The selective part of this photothermolysis, is that the laser is programmed to reach the hair without damaging other skin structures. Lasers uses the melanin (colour) of the hair to travel down the root area. However, not all hairs will have the same amount of melanin, and within a single hair not all the parts of the hair will have the same amount of melanin. White hairs have little to no melanin and therefore will not respond to classic laser treatment, although there are now new machines able to treat these hair as well. Added to this is the complication of the hair growth cycle. Of the three stages of hair growth (growing, resting, shedding) laser will only destroy the hair that is growing. This is why it takes several treatments to make a significant reduction and why the timing may never be right during a short course to successfully destroy every hair.
Any area with excessive and/or unwanted hair. Most popular areas are face, underarm, bikini and legs for women. Men prefer to have chest, back or beard shaping
During your consultation, the clinician will:
- Assess your general health, hair and skin type
- Advise if you are suitable for treatment
- Advise how many treatments you might need
- Advise what results you should expect
- Take full consent for treatment
- Advise how to prepare for your appointment and how to look after yourself after treatment and during the course.
An initial patch test will check the response of the skin to laser settings and the safety and suitability for skin and hair type. It is important to leave at least 24 hours before having a full treatment.
On the day of the treatment it is important to arrive with trimmed hair, and, if it’s a facial treatment, free of make up or any cosmetics.
It is advised not to shave before the treatment as this can cause more skin irritation.
Once in clinic the following steps are carried out:
- Assess the patch test area
- Take photographs, with due consent, to maintain a record for evaluation of treatment response
- Position comfortably
- Ensure eyes are protected
- Clean the treatment area
- Individualise the treatment parameters according to skin and hair type, based on the patch test
- Place the handpiece perpendicular to the skin
- Use air cooling throughout the procedure to increase comfort
Pre-treatment- in brief,
- Avoid hair epilation by any method (eg plucking, waxing, threading) for 6 weeks before the procedure.
- Avoid tanning both natural and fake
- Sunscreens and tyrosinase inhibitors (which limit the production of melanin) may be prescribed 4 to 6 weeks before the procedure, especially on exposed areas and in the darker skin types
- Trim the area before the procedure. This is preferred to shaving as it causes less irritation and reduces the risk of ingrowing hairs
Post treatment- in brief
Hair follicle swelling and redness are a good expected response. Following treatment, the most important things to remember are to cool the skin as needed and protect it from sunlight with an efficient
successful hair reduction needs maintenance every 6 to 12 months to treat the small vellus (short, thin, slight-coloured, and barely noticeable new hair) and occasional normal hairs which keep growing back from follicles that were empty at the time of the original treatment, but hormonal stimulation later has caused the growth of a new hair.
from the first treatment you’ll notice a reduction in the amount of hairs and the speed of the hair growth. It can take many months before the successful reduction means you no longer to need deal with the hairs on a weekly or monthly basis.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Certain medical conditions like: psoriasis, vitiligo, bleeding disorders, severe reactions to histamines, previous treatments such as chemical peels and laser resurfacing in the area to be treated. These may not be absolute contraindication and a medical practitioner needs to advise regarding the suitability for treatment.
- Medication that cause photosensitivity. There are multiple medications that cause photosensitivity, but not all of them carry the same risk. It is important to discuss with a medical practitioner regarding suitability for treatment. Examples are Roaccutane and certain antibiotics which are commonly used by patients, but there are many more.
- Suntan and sunburn. When you are tanned, your skin produces more melanin which will be competing with the melanin in the hairs for the energy of the laser beam. This considerably increases the risk of developing complications. Sunburnt skin is already damaged and will be extremely sensitive to the laser. As the laser will be causing more damage, treatment should be avoided.
- Dark skins need to be treated with more care as they have higher risk of developing complications. There are some lasers which are better suited to those with dark skins. They also need to be aware that more treatments will be needed to achieve the long-term hair reduction.
- Keloid scarring is also a contraindication. Patients with abnormal scars need to be aware that there is a potential to create more of these abnormal scars. It is not an absolute contraindication to the treatment, but it is a danger which needs to be discussed with those patients.
- Inflammation, irritation or active infection in the area to be treated.
- Herpes labialis/cold sores: an active cold sore is a contraindication for the treatment. Prevention with antivirus medication is very often recommended to minimise the risk of triggering a severe breakout.
- Presence of tattoos in the area to be treated. The tattoo ink will react to the laser, possibly causing changes to the appearance of the tattoo and preventing the hairs from being treated.
- Recent waxing or plucking up the hairs: there is simply no target in the follicles.
- Light induced epilepsy. It is not an absolute contraindication for certain lasers, but very often precludes the use of IPL. Following discussion with a GP and a doctor who understands lasers, treatment may be possible for those stable.
- White hairs.
Following treatment there is usually some skin inflammation, pain, and burning. More severe adverse effects include blistering, crusting, changes to pigmentation, purpura, and sometimes scarring. Ocular (eye) complications due to accidental injury may be experienced. Paradoxical hypertrichosis (extra hair growth) may rarely occur, usually related to IPL rather than laser.
The cost will vary tremendously depending on the clinic setting, equipment being used, the level of expertise and many other factors. In general terms, you get what you pay for: a corner shop using a cheap IPL machine employing poorly trained staff will always be cheaper than a medically led clinic, which has invested in proper equipment, training and insurance. Very often the quality of the results reflect the difference in price.
“Hair removal should be more realistically termed Laser Hair Reduction which is the best we can achieve in the long term. It is impossible to guarantee 100% permanent total hair removal using laser.” “I recommend potential patients research the best provider they can afford. I have researched and invested in the best most advanced laser available. The members of my clinical team responsible for laser hair removal have had and continue to have comprehensive training and continuous professional development. In this way they have the knowledge and experience to understand the mechanisms and techniques needed to avoid complications and to deliver safe treatments and effective results.”Meet our Experts