Laser Hair Removal
Dr Sue Galligan, Principal Laserway on Davey
Laser hair removal has been around for 15 – 20 years – we should know by now if it’s any good! The short answer is yes, it’s amazing and life changing for the right people.
If you have lighter skin and you’ve suffered with dark hairs in places you don’t want or have hairs that get thick and coarse with shaving or waxing, often getting ingrown hairs and red, lumpy reactions after trying other methods to get rid of the hair, then you are an ideal candidate for laser hair removal.
Lasers produce a coloured light and need an opposing colour in the hair to absorb this light, for example a red laser light works fantastically on black hairs. Unfortunately, blonde or white hairs can’t be treated as they do not have any dark pigment in them. Red hair can also be difficult to remove if using a red light laser as there is no opposing pigment. Sometimes grey hair can be treated if there is still some darker pigment in the hair follicle.
Certainly, light skin with dark hair works best. Darker skin tones have been a problem for all lasers in the past as this skin contains a lot of pigment in itself, as well as in the hairs, so potentially all the pigment present could take up the laser light with the result that too much heat may be produced and it is more likely to blister/burn and potentially hyperpigment or go darker as it heals.
Many of the newer lasers now have the technology to treat darker skin for hair removal but it still requires expertise and experience to avoid complications.
Laser hair removal requires multiple treatments over time to get rid of most of the hair- exactly how many treatments is impossible to know at the start, it depends on how much hair there is, how big the area is, is there an underlying medical condition etc, and this will be explained during a consultation. In most cases, 4-8 treatments will see a huge improvement, treating as often as monthly or every 6-8 weeks depending on the area.
If you have darker skin, the energies used will be lower and so it’s more likely to take longer. The same applies if you have a tan -highly likely to get a bad reaction and should be avoided if you are considering having a course of hair removal.
It is advisable to shave the area for treatment a day or so prior to laser – long hairs left on the skin will absorb the laser energy and stop enough energy getting down into the hair root to damage it. Lasers that have bigger spot sizes, are faster or have vacuums in the handpiece to suck the skin up during the laser shot are quicker and less painful than small handpieces.
Areas such as underarms, bikini area, backs and legs are well suited to large spot sizes and these areas can now be treated faster and with less pain. The face may need a smaller spot, but most people can manage with ice packs or topical anaesthetic if need be.
The laser shot can feel like a hot flick as it pulses and it is important to tell the person treating you if it is too painful- it may be that it was ok last time but now you may be more tanned and you will feel it more so the energy needs to be lowered, don’t stay quiet if it feels different!
Afterwards, the skin treated will look a bit red and may be a bit lumpy as the skin around the follicle can swell temporarily. You can get it wet but treat it gently, you may want to apply a soothing cream such as Savlon® or Bepanthen® for a day or so. Any unexpected or persistent reaction should be reported back to your treating clinic.
You can expect to see the treated hairs seem to grow up then fall out over the next 1-2 weeks, leaving the skin soft and hair free for a while till the new hairs start to come through. In areas of high hair density and faster growth like the chin, this hair free time will be shorter than other slow growth areas like under arms but in all areas, after each treatment the hairs will be less and grow back finer.
Are there safety concerns about having laser treatment?
Yes, most laser systems produce a class 4 light which has the potential to cause eye damage so protecting your eyes is paramount. This can be achieved by applying lead shields to your eyes or wearing goggles appropriate to that laser. Don’t take them off until you are told to. Any area of skin treated with a laser is even more sensitive to the sun for a month or so and sunscreen on any exposed treated areas is essential over that time.
Is the hair loss permanent?
We like to call it long term hair reduction, it is hard to kill off every hair forever, but we know that you can get great long-lasting results with soft, smooth hair free skin that makes life so much easier. No embarrassing ingrown hairs or shaving rashes. You may need a redo treatment every so often.
Are all lasers the same?
Definitely not!! You need to do your research on what type of machine is being used and what are the qualifications of the operator. Cost is important but experience and ability to follow up any concerns is essential. If you have dark or tanned skin, you need to be very careful having any sort of light/laser treatment. Look for a clinic with experience and expertise in lasers.