Humans, like all mammals, have body hair. While this is perfectly natural, not everyone is comfortable with it. Unlike some other mammals that embrace their natural fuzz, some of us seek solutions to reduce unwanted body hair. This is where technology comes into play, particularly laser hair removal. How does it work? It’s all about science. Long Island-based board-certified dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla explains, “Lasers target the hair at the bulb, with the pigment in the hair acting as the ‘target.’”
According to Hamptons-based board-certified dermatologist Kenneth Mark, this process is called selective photothermolysis, where the laser energy is absorbed by various pigments in the hair follicle, depending on the laser’s wavelength. In simple terms, the laser seeks out the darker pigment of the hair follicle, locks onto it, and eliminates it.
However, it’s important to emphasize that due to the nature of lasers, it’s best to undergo laser hair removal in a dermatologist’s office, as emphasized by the experts we consulted. But before making an appointment, it’s crucial to understand how lasers work and who benefits most from this procedure.
Let’s rely on the expertise of dermatologists to guide you through what you need to know before opting for laser hair removal. Here are some key points to consider.
Does Laser Hair Removal Work Faster in Some Areas?
You can undergo laser hair removal on almost any area with hair, but the process works faster on certain parts of your body. Grosse Point-based dermatologist Shauna Diggs confirms that the most popular areas for treatment are the face, underarms, bikini area, and lower legs. “In studies, the underarms often respond the fastest, in part because it’s the fairest area with the least sun exposure and has darker hair,” Diggs explains. Nevertheless, the consensus among dermatologists is that laser hair removal can be effective on any area with hair, but the number of sessions required may vary depending on the pigment of your hair or skin.
Don’t Expect Instant Results
Laser hair removal is not a one-and-done solution. To effectively remove hair from a specific area, you’ll need multiple visits to a dermatologist. There’s also no guarantee that the hair will be gone forever, as Diggs notes, “It takes about six to eight sessions to get rid of at least 90 percent of the hair in an area.” The number of sessions required can vary depending on the treatment area. Tracy Evans, a San Francisco-based dermatologist, points out that areas with many hormonal receptors or finer hair may require more treatments. Additionally, the timing of sessions is important, with sessions typically spaced out every six to eight weeks.
It Works Almost Anywhere on Your Body
If a part of your body has hair that lasers can target, you can treat it. According to Mark, the effectiveness of laser hair removal depends more on the hair color and the background skin rather than the specific area of the body.
But It’s Not Suitable for Everyone
Laser hair removal isn’t for everyone. While individuals with dark, thick hair and light skin are ideal candidates, it’s still possible for people with skin of color to undergo the procedure, provided the appropriate laser wavelength is used. However, the technology is not yet advanced enough to deliver good results for individuals with blonde, gray, or red hair. Corey L. Hartman, a Birmingham-based dermatologist, points out that individuals with darker skin should exercise caution and ensure that the right laser is used to avoid complications.
More than just selecting the right laser for darker skin tones, it’s also important to minimize potential adverse effects. Hartman mentions that the heat generated during laser hair removal can trigger hyperpigmentation in dark skin, so using a cooling apparatus is crucial to prevent discoloration.
How Much Does It Cost?
The cost of laser hair removal varies depending on the treatment area and the tools used by the dermatologist. Estimates suggest that each session can range from $200 to $400.
It’s Not a Year-Round Procedure
To ensure the best results and minimize potential complications, it’s advisable to schedule laser hair removal treatments when your skin isn’t exposed to excessive sunlight. According to Diggs, the best time for laser hair removal is during the winter when your skin is at its lightest. This is because the laser targets melanin pigment, which can also be present in the skin. So, if you’ve recently tanned, it’s best to postpone your laser treatment.
What About At-Home Lasers?
While there are at-home laser hair removal tools available, dermatologists recommend having the procedure done by a medical professional. The tools used in dermatologist’s offices are more powerful, and dermatologists are equipped to manage any potential complications. Hartman particularly warns against at-home lasers for individuals with darker skin, as they can exacerbate hyperpigmentation.
Total, Permanent Hair Removal Is Not Guaranteed
Laser hair removal does not guarantee complete and permanent hair removal. According to Mark, the definition of “permanent hair removal” is a significant reduction in hair in the treated area, not the complete elimination of all treated hair. Some individuals may experience sporadic hair regrowth between sessions, or even new growth after completing all sessions. If this is a concern, using a razor can help manage it. Additionally, hormonal changes can lead to additional hair growth, especially in conditions like PCOS or perimenopause.
What If You Have Sensitive Skin?
If your skin is sensitive, you can still undergo laser hair removal. However, it’s essential to take precautions to avoid skin irritation. Claire Wolinsky, a New York City-based dermatologist, advises conducting a test spot, reducing laser energy, and using mild soothing topical creams, especially during initial sessions when hair density is higher.
Preparing for Your Session
Before your laser hair removal appointment, it’s important to consider a few factors. If you’re menstruating, consider scheduling your treatment for after your period or before the next one, as the body can be more sensitive during menstruation. Avoiding caffeine before your appointment can also help reduce sensitivity. Drinking plenty of water on the day of your session and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever 45 minutes before can provide relief. If the area to be treated is typically covered by clothing, wear loose clothing to avoid skin irritation. Don’t forget to ask your provider for cortisone cream for topical relief.
What Do I Do After Laser Hair Removal?
What you do after a laser session is crucial. Dermatologists agree that sunscreen is essential to protect your skin post-treatment. It’s also recommended to use mild soothing topical creams, with ingredients like aloe, turmeric, squalene, and hyaluronic acid. Some individuals may experience temporary darkening of the skin immediately after treatment. For those with melanin-rich skin, it’s important to be cautious and use sunscreen, as the skin is more vulnerable to ultraviolet and visible light after treatment. Applying hydrocortisone cream immediately after the session can soothe any skin irritation. Finally, ensure your dermatologist uses a cooling jelly during the session to prevent skin overheating.