless, while others say each “zap” of light feels like a quick rubber-band snap to the skin. You can request a numbing cream to be applied prior to the treatment if you feel you must.
After treatment, you might see red or raised bumps. This is a good thing, according to Dr. Jocelyn Lieb, a board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC. It means the hair follicles have been affected. Some minor skin redness might occur for a few hours to a day afterward. You can return to normal activities after your appointment. The one thing you can’t do is sunbathe—some say to refrain for a week and others say three to six weeks post treatment. Catch too many rays and you run the risk of requiring further treatment.
Who is a good candidate?
“It used to be that only those with light skin and dark hairs were good candidates,” says Dr. Garrett Gause, medical director for Ideal Image Development Corporation in Tampa. “Now we have lasers and settings which can treat all colors of skin from light to very dark. It is still best if you have brown or black pigment in your hair, as lasers have a hard time recognizing blond, red, or gray hair.”
How many sessions will I need?
Human hair works in different phases: growth, shedding, and dormant (or resting). “It is important for the laser to target the hair in a growth phase, when there is a shaft of hair in the hair follicle,” says Dr. Gause. “Since individual hair follicles are in different phases at different times, it usually takes five to nine treatments [spaced out every four to eight weeks] to successfully target all of the hair follicles.” The areas where the hair is coarse and full, such as lower legs, bikini, and underarm, will typically respond the fastest, he says. Other areas can take a little longer.
Is it permanent?
Laser hair removal gives you permanent hair reduction, not removal. Hair that does grow will grow much slower and appear much finer than before. Keep in mind that everyone is different. Some may get incredible results after just six treatments and only require maintenance treatments once or twice a year, while others may have considerably different results.
What does it cost?
According to the ASAPS, the average cost is $254 per session. Cost varies widely due to a number of factors, which include where you live, the size of the area being treated, the number of treatments required, and who is performing the treatment. Be wary of rates that seem way too good to be true, but keep in mind that not all deals are bad. Just dig a little deeper and find out who is performing the procedure, what type of laser is being used, and other details before committing to a “good deal.”
As with any cosmetic procedure, do your homework. “Find a practice that has the experience, the track record and the customer service style that is going to make you comfortable from the minute you walk in,” says Dr. Gause.
Do and Don’t
- Understand that when the treatments are complete, they cannot be undone.
- Shave the area to be treated one day prior to the treatment.
- Seek advice from a physician. These machines are very powerful and physicians are trained to use them properly. Improper use of a laser can cause burns or scars.
- Use sun protection while undergoing these treatments.
- Bleach, tweeze, wax, or thread the area to be treated at all during the course of the treatment (shaving is OK).
- Get a tan during the course of the treatment; this can increase the risk of a burn or a scar.
Source: Dr. Jocelyn Lieb
By LaRue V. Gillespie