Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal has become one of the most popular aesthetic procedures over the past two decades. This non-invasive treatment uses laser energy to target and damage the hair follicle, preventing future hair growth.

 

Treatments Laser Hair Removal

History of Laser Hair Removal Machines

The very first laser designed to destroy hair follicles was invented by Theodore H. Maiman in 1960, using a ruby laser. In the 1970s, the alexandrite laser was developed, which was safer but still lacked enough heat to permanently destroy hair follicles. In 1983, scientists developed a laser that could precisely target individual hair follicles without damaging the surrounding skin, paving the way for effective laser hair removal. The first FDA approval for a laser hair removal device came in 1995 for the SoftLight by ThermoLase, though it proved to be less effective than later devices. In 1997, the FDA approved several more devices that targeted the melanin in hair follicles, providing better and more permanent hair reduction results

Early laser hair removal primarily relied on ruby lasers and alexandrite lasers. Over the years, major advances have been made in laser technology, speeding up treatment times and providing safer, more effective hair removal on all skin tones.

Today, common laser hair removal machines include alexandrite, diode, and Nd:YAG lasers. These use light wavelengths that are absorbed by the melanin in hair. Pulses of laser light heat the hair follicles, disabling their ability to regrow hair. Examples of which can be found in our manufacturers pages or in our used pages.

Laser hair removal has skyrocketed in popularity due to its speed and long-lasting results compared to shaving, waxing, and electrolysis. With multiple treatments, laser hair removal can provide up to 90% permanent hair reduction.

 

How Laser Hair Removal Works

Laser hair removal works by using concentrated beams of light to target and destroy hair follicles.

The laser emits a beam of light that is absorbed by the melanin pigment in the hair follicle. Melanin gives hair its colour, and allows the follicle to absorb the laser energy. The follicle absorbs the light and converts it into heat, which causes thermal damage to the follicle. This disrupts the hair growth cycle and prevents future hair regrowth.

The laser wavelength and pulse duration are calibrated to target only the follicle. The energy passes through the skin harmlessly until it reaches the follicle and into the hair bulb. This provides selective damage to the hair  and dermal papilla without affecting the surrounding tissues.

Proper candidate selection and treatment parameters allow the laser to disable hair follicles during each session.

Repeat treatments are scheduled as needed until satisfactory hair reduction is achieved. With each session hairs or reduce or become finer and lighter. 

 

Best Candidates for Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal works best for people with light skin and dark hair. The laser targets the melanin pigment in the hair follicle, so if there is a stark contrast between hair and skin colour then this will lead to the best results..

The most suitable candidates have fair skin with dark, coarse hair. Light blond, red, grey, and white hair has very little melanin pigment and is more resistant to laser treatment. However, recent advances in laser technology allow for the safe and effective treatment of darker skin tones.

The areas of the body that respond best to laser hair removal include:

~ Face: Laser works extremely well for upper lip hair, chin hair, and facial hair removal. It's a common treatment for women and men.

~ Underarms: The underarm area has coarse, dark hairs that are ideal for laser removal. Just a few treatments can provide long-lasting smoothness.

~ Bikini line: Bikini hair removal is one of the most popular laser treatments. It's a convenient way to achieve a hair-free bikini line.

~ Legs: Laser hair removal on the legs removes unwanted hair from the thighs, calves, ankles, and feet. It provides smoother skin and eliminates the need to regularly shave.

~ Back and chest: Excessive hair growth on the back and chest is common in men. Laser hair removal is an effective way to reduce dense hair in these areas.

~ Arms: Underarm hair extends down the arms for many individuals. Lasers can remove this unwanted arm hair.

 

Laser hair removal is not advised for the following:

 

~ Active skin infections, rashes, open wounds, or sunburned skin should not be lasered.

~ Certain medical conditions may preclude laser hair removal. Individuals who are pregnant, have diabetes, take medications that increase photosensitivity, or have a history of skin cancer should first consult with a dermatologist.

~ Teenagers often want to undergo laser hair removal to remove unwanted facial or body hair. However, hormonal changes may cause new hair growth. It's generally better to wait until full maturity to begin laser hair removal.

With careful consultation and treatment by a trained professional, most people with unwanted hair are good candidates for safe, effective laser hair removal.

 

Lasers Used for Hair Removal

One of the most important considerations in laser hair removal is selecting the appropriate laser wavelength and settings based on the client's skin type. There are three main laser types used for hair removal - alexandrite, Nd:YAG, and diode lasers.

