Did you know? Hair removal has been a thing since Ancient Egypt! Actually, it is even older since we have found tools used for hair removal from 30,000 BC. Homo Sapiens were indeed using sharp shells to shave. Things have changed since, and many more hair removal methods have come to be. As a laser spa, of course, we are most interested in the history of laser hair removal.
How did it come to be? Who invented it? Or even thought about it? How did it become the method of choice over waxing and shaving? The history of laser hair removal is brief. Indeed, the technique has not been around for that long. Not even a century. While electrolysis came to be during the 19th century. Waxing is even older, dating back from Ancient Egypt.
A brief history of laser hair removal
Before laser hair removal
As mentioned above, hair removal is not something new. Women (and men) have been removing body hair for centuries, if not millenia. The Egyptians perfected sugaring while wealthy Romans shaved and plucked. Back then, being hairy meant being uncivilized. Women in the Middle Ages removed hair on their forehead to make it look bigger.
Fast forward in the 1800s and women used depilatory creams as well as the first razors. While they were at first used by men, Gillette ended up inventing a female razor. It was not pink back then though. Electrolysis had already been around for quite some time until it spread in the 70s as it became much safer.
What about laser hair removal though? While waxing and shaving are still around, the first laser was invented back in the 60s. The very first attempts were not conclusive however and the procedure was not safe. Thus, it was not before a few decades that it became a thing. The history of laser hair removal, also brief, was paved with obstacles.
The very first laser
It is Theodore Maiman who invented the laser as we know it today. He extended the microwave capabilities of the maser (first ever laser) to the optical range with a device creating short wavelength light. Back then, scientists did not grasp the potential of laser technology and Maiman’s publication went unnoticed.
His first laser, although slow and inefficient, changed laser technology forever. Some researchers tried it on body hair and found that it minimized hair growth. However it also had very negative side effects such as skin burns. Intensive research led to the discovery of the YAG laser, which was approved by the FDA back in 1964.
The first YAG lasers worked really well when it came to reducing hair growth. However, the results were not permanent. New research conducted in the 70s led to the discovery of the Alexandrite laser. Laser hair removal became the safest it could be. However, it still was not considered a permanent hair removal method by the FDA. As of today, electrolysis is the only hair removal method that qualifies as permanent according to the FDA.
Breakthrough in the history of laser hair removal
After Maiman published his findings on lasers, research stalled. Then, Dr. Richard Rox Anderson came along. He achieved over 60 national and international laser-related patents. It is after hiring Dr. Melanie Grossman that Anderson started to make laser hair removal the focus of his research.
While they initially tested their theory on dogs, they eventually moved onto human subjects. Anderson actually was the subject of their first human trials. It is his research that led to laser hair removal as we know it today. Anderson and Grossman used a light beam directed at the skin which would send the energy all the way from the hair to the follicle.
This invention is an essential moment in the history of laser hair removal. Anderson and Grossman perfected previous techniques and made them much safer with barely any side effects. Their laser hair removal method was later approved by the FDA in 1997.
Both scientists carried on working together and developed laser devices nowaday used for tattoo removal, healing pigmented lesions, birthmarks and many more.
Laser technology nowadays
According to the FDA, laser hair removal does not qualify as a permanent hair removal method. Yet. Success rates go up to 95% permanent hair growth reduction in most patients. A lot of patients do achieve permanent hair removal however.
Only further long-term research will tell if laser hair removal can indeed achieve permanent hair removal. Even though for long lasers were suitable for white skin only, they can now treat any skin complexion and hair color. ND: YAG lasers are indeed able to provide safe laser hair removal on all skin types.
Indeed, ND: YAG lasers do not rely on melanin to get to the follicle. That is why they work great on blonde hair as well. They are also lasers that make a session much faster and efficient as well as more comfortable. Laser machines usually come with a cooling device.
Home laser devices are also seeing their popularity increase. They are indeed very affordable and allow a laser treatment from the comfort of your home. However, such devices are not as efficient as an in-spa treatment. Laser intensity is indeed lower and not always suitable for darker skins.
Where is laser hair removal going?
The history of laser hair removal is short. Lasers have not changed much in the last two decades. What we can expect from the future is faster treatments, more efficient lasers, painless procedures. As it is, laser machines are already very safe and effective.
Further research may lead to faster treatment. Patients usually need from 8 to 12 sessions for complete hair removal. Treatments may become more comfortable too. One sure thing is that laser hair removal establishes itself as the hair removal method of choice. Indeed, in the long-term, it is the cheapest hair removal method.
Laser hair removal is also on track to become more accepted for both men and women. It works on all skin types and it has been proven very safe. It is slowly improving its reputation and debunking all misconceptions people may have about it.