In the 1990s, a new technique using lasers became available for stopping unwanted hair growth. Since then, this technique has grown quickly in popularity. ShineMD Medspa & Wellness Center of Houston TX offers the very latest devices in hair removal technology. With a few simple treatments, women and men can be free from shaving undesirable hair for decades, often forever.
A simple definition of a laser is an intensified beam of light. Some industrial lasers are powerful enough to make high precision cuts in steel. Of course, we don’t use such intense lasers here at ShineMD Medspa & Wellness Center of Houston. Our hand-held devices are specially calibrated for hair removal.
This manner of permanent hair removal was performed experimentally for about twenty years before becoming commercially available in 1996. During hair removal, short laser pulses are beamed into the skin. The lasers emit a wavelength of light with a specific single color. The energy from the light is transferred to the skin and hair pigment, called melanin. The melanin absorbs the energy of the laser, converting it to heat, which damages the hair follicles. This process stops or delays future hair growth, usually for years.
To remove hair permanently and minimize damage to surrounding tissue, our lasers are highly targeted to specific cells. These are the hair follicle stem cells, which sit in a part of the hair known as the hair bulge. Short laser pulses are used to prevent heat from spreading and causing unwanted tissue damage anywhere else. The energy of the laser is adjusted to be high enough to damage the bulge cells but not so high as to cause discomfort or burns.
A more appropriate name for the process could be “Hair Growth Blockage.” Treatments do not remove existing hair; they stop hair from growing in the treated area. Laser hair removal stops hair growth for years or even decades, but sometimes the effect is not permanent. Any hairs that begin to grow back are finer and lighter than what grew before, and maintenance treatments can easily address determined hairs that return.
Does Skin or Hair Type Matter?
Laser hair removal works best for people with light skin and dark hair. The pigment of the hair, not the pigment of the skin, should absorb the light. The process is designed to damage hair follicles and avoid damaging skin. That means the technique works best when hair and skin colors have a high contrast — light skin and dark hair.
In addition to reducing effectiveness of treatments, moderate contrast between hair and skin color increases the risk of damage to the skin. Advances in technology are improving options for people with light hair or darker skin, but currently, white hair, light blonde, and strawberry blonde hair does not respond well. Dark hair on light skin is far more visible, though, so remarkably, this treatment works best for the people who desire it most.
Laser Hair Removal vs IPL (Intense Pulsed Light)
Both laser and IPL use light to heat the hair follicle and prevent regrowth. The difference in the technologies is the kind of light itself. Lasers produce a very specific wavelength or color of light going in one direction, creating a single beam. IPL produces a wide range of wavelengths appearing as a single white flash. This is closer to natural light when the device is flashed against the skin, like a camera flash.
For hair removal, laser and IPL both use the same mechanism. The light enters the skin and is absorbed by pigment in the hair shaft. Absorption of light causes the hair shaft and follicle to heat up. The hair follicle cells heat to a critical temperature that results in stopping hair growth. The science of laser and IPL are similar, and sometimes both are incorrectly called lasers, but IPL is not technically a laser.
A 2006 review article in the journal Lasers in Medical Science compared Intense Pulsed Light with lasers. The review found both techniques have about the same short term effectiveness, but laser treatments have a strong advantage for long term results.
Laser vs Electrolysis
While laser technology for hair removal became available just over thirty years ago, electrolysis has been used for over 135 years. Like laser technology, electrolysis can stop hair from growing in specific areas, but the treatment is slow and tedious. A study conducted in 2000 compared laser to electrolysis for hair removal. The study concluded laser hair removal was 60 times faster, less painful, and more reliable than electrolysis.
Laser vs Waxing
Waxing is an efficient way of removing hair. It is longer-lasting than shaving but not at all permanent. Ancient Egyptians used a similar method called sugaring. They applied a mixture of oil and honey to their skin and pulled it off after it solidified. As anyone who has used these techniques knows, waxing and sugaring are quite painful. The results are temporary, meaning the painful treatment has to be repeated every few weeks.
There are two types of waxing. One do-at-home option uses pre-waxed strips. A user applies the strips to the skin and peels them off in the direction opposite to the hair growth. The salon option involves heating the wax before applying it to the skin. A cloth is placed on the area, absorbing the hot wax as it cools, allowing it to pull away the hair growth.
Waxing pulls hairs out by their roots, but the follicles remain and continue to produce new hair. Laser treatments disable hair follicles altogether. Freedom from painful short-term waxing is a primary reason people seek the permanence of laser hair removal.
The Laser Hair Removal Process
Laser hair removal usually requires two to six treatments. This is because a laser can only affect actively growing follicles, and only about a fifth of hair follicles actively produce hair at any time. The interval between treatments varies depending on which part of the body is being treated. Areas where hair grows quickly, such as the upper lip, have better results with treatments scheduled four to eight weeks apart. Areas with slow hair growth, such as the back, show better results with treatments twelve to sixteen weeks apart.
The complete process may take a year or more. You will experience less hair growth after each treatment. The treated hair follicles do not fall out immediately. Usually, they fall out over a period of about two to three weeks, and at first it will appear there are new hairs growing. These hairs will fall out on their own and should not be tweezed or plucked out.