 

Alexandrite Lasers

Alexandrite laser is one type of laser used in laser hair removal. It emits a wavelength of light (755 nanometers) that is absorbed by melanin, the pigment that gives hair its colour. The absorption of light energy heats up the hair follicle, damaging it and inhibiting future hair growth.

Alexandrite laser is considered to be one of the most effective types of lasers for hair removal, especially for people with light skin and dark hair. It is also relatively fast, able to treat larger areas of skin in a shorter amount of time than some other types of lasers.

 

Nd:YAG Lasers

Nd:YAG (Neodymium-doped Yttrium Aluminum Garnet) laser is another type of laser commonly used for hair removal. Unlike Alexandrite lasers, Nd:YAG lasers utilise a longer wavelength (1064 nanometers). This longer wavelength has a lower affinity for melanin in the skin, making it a safer option for individuals with darker skin tones (Fitzpatrick types 4-6) compared to other lasers.

 

Diode Lasers

Diode lasers emit a wavelength of light around 800-810 nanometers. This wavelength targets melanin in the hair follicle but offers deeper penetration. Diode lasers are generally effective on a wider range of skin tones (Fitzpatrick types I to V1) compared to Alexandrite lasers. They work well for coarse or dark hair, but may require more sessions for lighter, finer hair.

 

Feature

Alexandrite Laser

Nd:YAG Laser

Diode Laser

Wavelength

755 nm

1064 nm

800-810 nm

Effectiveness

Best for light skin & dark hair

Works on a wider range of skin tones & hair colours

Effective on most skin tones & coarse hair

Skin Types

I to III (possibly light IV)

I to IV

I to V

Benefits

Effective on thin hair, faster treatment

Safer for darker skin tones, targets ingrown hairs

A wider range of skin tones, deeper penetration, faster treatment times (often with cooling)

 

Diode Lasers: Triple Wavelength

Triple-wavelength diode lasers are a recent advancement in laser hair removal technology. These systems combine the benefits of three individual wavelengths (755nm, 808nm, and 1064nm) into a single device, offering a more versatile and potentially more effective approach.

 

Here's how the different wavelengths work in a triple-wavelength diode laser:

  • 755nm: This wavelength has the highest melanin absorption, making it ideal for targeting fine, light-coloured hair and achieving faster results, particularly on lighter skin tones (Fitzpatrick types I to III).

  • 808nm: Often referred to as the "gold standard" for laser hair removal, this mid-range wavelength offers a balance between melanin absorption and penetration depth. It effectively targets most hair types and skin tones (Fitzpatrick types I to V) and delivers high-power pulses for faster treatment times.

  • 1064nm: This longer wavelength has the deepest penetration and lower melanin absorption. It's most beneficial for treating thicker, coarse hair on darker skin tones (Fitzpatrick types IV to V) with minimal risk of side effects.

Advantages of Triple-Wavelength Diode Lasers:

  • Versatility: A single device can address a wider range of hair colours, thicknesses, and skin tones compared to single-wavelength lasers.

  • Potentially More Effective: By combining the strengths of different wavelengths, triple-wavelength lasers may achieve better results, especially for stubborn hair or a mix of hair types on a single person.

 

Alternatives to Laser 

Alternative approaches could include IPL. IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) for hair removal is a method that uses intense pulses of broad-spectrum light to target and disable hair follicles, preventing future hair growth. The IPL device emits multiple wavelengths of light that are absorbed by the melanin pigment present in the hair shaft and follicle. This absorption of light energy generates heat, which travels down the hair shaft and damages the hair follicle and its regenerative cells. The light is attracted to the melanin in the hair, so IPL works best on individuals with darker hair and lighter skin tones, as the contrast allows for more precise targeting of the follicles. Read our section on laser vs IPL for more information.

 

Treating Dark Skin Tones

Laser hair removal can be highly effective for those with darker skin tones when performed correctly. However, there are some unique benefits and challenges when treating darker skin that technicians must understand.

The main benefits of laser hair removal for darker skin is in tackling coarse, thick hair that other methods struggle to remove. The laser energy can target the entire hair follicle beneath the skin's surface. This allows for long-lasting smooth skin when repeated over several sessions.

