Is Laser Hair Removal Safe? – Overview
Laser hair removal refers to the process of removing unwanted hair growth on the body using laser technology. The light emitted from the laser converts light into heat and damages the hair follicle, thus inhibiting hair growth in a process known as photothermolysis.
The procedure is safe and in 1997, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved this method of hair removal. Nowadays, laser hair removal techniques are quite efficient and effective and thus are now a common method for hair removal for long periods.
How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?
The primary working principle behind laser hair removal is selective photothermolysis. This implies that there is a matching of a specific wavelength of light and duration to have an optimal effect on targeted tissues with minimal effect on surrounding tissues.
Light can be absorbed by dark-colored objects whereas it is bounced off by white-colored objects. As such, the best candidates for laser hair removal therapy are people with white skin and black hair. Here the hair absorbs the maximum amount of light possible from the laser thereby heating the basal stem cells in the hair follicles and damaging them in the process, while the white skin bounces off the light emission. Melanin is a pigment that gives hair and skin their dark colors. There are two types of melanin in hair: Eumelanin gives hair brown or black color, while pheomelanin gives hair blonde or red color. It is the hair types with eumelanin that give the best results.
When done by experienced operators, laser hair removal is a safe hair removal method.
Laser hair removal has become popular because of its speed and efficacy, although some of the efficacy is on the choice and availability of different laser technologies used for the procedure. Some will need touch-up treatments, especially on large areas, after the initial set of 3-8 treatments.
Other Methods of Hair Removal
Several hair removal techniques is ranging from waxing, shaving and electrolysis.
Shaving – Shaving is the removal of hair, by using a razor or any other kind of bladed implement, to slice it down—to the level of the skin or otherwise. Shaving is most commonly practiced by men to remove their facial hair and by women to remove their leg and underarm hair. Shaving, however, is only temporary and can lead to irritation of the shaved area.
Waxing – Another technique for removing unwanted hair is waxing. This method is an efficient way of removing hair; it is longer-lasting than shaving but not permanent. As waxing has evolved, there are two types of waxing. In one, the strips are already ready to use, and one can apply it to the skin and peel it off in the direction opposite to the hair growth.
Another one involves heating the wax, applying it to the skin, and then placing a cloth on it and pulling it away from the hair growth. It can take up to 5 to 6 weeks before hair starts to grow back on a waxed area.
Electrolysis – Electrolysis is another hair removal method that has been used for over 135 years. The procedure can be used to remove 100% of the hair from an area and is effective on the hair of all colors if used at an adequate power level with proper technique. But the treatment is slow and tedious compared with typical newer laser hair removal.
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What are the Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal gives long term stable reduction in the number of body hairs. There are side effects that are associated with the procedure. Some of them include:
- pink skin
- swelling around the treatment.
These side effects often resolve on their own within two to three days.
More serious side effects of laser hair removal are:
- skin discoloration
Is Laser Hair Removal Painful?
Some level of pain should also be expected during treatments. Numbing creams are available at most clinics, sometimes for an additional cost. Some numbing creams are available over the counter. Use of strong numbing creams over large skin areas being treated at one time must be avoided, as this has seriously harmed, and even killed, patients.
Typically, the cream should be applied about 30 minutes before the procedure. Icing the area after the treatment helps relieve the side effects faster. Ibrahimi and Kilmer reported a study of a novel device of diode handpiece with a large spot size that used vacuum-assisted suction to reduce the level of pain associated with laser treatment.
What is the Cost of Laser Hair Removal?
The cost of the procedure depends on several factors such as the number of treatments required, number of hairs targeted, size of the area requiring treatment, etc. According to 2017 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a hair removal session is $293. As hair grows in multiple phases, you may need multiple sessions to completely wipe out hair growth in an area.
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