Laser hair removal is a very convenient hair removal method. It does have to adhere to a few rules however. Avoiding direct sunlight, protecting the skin against UV-rays, shaving prior to each session, etc. Thus, it raises the question as per when is the best time to start a treatment and undergo laser hair removal.
How does laser hair removal work?
Laser hair removal is a long-term hair growth reduction method. The FDA does not categorize it as leading to permanent hair removal. Indeed, it will reduce hair growth by up to 90%. However, a lot of patients do indeed experience permanent hair removal after their initial treatment of six sessions. Some patients may need additional sessions.
Laser hair removal relies on a concept called selective photothermolysis. It is the matching of a specific wavelength of light and pulse duration to obtain optimal effect on a targeted tissue with minimal effect on surrounding tissue. In the context of laser hair removal, the target is the hair follicle.
During a session, the laser emits light energy that will pick up the pigments in the hair. Once the melanin has absorbed the energy, the latter will travel down to the hair follicle. There, it will turn into thermal energy and anchors itself to the follicle. The heat will damage the hair follicle, preventing any further hair growth.
Laser hair removal only works on body hair that is in the anagen phase of growth. Indeed, it is the only time the hair and follicle connect, allowing the energy to travel from the former to the latter. Unfortunately, only 20% of all body hair is in the anagen phase at any point in time. Thus, one session can treat up to 20% of body hair on the treated area.
The hair growth cycle explains why patients need multiple successive laser hair removal sessions six weeks apart. Another 20% of hair will grow into the anagen phase during those six weeks of rest. This hair will be targeted during the next session. The treatment leaves the skin quite sensitive and more vulnerable to external aggressors. Thus, the skin will need those six weeks to recover and regenerate.
Why must I avoid sunlight during my treatment?
During a laser hair removal session, a lot of light energy will be sent to the skin. If the intensity is too high, that is if too much energy is sent, the skin may burn. That is one reason why patient-technician communication is so important. If a patient feels the laser gun is too hot, they must say so to avoid burns.
Direct sunlight, especially on unprotected skin, can lead to sun damage such as sunburn and other more serious second degree burns. Sun damage leaves the skin very sensitive and more prone to subsequent damage. Thus, skin that has been exposed to UV rays and direct sunlight will be more sensitive to the laser treatment to start with.
Thus, the laser gun feel much hotter. Plus, the treatment may be more painful and may carry more risks as well. The risks of burning sun-exposed skin or sun-damaged skin is much higher since it is already very sensitive to heat. Should you have to stay in the sun prior to your session, remember to apply a physical sunblock with a strong SPF.
You should avoid sun exposure in the ten days prior to your laser hair removal session. You must also avoid the sun in the ten days after. As mentioned above, the procedure will leave the skin quite sensitive. Sun exposure can lead to sun damage such as hyperpigmentation (on white skins), hypopigmentation (on dark skins), sunburn, second degree burns and in the worst case scenario, skin cancer.
Does the procedure work on dark skin?
During a laser hair removal session, the light energy is attracted by the melanin in the hair. Thus, the procedure works best when there is a sharp hair-to-skin contrast. Indeed, such a contrast will help the laser pick up the hair more easily. People of color have a melanin rich dark skin and dark hair.
Thus, they do not offer a sharp contrast. Patients with dark skin may think that they cannot undergo laser hair removal. Indeed, the energy would not be able to pick up the dark hair on dark skin and thus focus on the surrounding skin instead. While the first laser machines did not indeed offer safe laser hair removal for darker skin, new technology nowadays does.
Laser hair removal is safe and efficient on dark skin as long as the lasers used are either diode or ND:YAG. Indeed, both use a 1064nm wavelength that does not rely on melanin too much to get through the dermis to the hair follicle. This wavelength basically bypasses the skin and melanin, thus making the need for a sharp hair-to-skin contrast redundant.
Laser hair removal will also be the safest and most efficient on naturally dark skin. Indeed, natural skin tone and melanin will not interfere with the treatment. On the other hand, skin that has been exposed to the sunlight, UV rays or that is tanned will be in an excited state that may interfere with the treatment.
Can I undergo laser during summer?
Patients must avoid the sun before and after their session. Thus, they may ask themselves whether they should start or continue their laser treatment during summer. After all, it is the time of year they are most likely to expose their skin to direct sunlight or sunbath. Yet, it does not mean they should not undergo laser hair removal during that time.
Even if they start their treatment a year prior, it is possible that patients still need a session or two during summer in order to complete their package. In that context, patients may still come in for sessions but will have to be very careful. Indeed, they will need to apply a strong physical sunblock with SPF 50 on their skin several times a day in order to protect it effectively.
Whenever possible, patients will have to wear covering clothes, especially in the areas they treat. It is important to protect the skin to avoid any sun damage. If patients wish to have a session as they come back from holiday, it is safer to wait two weeks. Indeed, tanning puts the skin in an excited state that may interfere with the treatment.
Waiting two weeks after sun exposure will help the skin recover. The skin will regenerate from the UV rays as well as remove some of the tanning. This will help make the laser treatment safer. Whether you should undergo laser hair removal in summer also depends on what area you treat. If you undergo laser hair removal for your underarms, of course, it is unlikely that you will expose that area to UV rays all the time.
When is the best time to undergo laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal during summer is possible. Yet, patients must to avoid direct sun exposure, sun damage and protect their skin to the best of their ability. However, it still is not ideal. Of course, if you started your treatment at the end of winter or during spring, you will need to come in for laser sessions during summer.
Keeping summer and your future holiday in mind, it makes sense to start laser hair removal during fall. Indeed, it is that time of year after everybody gets back from their holiday and goes back to work. Patients are less likely to expose their skin to direct sunlight. If only, they will start to wear winter clothes which are quite covering.
When starting a laser treatment during the fall, patients should be done with their six sessions by mid-spring. This will leave enough time to come in for up to three additional sessions, spending on the area treated. Thus, your treatment should be done by the beginning of summer while also leaving some time for the skin to recover after the last session.
Patients may start laser hair removal any time of the year. However, keeping in mind that it is safer to avoid direct sunlight, fall is the best time to start a treatment. Especially if the area treated is the face or the legs. While the former will be exposed all year round no matter what, the latter are more likely to be exposed during the summer months.