The main challenge lies in the laser's ability to differentiate between the pigment in the hair follicles and the surrounding skin. Darker skin contains more melanin, so there is a risk of burning if the laser is not calibrated properly. This makes the choice of laser and technique extremely important.

For darker skin, an Nd:YAG laser is the safest and most effective option. The Nd:YAG laser beam has a longer wavelength than other lasers, which allows it to penetrate deeper into the skin. This deeper penetration helps treat the entire hair follicle while still minimising damage to the surrounding skin.

Technicians must adjust the laser settings based on the individual's skin tone to avoid side effects. This includes using a lower fluence setting and shorter pulse duration. The laser should be applied in consecutive pulses rather than one long pulse. Proper cooling of the skin before and after the treatment will also reduce unwanted side effects.

With the right laser and appropriate technique, those with darker skin can achieve excellent results from laser hair removal safely and effectively. Taking the time to adjust settings and properly cool the skin makes all the difference in preventing burns. When performed by an experienced technician, laser hair removal is one of the best solutions for dealing with unwanted hair for darker skin tones.

 

Treating Fair Skin Tones

Fair skin tones respond very well to laser hair removal, but special care must be taken to avoid burns or damage to the skin. The benefits of treating fair skin include:

·   Fewer treatments needed. Light skin with dark, coarse hair is the ideal combination for laser hair removal. Fair skin absorbs less laser energy, allowing for more energy to reach the hair follicle. This means faster results with fewer sessions.

·   Long-lasting results. For those with fair skin and dark hair, laser hair removal can permanently destroy hair follicles, preventing regrowth for years.

·   Treatment of fine hair. Lasers can effectively target fine, light coloured hair on fair skin that may be difficult to treat with other methods.

However, those with fair skin are at a higher risk of burns, blisters, and hypopigmentation from laser treatment. To safely treat fair skin, practitioners should:

·   Use longer wavelengths. An Alexandrite laser with a wavelength of 755 nm is generally recommended for fair skin, as it is less likely to damage the skin's surface.

·   Use lower energy settings. Start with conservative laser strength and gradually increase as tolerated.

·   Apply cooling techniques during the procedure. Using cryogen cooling of the skin can help prevent adverse effects.

·   Use post-treatment soothing creams. Hydrocortisone cream or aloe vera can relieve sensitivity.

 

Facial Hair Removal

Laser hair removal on the face requires precision and care. The areas treated on the face include the upper lip, chin, cheeks, and neck. These areas need special attention compared to other body parts.

When performing laser hair removal on the face, technicians use lower settings than other areas. The skin on the face is more sensitive. Using higher laser settings can lead to burns or hyperpigmentation. For the best results, start with lower settings and increase as tolerated.

The facial features also require more precision. With smaller treatment areas on the face, the laser needs to be targeted carefully at each hair follicle without overlapping. Overlapping laser pulses can cause unwanted side effects.

Technicians may use special lens attachments for smaller spot sizes during facial hair removal. Working around the eyes, nose and mouth demands higher accuracy.

Patients with darker skin tones have higher risks with facial laser hair removal. The contrast between the pigment in darker skin and hair follicles is less defined. Adjusting settings precisely helps avoid inadvertently targeting melanin in the skin instead of the hair.

With care and precision, laser technicians can safely and effectively remove unwanted hair from the face. While requiring lower settings and higher accuracy, the results are smooth skin and stubble-free faces.

 

Body Hair Removal

Laser hair removal can be used to treat unwanted hair on many areas of the body. Some of the most common treatment areas are the underarms, bikini area, legs, arms, and back.

When it comes to body hair removal, laser technicians can safely use higher settings compared to the face. This allows for more effective targeting of the pigment in thicker, darker body hairs. However, more sessions are often required to achieve satisfactory long-term results. 

On areas like the legs and back, where hair growth is dense, patients may need between 6-10 sessions spaced 4-6 weeks apart. Treating hair on smaller areas like the underarms and bikini line may require 4-8 sessions. After the initial course of treatments, maintenance sessions every 6-12 months can keep regrowth minimal.

 

A guide to Skin types:

   

I

Always burns, never tans.

II

Usually burns, tans with difficulty

III

Sometimes burns, tans gradually to olive complexion

IV

Rarely burns, tans with ease to moderate brown

V

Very rarely burns, tans very easily

VI

Never burns, tans very easily, deeply pigmented

With today's advanced laser technology, all skin tones can be safely treated.

 

Skin types

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