Laser hair removal has traditionally been a treatment for patients with fair skin and dark hair tones. This is simply because of the way older laser machines were built, using the contrast of pigmentation between the dark hair color and the fair skin tone to let the laser heat damage the hair follicles effectively.
Many patients ask, “does laser hair removal work if I have blond hair”? Traditionally, the answer has been no, laser hair removal is not effective and is potentially dangerous for patients with blonde hair. However, recent advancements in laser hair removal have started to make this possible. Yes, laser hair removal works for unwanted blonde hair growth.
How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?
Contrary to electrolysis which has been around for more than a hundred years, laser hair removal is a fairly new permanent hair removal method. Laser hair removal is very safe and more affordable than most may think. The method uses a laser that produces a beam of light energy. This energy will target pigments in the hair to reach the hair follicle. When damaging the hair follicle, the energy will actually cauterize the blood vessel feeding the hair matrix. No blood, no fuel, no hair growth.
Laser hair removal needs two essential things to work. Number one is hair in the catagen phase of the hair growth cycle. Indeed, the catagen phase is the only time when the hair and the follicle connect. The hair acts as a conduit, driving the heat to the hair follicle. In the other two phases, the hair is separated from the follicle. Thus, the heat can’t make it to the follicle. The second key element in the procedure is pigment. The laser targets pigments in the hair.
Why traditional laser hair removal doesn’t work with blonde hair
Traditional laser hair removal is designed to work with pigmentation in the hair. The laser zapped at the skin emits laser heat energy to the treated area, which can cause damage to the skin.
A cooling gel is applied to the skin to ensure that the heat doesn’t burn the skin, but the laser is also naturally attracted to the pigmentation of the hair. Once attracted to the pigmentation, the laser heat travels down the hair into the hair follicle, destroying the hair follicle bulb.
This is why it is important for hair to have pigmentation, which blonde hair doesn’t have. Without pigmentation, the laser can’t find its way down to the hair follicle, leaving the heat on the surface of the skin to burn the skin. Not only does this make the treatment less effective for patients with light skin, but it also makes the treatment more dangerous.
However, recent advancements in laser technology have made way towards providing laser hair removal for blonde patients.
One big reason why blonde people can still undergo laser hair removal is that not all hair on their body will actually be blonde. Blonde people will have hair in different shades of blonde on different areas of their body. You probably have noticed how your leg and arm hair is lighter and thinner than your bikini and underarms hair.
The body has two types of hair: vellus hair and terminal hair. Vellus hair is the short, fine, and practically invisible hair that covers our entire bodies. Terminal hair on the other hand is thicker and pigmented. Typically, terminal hair is on the face, the underarms, around intimate parts, on the legs and arms. Laser hair removal removes terminal hair.
Even if your terminal hair may still be blonde, it will be of a darker blonde on some areas of your body than on others. Bikini hair is always darker, thus richest in pigments. Same for your underarms hair. Therefore, you can absolutely undergo laser hair removal on those areas and the results will be as good as with dark hair. Some will dye their light hair a shade darker to ensure better results. However, as we are about to cover below, this may not be necessary.
How Laser Hair Removal works on blonde hair
Over the last few decades, laser technologists have worked to solve the problem of laser hair removal for lighter hair. The core problem is the focus on pigmentation – without the strong pigmentation of dark hair to attract the laser, the laser heat energy cannot travel down the hair and destroy the hair follicle, and instead ends up causing damage to the epidermis or the patient’s skin.
Due to the lack of pigments in fair hair, it may be tricker for the laser to detect the hair. The absence of pigments may hinder the efficiency of the process. Thus, it happened that fair-haired people dyed their hair in a darker shade before a laser hair removal procedure. However, new laser hair removal technologies such as Nd: YAG laser can now successfully remove light-colored hair. No need to dye your hair anymore.
Nd: YAG laser devices:
have a longer wavelength that is highly sensitive to all colors and melanin. This means it can more precisely penetrate hair follicles without damaging surrounding tissue. Indeed, it deposits its energy deep into the dermis without relying on melanin to do so. That is why it is safe for darker skins too. And now increases the chances of success of laser hair removal treatments on blonde hair.
Blonde hair is difficult to treat with laser hair removal because there is no pigmentation in the hair to attract the laser. To work around this, certain lasers have been developed to dye the targeted facial or body hair with a kind of artificial pigmentation before the laser energy is pulsed onto the skin. While artificial pigmentation isn’t as effective as the natural pigmentation of darker hair, this has proven to be slightly effective.
Long Pulse Lasers:
Traditionally, lasers for laser hair removal were built with short pulses, meaning shorter wavelengths. Over the last few years, laser technologists have found that lasers that shoot longer pulses create a safe environment for patients in general, making the procedure safer for individuals with blonde hair.