Hair Removal - FAQ
How does laser hair removal work?
We're all familiar with how on a sunny day, dark clothing attracts the sun's energy and heats up much more so than lighter colored clothing. Hair removal works on the same process. A handpiece containing an 810nm laser is continuously moved over the desired area as it pulses light energy through the skin. Coloured melanin (pigment) in the hair shaft and root attracts the light energy and causes the follicle to heat up. Warming of the follicle continues until it reaches 45 degrees. At this point, the follicle is damaged and will generally not produce any further hair growth. The hair in these follicles will be expelled over the following couple weeks.
What does it feel like?
The rapid laser pulsing, combined with lower power per pulse and continuous movement, allows for a much less painful treatment than traditional higher energy, single pulsed lasers. The sensation has been compared to that of a hot stone massage. Treatement areas are divided into a series of small sections. The small area being treated will start getting warm. You will then feel a prickly sensation as the follicles respond to the energy and the area will get hot within a minute or two. At this point, some people may experience a very brief, but sharper sensation akin to the snap of an elastic band. Any sensation is overwith immediately and the treatment then moves to the next area and the process repeats till the entire area has been treated. Should you feel uncomfortable, the area can be pretreated with a numbing cream to reduce the sensation.
There is no lasting sensation in each of the sections but the treated sections typically remain pink or red for 30 minutes. Different areas of the body also respond differently and surprisingly, the areas you might think would be most sensitive turn out to be much less so than others.
Which areas can be treated?
Laser will work on any body area other than near the eyes (e.g. eyebrow) as the light is too intense, making it a risk to the optical nerve. The table on the main page lists the commonly treated areas.
Does hair/skin color matter?
Yes. As explained above, the procedure relies on heat to damage the follicle. This requires a darker hair shaft and a lighter surrounding area (skin). Light hair (very blond or gray) will not absorb enough energy to be effective. Conversely, dark skin will absorb most of the energy instead of the hair and the treatment will also not be effective.
How many treatments will I need?
Hair grows in 3 different phases and is only responsive to reduction treatments in the first phase (anagen). Hairs in the treated area will be at different stages and therefore not all hairs will respond at the same time. While there may be 50% or greater reduction after a single session, 6 or more sessions may be required in order to catch an acceptable numer of hairs in their anagen phase. Some areas may ultimately achieve complete clearance but 80-90% is typical for someone with dark hair. Even without 100% clearance, what does continue to grow is generally thinner and lighter and often not noticeable or objectionable.
How long between treatments?
Hair grows in the different stages at different rates in various areas of the body. The cycle can be from a few weeks to a few months but the average is 6 weeks. Therefore, treatments for the same area should be scheduled about 6 weeks apart. Treating additional areas in between those sessions is completely acceptable and can substantially reduce the overall time required.
- Very tanned skin
- Dark skin
- Very light hair
- Implanted birth control (at location of implant)
- Skin trauma, lesions, sores or open wounds in treatment area
- Areas to work around: ingrown hairs, tattoos, permanent makeup
- Recent use of photo-sensitizing oils, creams or medications
- Accutane, Retin-A, St. John's Wort, Doxycycline, Tetracycline, Minomycin