Even though laser hair removal is now a very common way to remove unwanted body hair, it remains an aesthetic procedure. There are therefore a few precautions to take and things to keep in mind before you come in for your first session.
This blog post will answer most questions you may have about laser hair removal. However, should you have more, know that you are eligible for a free consultation with a technician any time prior to your first session. They will address any worries or answer any questions you may have.
10 things you need to know before starting laser hair removal
Share your medical history with your technician
Before you come in for your first laser hair removal, and all the way through your process, you need to share your medication history with your laser technician. Laser hair removal has very few contraindications and they are mostly in relation with medication.
For example, antibiotics increase photo-sensitivity and may make a treatment very painful. Other medication such as accutane and retinoids should not be taken in conjunction with a laser treatment. The wait after you end your medical treatment may take from ten days up to six months.
Shave before you go
It may sound counterintuitive but you need to shave before each session. You can shave the night prior or at least three hours before your session. It is important that the body hair on the treated area is cut flat at the skin level.
Indeed, the laser machine will not make a distinction between long and short hair. It will only target pigments. A long hair will require the energy to travel a longer way. Thus some energy may be lost along the way and the treatment will not be as efficient. Generally, long hair increases risks of burns.
Do not wax, tweeze, pluck or bleach
Laser hair removal needs two things to work: pigments and access to the hair follicle. When you wax, tweeze or pluck, you remove the hair along with the root. Thus, there is nothing left for the laser to target. Body hair needs up to six weeks to completely grow back after waxing.
You should also avoid bleaching. Bleaching will remove all the pigments from the hair. Your body hair will be even paler than blonde. Thus, the laser will not be able to target the hair and the treatment will not be efficient. If you bleach your hair, make sure you stop doing so at least two months before your first session.
Laser hair removal does not hurt
One misconception about laser hair removal is that it is painful. Not as painful as waxing, be sure of that. Beyond that, know that “pain” probably is not the right term to define the sensations felt during a laser hair removal session. Obviously, your tolerance to pain will also factor into that.
Laser hair removal will sting. The sensation will be like the one of a rubber band snapping against your skin repeatedly and very fast. It will not be painful, but it will not be comfortable either. However, it is much more tolerable than the pain caused by waxing.
Don’t work out after your session
After a laser hair removal, the heat will stay under your skin for up to twenty-four hours. Thus, we advise patients to not work out and practice any heat-inducing activity. Hot showers and saunas also belong to that category.
Any of these activities would lead to your body temperature increasing, making you sweat and creating a potential breeding ground for bacteria. This could lead to infection or ingrown hairs, so we recommend waiting at least 24 hours after a laser hair removal treatment before attempting any activity that may increase your body temperature and upset the hair follicles.
Stay out of the sun
You need to stay out of the sun prior to your session as well as after. The same goes with spray tanning and sun beds. Tanning changes your skin color artificially and puts your skin in an excited state that increases the risks of burning.
Other risks include hyperpigmentation and scarring. Patients must avoid the sun after their treatment. Indeed, the skin is more vulnerable to sun damage after a session. Exposing your skin to the sun can interfere with the treatment.
You need at least 6 sessions
Laser hair removal packages always come with several sessions. Why? Because of the hair growth cycle. The cycle has three phases. Laser hair removal only works when your hair is in the anagen phase of growth. It is the only time the hair and follicle connect, allowing the energy to travel from the former to the later.
Unfortunately, only 20% of all your hair is in the anagen phase of growth at any point in time. One session will thus be able to capture 18 to 20% of your hair. That is why you need several sessions. To ensure the laser treats the hair that was not in the right phase of growth.
It is a very fast process
Laser hair removal is a long treatment since it requires at least six sessions, spaced out six weeks. However, a session is in itself a very fast process, depending on the areas you are treating. Obviously, if you just do a small area, the session won’t take as long as during your full body.
A laser hair removal session can take from ten minutes up to two hours, depending on the areas that you are treating. Even for medium size areas, the treatment is fairly quick and you get in and out fast. A lot of patients come for a session over their lunch break.
It works all on skin types
Another big misconception about laser hair removal is that it just works on fair skin and dark hair. While laser machines may have not been adapted to other skin colors in the past, it is no longer true. People of color can undergo laser hair removal safely. The procedure also works on blonde hair.
ND: YAG lasers are the machine used on dark skins and blonde hair. The laser does not rely too much on melanin to get to the follicle. Thus, a sharp contrast between skin and hair color is no longer essential. Laser hair removal does not work on white and grey hair since they do not hold any pigments.
Results vary from one person to another
There are plenty of factors that can influence your results or interfere with the treatment. Your hair color, skin color, hair coarseness, genetics, hair removal history, medication, contraceptives, etc… All those can affect your results and how many sessions you will need.
Some patients will see results after only one session when a lot of their hair will shed. Others will see neater results after three sessions. Some people will only need six sessions, while others will need twelve. Even though laser hair removal works on all skin types, people with dark skin or fair hair may require additional sessions.