Pulling hairs out after a session can be more painful and will counteract the effects of the treatment. After the final treatment, hair regrowth will stop in the treated area for many years. Determined hairs that manage to start growing again are usually much finer and softer than hair that grew previously. Follow-up treatments can easily address any hair regrowth.
What You Do Before Helps Results After
Avoid sun exposure for a month to six weeks before each treatment and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily. Tanning cream darkens skin, so don’t use creams that darken your skin for at least a week before treatments. The contrast of light skin to dark hair is so important that we might prescribe a skin bleaching cream for clients with recent tans or naturally darker skin.
Plucking and waxing disturb hair follicles and should not be used for at least four weeks before treatment. The opposite is true for shaving. Trimming and shaving are recommended the day before laser treatment. Shaving removes hair on the skin surface that can cause skin damage from burned hairs, but it leaves the hair shaft intact below the surface.
As with any medical strategy, we will have a consultation with you before starting treatment. Let us know about any medications you take, including aspirin. Blood-thinning medications often need to be avoided before treatments.
Hot Follicles, Cool Skin
Understanding that a laser works by heating hair follicles may cause you to worry about heat going into your skin. Our laser devices use epidermal cooling to address this issue. As the device glides over the treated area, a pleasant cooling effect keeps the skin safe from damage.
Epidermal cooling allows more heating power from the laser, which makes treatments more effective and less time-consuming.
After Treatments – First Two Days
For the first couple days after treatments, we recommend you wear loose cotton clothing. Your skin will likely be sensitive, so tight fitting or rough fabrics could be irritating. Depending on how your skin reacts, you may want to wear comfortable, soft outfits for a couple days. Try not to touch the skin in the treatment area. If a treated area itches, it will not cause excessive damage if you scratch gently. Just try to avoid vigorously rubbing or scratching treated areas.
Apply only 100% Aloe Vera to your treated area. Any other kind of lotion is not recommended for forty-eight hours following laser hair removal. If your treatment area is your armpits, skip deodorant for a couple days. Do not use any scented product on a treated area for forty-eight hours after a session.
Makeup and Sun
Do not apply mineral makeup until after completing all facial laser hair removal treatments, but do use SPF50+ on treatment areas that are exposed to sunlight between sessions. Cover areas where possible.
Avoid the gym, steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi, swimming pool; any places where your skin may be likely to contact bacteria. Keep water lukewarm or cool during showers. Hot water will be uncomfortable, as it is after a sunburn. Working out is great for your health, but it’s best to avoid all forms of strenuous physical exercise for a few days after a session. Vigorous exercise produces sweat, which will aggravate sensitive hair follicles. This can cause a rash or skin infection. Light activity is fine, but don’t engage in intense activities for the two days after treatments.
General Reactions in First Few Days
You won’t see an immediate difference to your skin after a session aside from some mild redness from the laser. The hair is still present beneath the surface of your skin, but many of the follicles that make hairs grow are now disabled. Without follicles to anchor them, affected hairs will fall out on their own over the following days.
After a few days, you may notice what appears to be new hair growth at the site of the treatment. This means the treatment worked, contrary as it seems. The hair affected by laser treatment was beneath the skin, and some of it was still inside the follicle and had not grown out to be visible.
These hairs push out of the skin and can be removed. We recommend exfoliating gently to remove these surface hairs. If it feels as if a hair is still attached, leave it alone to finish shedding. Two days is a good waiting period between attempts.
As treatments achieve their desired effect, hair growth diminishes. Hair roots will begin pushing out from the follicles. Exfoliate the skin in the treatment area four to five days after each treatment. Dead or dry skin can cause mild redness. Keeping your skin in good condition helps give the best results. When hair begins to regrow between sessions, do not tweeze or wax to eliminate unwanted hair. Only use shaving and hair removal creams for the duration of your treatments.
Protect your treatment area from sun or tanning beds throughout your course of treatment. Stop applying fake tan to your treatment areas at least seven days before each session. Let us know if you begin any new medications throughout your course. Treatments are scheduled to align with hair growth cycles of your skin, so be sure to come in for each session within the recommended time frame.
Long Term Hair Removal Requires Long Term Treatment
This method for eliminating undesired hair requires planning. Laser hair removal lasts a long time, and the results take effect over time. This means no more shaving or waxing for years after completing treatments, and that is the desired benefit, after all. However, treatments will not eliminate hair a few days before a beach vacation.
Stick to shaving or waxing for short term needs. The laser impacts only the hair follicles that are growing when the treatment takes place. Follicles that were resting wake up over a few weeks and hair growth resumes. This is normal and expected. Early stages of laser hair removal require several treatments to get all the follicles.
We Have Your Laser Hair Removal Solutions
Call our clinic if you’re ready to get started or for a personal consultation to help with your decision. One of our experienced providers will personally walk you through the process, discuss your concerns, provide specific pricing information, and offer expert advice. A friendly skincare specialist will satisfy any remaining apprehensions you may have.
Smooth, hair-free skin with no shaving, waxing or plucking was only a dream a few decades ago. Now, with a few simple laser hair removal treatments, a woman can be free of an undesirable mustache permanently or never need a bikini wax again. A man can do away with unsightly back or neck hair. Call ShineMD Medspa & Wellness Center of Houston, TX to find out how.