LASER HAIR REMOVAL OVERVIEW
Laser hair removal is the process of removing unwanted hair by means of exposure to pulses of laser light that destroy the hair follicle. It had been performed experimentally for about twenty years before becoming commercially available in the mid-1990s.
The efficacy of laser hair removal is now generally accepted in the dermatology community, and laser hair removal is widely practiced in clinics, and even in homes using devices designed and priced for consumer self-treatment. Many reviews of laser hair removal methods, safety, and efficacy have been published in dermatology literature.
The science behind this form of hair removal is the intimidatingly named selective photothermolysis (SPTL). This is actually a simple process of calibrating a specific wavelength of light and pulse on a targeted tissue. The process heats the darker areas’ melanin or chromophore. It focuses the light directly on the unwanted hair leaving the surrounding area relatively untouched. This is because light is absorbed by darker objects with greater intensity and speed than paler areas. If not dark enough, the darkness can be artificially induced, however this practice has not worked well in IPL for hair removal.
Melanin is the primary conductor of light during the treatment. Melanin occurs naturally in the skin, giving hair its pigment. There are two types of melanin in hair: Eumelanin gives hair a brown or black colour; while pheomelanin occurs in hair that is blonde or red in colour. Laser hair removal is most suited to the darker eumelanin. The laser also prefers coarse hair to fine hair. It works best on dark hair on pale skin. Newer treatments have been developed that have increased its span of action in dark hair on dark skin.
WHAT TO EXPECT WITH LASER HAIR REMOVAL
A consultation to decide the area and level of hair to be removed. Description and choice of target area. A hand held device zaps the hairs with a ping like sensation often compared to being struck by an elastic band.
BENEFITS OF LASER HAIR REMOVAL
When it works well there is no further need for hair removal – ever! Skin is left soft and smooth.
Controversy surrounds the term permanent hair removal as many users have complete regrowth of hair. Large areas typically need to be redone after the initial round of treatments.
A number of sessions may be required as only hair in a growth phase can be destroyed. Hair growth has 3 major phases - anagen, telogen, catagen,- anagen being the growth phase. This can result in a temporary patch appearance.
The average number of sessions required is 6.
Itching, redness, and slight swelling of the follicles is known as follicular oedema. These side effects rarely last more than two or three days. The most worrying side effect is possible skin discolouration, as in hypopigmentation (white spots). The use of numbing cream has resulted in serious harm and should be avoided. However icing after the treatment is recommended.