Unwanted facial and body hair is a common problem that can be a source of distress for both men and women. Dermatologists use lasers and light sources to safely and effectively treat larger areas of unwanted hair with minimal patient discomfort and fewer complications than other hair-reduction methods. Most lasers are equipped with a cooling device that reduces the discomfort from the laser light and also protects the top layer of skin from excessive heating and potential changes in pigmentation.
How Does It Work?
Laser and intense pulsed light (IPL) devices send specific concentrated beams of light through the skin that are absorbed by the melanin (dark) pigment present in the hair follicle shafts. Because hair grows in cycles, repeated treatments are necessary to destroy the hair follicles. In general, three or more treatments are required to achieve permanent hair growth reduction.
Will it work for me?
Darker hair responds best to laser hair removal. Lighter-colored hair is least responsive. Be sure to avoid tanning or sunless tanners and to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen for up to six weeks prior to treatment.
Are there any side effects?
The most common side effects include discomfort, swelling, and redness that last one to three days. Other possible side effects include blistering, herpes simplex outbreaks, bacterial infections and temporary skin lightening or darkening (especially in patients with skin of color or those with tans). Patients are instructed to avoid sun exposure and to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher following the procedure.
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The appearance of the treated area immediately following treatment will vary from patient to patient, depending on the extent of the procedure and the skin type. Side effects are rare and, if they do occur, are typically minor. They may include redness and swelling around the hair follicle, which are, in fact, positive clinical results and indicate that the follicle has responded to treatment. Most people return to normal activity right away.
Laser hair removal requires multiple treatments. This is because the laser works best when hairs are in an early growth stage (referred to as anagen), and all the hairs are not in this phase at the same time.