Lasers are a new modality for the rapid, gentle removal of unwanted hair. Laser hair removal has become one of the most common cosmetic procedures performed in the United States, ranked second among cosmetic procedures behind Botox® injections in frequency of procedures performed. Laser hair removal utilizes beams of highly concentrated light designed to selectively penetrate into the hair follicles. The light beams are absorbed by the pigment in the hair follicles and destroy the hair within that hair follicle. A variety of lasers and light sources have been developed that may be employed in laser hair removal.
How do lasers work?
The laser works by a principle called selective photothermolysis. The laser is pulsed (turned on) for a millisecond emitting a beam of light on to the skin. The light energy passes harmlessly through the skin, but is absorbed by the pigment in the hair follicle and hair shaft. By absorbing this laser energy, the hair follicles are disabled, impairing their ability to grow. Hair does not actively grow at the same time, and has three stages during the growth cycle. The hair follicles in the first stage of growth are the darkest and absorb the most energy.
The LightSheer laser is an 800 nm high-power, long-pulsed diode laser with contact cooling that provides safe and effective reduction of pigmented hair in patients with a variety of skin types. The LightSheer Diode Laser System offers high powers to safely and effectively treat all skin types, including tanned skin and the broadest range of hair colors, diameters, and depths. The LightSheer is the recognized “Gold Standard” for hair removal.
What is the procedure?
The area to be treated will be shaved clean and an anesthetic cream can be applied to minimize discomfort. During the procedure you will feel intense emissions of light on the skin as the laser is absorbed by the hair follicles. Each pulse of the laser lasts a fraction of a second and treats an area of approximately one half inch. LightSheer’s cooling tip will decrease the skin temperature, providing an additional mild anesthetic and preventing burns from the heat generated by the laser.
How long will the treatment take?
The treatment time can vary considerably depending on the size of the area treated and the technique used. A small area such as the upper lip may take only five minutes, while a larger area like the back or legs may take up to one hour.
Since the laser affects only those hairs in the growing stage, and not all hairs will be in this stage at the same time, several treatments may be needed to effectively remove all the hair from one area. Subsequent sessions will be scheduled at least a month apart, when you will probably begin to notice the regrowth of hairs that were previously in the resting stage.
Where will the treatment be performed?
Laser hair treatment is usually performed in the doctor’s office.
Will the treatment hurt?
Most patients describe it as a little uncomfortable, similar to a rubber band being snapped on the skin. Because some areas of the body are more sensitive, you may want to use a topical anesthetic. Applying this anesthetic prior to treatment will lessen any discomfort. Nitrous oxide gas (laughing gas) can also be used during the treatment.
What can I expect after laser hair removal?
Following the procedure the area may be red or swollen, as if mildly sunburned. Your doctor may prescribe a topical cream to soothe the skin. Occasionally, the skin in the treated area becomes slightly crusty, but this reaction should fade within a few days.
Although you can resume your normal activities, you should avoid exposing the treated area to the sun. Clean the area with mild soap and water and do not use any products that may irritate the skin (such as Retin-A or astringents).
You will notice hair “growing” in the area within ten days of your treatment. This is actually the damaged hair falling out, rather than regrowth. You may shave these hairs if they bother you, but do not wax, tweeze, or bleach hairs between sessions.
After a treatment cycle is complete, you can expect your skin to be smooth and bump free.
What are the risks of laser hair removal?
Although laser treatment is generally safe and effective, possible side effects of the procedure, such as blistering or crustiness of the skin, can occur. These side effects are almost always temporary; however, to reduce the risks involved in this procedure, carefully follow all of your doctor’s instructions before and after the procedure.
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