As someone who swears by laser hair removal, we are exposed to a lot more choices with the increase in lasers within different clinics around the city. This month, I asked my skin guru, Rebecca Treston at Euromed Clinic on the differences and how to find the right laser for your skin.
Laser Hair Removal (LHR) has come a long way since the first laser for hair removal received FDA clearance in the mid 1990s. Nowadays, up to ninety percent of patients have permanent hair loss after an average of three to five sessions, making it the ultimate hair removal treatment.
Lasers are useful for removing unwanted hair from the face, leg, arm, underarm, bikini line, as well as other areas. The benefits of LHR are numerous. First of all, lasers can selectively target dark, coarse hairs while leaving the surrounding skin undamaged. Each pulse of the laser takes a fraction of a second and can treat many hairs at the same time. The laser can treat an area approximately the size of a quarter every second. Small areas such as the upper lip can be treated in less than a minute; while larger areas, such as the back or legs, may take up to an hour.
LHR works by targeting hair follicles in their active growing phase. Hairs that are in the other stages will not be affected by the laser. This is partly why a course of treatments is necessary and why top-up treatments are sometimes advisable every few years.
Older generation lasers were slow, very painful and worked only on individuals with very dark hair and very light skin. Now there are varieties of laser hair removal specially designed for different skin tones and hair types. It usually takes a series of treatments such as a course of six or eight for permanent hair removal, but the good news is that there is a treatment available that can ensure almost everyone, irrespective of hair type or skin tone, can showcase hair-free, perfectly smooth skin. Not every clinic uses the same machine and laser to treat your skin. There are different machines available with varying capabilities, such as Cynsoure Elite, Candela Gentlelase and the Soprano Ice. There are also a number of different lasers available, including alexandrite and Nd:YAG, which have different wavelengths suitable for different types of skin and hair. No single laser is ideal for every individual. Depending on your skin and hair colour, some lasers will be more effective than others so before you choose a practitioner it is vital to find out which machine they use and whether it is suited to your skin and hair type. The most commonly used lasers are:
· Alexandrite Laser
* The fastest hair removal laser
* Large spot size (up to 18mm) and high repetition rate
* Can rapidly treat large body areas – an entire back can be treated in less than 30 minutes
* Suitable for patients with fair to olive complexions
· Diode Laser
* Longer wavelength allows deep penetration into the skin and safety for darker skin types
* Not effective for lighter and finer hair
* Smaller spot size, which results in longer treatment time
* The longer treatment time necessary for diode laser hair removal may result in greater expense and increased discomfort
· Nd:YAG laser
* Can be used on all skin types, including tanned skin
* Large spot sizes and fast repetition rates allow large areas to be treated quickly
* Provides less effective treatment for fine and light hairs than some other hair removal lasers
There are two things to remember, however. First of all, unfortunately laser hair removal does not work on light, grey or red hairs because of the melanin in the skin. Secondly, some clinics, medispas and beauty salons don’t use lasers for hair removal treatments, they use intense pulse light (IPL) which is far less effective at getting rid of unwanted hair so if possible, choose laser treatments rather than IPL.
The best laser on the market currently is the Cynosure Elite, as it has a dual wavelenghth – Nd:Yag for darker and deeper follicles plus the alexandrite for lighter and more shallow hairs – allowing individuals with different complexions to be treated.
Crucially, before you choose your practitioner, do your research to ensure that they are extremely proficient in LHR treatments and that they yield fantastic results. Beware of anywhere willing to forego a patch test as it is an important way to determine your suitability for the treatment.
Finally, if you are planning on undergoing laser hair removal, you should limit plucking, waxing, and electrolysis for six weeks before treatment. That’s because the laser targets the hairs’ roots, which are temporarily removed by waxing or plucking. You should also avoid sun exposure for six weeks before and after treatment, as sun exposure makes laser hair removal less effective and makes complications after treatment more likely.