Laser hair removal is a very safe and effective cosmetic procedure that allows patients to be rid of their hair forever. Maybe not forever, but for a very long time at least. Indeed, laser hair removal being still a young technique, there is not enough research to back up its permanent results. Thus, it is called a long-term hair growth reduction method. However, a lot of patients do experience permanent hair removal. What about contraindications for laser hair removal though?
Can everyone really undergo laser hair removal? Are there contraindications for laser hair removal? Aren’t some people meant not to try it out? What about pregnant women? And if you are in the midst of hormone therapy? There are indeed contraindications for laser hair removal and instances where it is better to not give it a shot.
How does laser hair removal work?
Laser hair removal is a long-term hair reduction method that uses selective photothermolysis. The laser gun will match a specific wavelength to a determined pulse duration meant to target an object at the surface of the skin. Such technique will not damage surrounding skin tissues.
The laser gun will produce a beam of light that will target the pigments in the hair. Once the energy is in the hair, it will travel all the way through to the follicle, under the dermis.There, the energy will turn into thermal energy. The heat is what will damage the hair follicle, thus preventing any further growth.
What the thermal energy actually does is cauterizing the blood vessels that feed the hair follicles on the targeted area. Once the follicle no longer gets its fuel, it dies. Only a permanently damaged hair follicle will allow for permanent hair removal. Indeed, if the follicle manages to regenerate, it will produce new hair.
No contraindications for laser hair removal so far.
What about the six weeks wait?
Laser hair removal always comes in several sessions. One will never be enough. Furthermore, patients are required to always book their sessions six weeks apart. Why is that? Because of the hair growth cycle. Laser hair removal only works when the hair is in the anagen phase of growth. Indeed, it is the only time the hair and follicle connect.
Thus, only in this stage of growth can the energy travel through the hair to the follicle. Unfortunately, only 20% of all body hair is in the anagen phase of growth at any point in time. This means that one session will only be able to treat 18% to 20% of your hair. This is why patients must wait six weeks between laser hair removal sessions.
Those weeks leave some time to the hair to switch to the right stage in the hair growth cycle. Not only this explains why patients need to space out their sessions six weeks, but also why they need several of them.
What about contraindications for laser hair removal though?
Can everybody undergo the treatment?
If by everybody you are referring to skin tones or hair color, then yes. Everyone, regardless of their skin or hair color can undergo laser hair removal. Indeed, laser technology improvements allow to treat dark skin as well as fair hair very safely. The treatment may require additional sessions for maximum results, but it is still possible.
It is important not to confuse natural skin complexion and tanning however. As stated above, laser hair removal works on brown and black skins. Indeed, ND:YAG lasers do not need melanin to deposit the light energy under the dermis. However tanning puts the skin in an excited state which can interfere with the procedure and increase the risks of side-effects.
Now, if you are referring to conditions, then no, not everyone can undergo laser hair removal. For example, while the lack of research and study cannot confirm nor deny the risks of laser hair removal for the foetus, it is advised that pregnant women do not start a treatment. Or interrupt the treatment they had on-going.
Any other contraindications for laser hair removal then?
Photo-sensitising creams and oral medications
One crucial aspect of a successful laser hair treatment is open communication between the patient and laser technician. It is important that you disclose your medical history to ensure that you are not putting yourself in danger while undergoing laser hair removal. Indeed, some medical treatment should not be taken in conjunction with a laser treatment.
For example, some medication can increase photosensitivity. They will make the treatment more painful, more uncomfortable and they can also increase irritation. Those medications are quite common and may require the doctor to push back the beginning of the treatment from two weeks to several months.
Antibiotics increase photosensitivity. Therefore, patients must wait 10 days after their last intake before resuming their laser treatment. Patients taking Retin-A or Tetracycline must discontinue their medication a month prior to their next laser hair removal session. Patients on Accutane must do so three months prior.
As a general rule of thumb, Retinoids are big contraindications for laser hair removal. You can find the list of drugs that can cause photo-sensitivity here.
Laser hair removal and other treatments
While patients are able to combine a lot of treatments together, other contraindications for laser hair removal include facial treatments such as chemical peels and glycolic acid treatments. Patients are able to undergo both treatments as long as they are on different areas of the body.
Indeed, chemical peels and glycolic treatments leave the skin very sensitive as they remove the upper layer of the skin. Those facials can lead to pigmentation, which the laser may target. This increases the risks of burns and negative side-effects.
The skin needs time to heal after such facial treatments. It is important that any redness, sensitivity or pigmentation disappear before a patient undergoes laser hair removal. Any other facial treatments that do not include removing the upper layer of the skin, laser or micro-wounding the skin is fine however.
There are a few contraindications for laser hair removal. However, they are either rare or easily avoidable as most of them are not permanent. Patients must always disclose their medical history to ensure they are eligible for laser hair removal at that point in time. If you are unsure, give us a call at (646) 870-6028 or book a free consultation.