Laser Hair Removal: What It is, How It Works, And Who Can Benefit From It
Laser hair removal is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures on the market today. As a great alternative to more traditional hair removal methods such as shaving and waxing, laser hair removal offers a safe and effective means of permanently getting rid of unwanted hair.
As with all cosmetic procedures, however, it’s important to do your research before you decide if it’s right for you. In this article, we'll discuss what laser hair removal is and how it works, plus all you need to know before and after your first appointment.
What is laser hair removal and how does it work?
Laser hair removal is a non-invasive cosmetic procedure aimed to reduce or eliminate hair growth. The process uses a laser that is attracted to the pigment in your hair. The laser will pass through your skin in order to heat up and damage the melanin (pigment) in the hair shaft and follicle. The intense heat from said light damages the follicle enough so that it cannot grow new hair, which eliminates the need for future shaving.
Since lasers can only target hairs that are in their active growth phase, multiple treatments are necessary to completely destroy all of them. In fact, it typically takes 6-8 treatments spaced four to six weeks apart to get rid of 80% of unwanted hair permanently. Because the treatment can only work on active hairs, its important sessions are not set up too close together. If they are, you run the risk of the laser not having any hair to work on.
Are there different types of laser hair removal?
While the concept of laser hair removal has been available for decades now, there have never been as many types to choose from as there are today. From professional procedures to FDA-approved home use devices, the options are endless.
When it comes to in-office treatments specifically, however, the 5 below are the best in class:
Great for medium-colored skin tone and coarse dark hair.
This type of laser has a slightly longer wavelength than other standard options. This means it can penetrate deeper and target as close to the root of the hair follicle as possible. Diode laser tends to require fewer sessions to achieve the desired goal and is virtually painless. It’s also FDA-approved. Of all the laser types on this list, Diode is considered the gold standard of laser hair removal. This is why, here at Nexx MD, we use DIOLASE as our hair removal laser of choice.
Great for light skin tones and dark hair.
Alexandrite laser is very similar in capabilities to Diode laser. However, it’s built with a shorter wavelength. This means it is considered less painful but also slightly less effective. The outcome of that is that it can end up costing more in terms of price since more sessions tend to be needed.
Great for light skin tones and finer dark hair.
Ruby laser was one of the first-ever hair removal technologies to hit the market. It has had years of research and development behind it for both side effects as well as efficacy. That said, treatments done using Ruby laser provides results that are much slower to appear. On top of that, this type of laser is not efficient on dark skin or coarse hair.
Nd and LP Nd: YAG Laser
Great for dark skin tones and coarse dark hair.
As the strongest laser currently available on the market, Nd and LP Nd: YAG is ideal for coarse hair and dark skin tones. However, it’s not as effective for lighter skin. It has the longest wavelength of all the laser types mentioned on this list which also makes it the most painful. However, given that it can reach the deepest section of the hair follicle root, it does make hair removal fully permanent. This in turn means less need for upkeep and overall appointments.
Great for a variety of skin tones and hair types.
While commonly mistaken for a laser, IPL is actually an intense pulsating light. Contrary to lasers, the wavelength and power of IPL machines can be customized based on skin tone and type of hair. It’s important to note, however, that the light it emits is much more scattered than with a laser. This means IPL is significantly less effective since controlling exactly where it is being directed is not possible. In the end, this means a higher price tag as extra sessions tend to be required.
How to prep for your appointment
Prior to your appointment, you will want to avoid sun exposure or self-tanning as much as possible. This will not only protect you from burns (not to mention skin cancer) but also make sure that the laser can accurately target your hair follicles. You should also avoid plucking and waxing for about six weeks before treatment. It is very important that you do not use any type of hair removal method that may pull the hair out from the root from before your first appointment until your last.
That said, shaving is fine and encouraged. However, we do recommend not doing so within 24 hours of your appointment as this can cause unnecessary irritation. In terms of additional preparation, it is useful to exfoliate daily leading up to your session. This can help break down dead skin cells that could get in the way of the laser’s path. Lastly, if you're prone to redness or irritation be sure to use an anti-inflammatory cleanser on the area beforehand.
What to do after your appointment
How to care for the treated area after your laser hair removal appointment is just as important as how you prepare for it. Most clinics, including here at Nexx MD, will provide you with detailed instructions on what to do (and what not to do) after you leave the clinic.
However, while every clinic is different, there are a few universal guidelines that you should follow to ensure great results.
- The laser will make your skin sensitive to UV rays. This means you should be applying SPF 30+ after every single session. Avoiding direct sun exposure for up to two weeks post-appointment is also helpful.
- Try to choose moisturizers without alcohol since that can dry out the area and cause irritation. Strong fragrances can have the same undesired effect.
- Do not work out, take a bath, or use saunas for 48hs after your appointment. This is to prevent unwanted irritation and redness. When showering try to stay away from very hot water for the first few days.
- To ensure you’re not stalling the progress of the laser it’s very important you do not wax, pluck or remove hair from the root on the treatment area. Stick to shaving to ensure there’s enough follicle root left for the laser to target in your next session.
Curious if laser hair removal in Vancouver is right for you?
Schedule a consultation with our Nexx MD Skincare Experts!