How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?

Spektrum Laser Spa is a trusted provider of laser hair removal services in NYC. Our spa has been operating and providing hair removal services for years. While our technicians are experts at what they do, we understand that as a client undergoing the treatment, you will want to know what it actually is about.

After all, even though laser hair removal is now an established practice with proven success, it is still subject to a lot of misconceptions. Those may make prospective clients reluctant to choose laser hair removal as a hair removal option.

However, knowing how the procedure works, what are the core concepts behind laser hair removal and what steps it actually involves will reassure more than one person. We always feel more comfortable about things we know and understand after all. Laser hair removal makes no exceptions.

Especially as there are a lot of laser myths that still need to be busted.

How does it work?

Laser hair removal helps patients to get rid of unwanted hair using a concept called selective photothermolysis. The matching of a chosen wavelength and pulse duration will lead to obtaining a desired effect on a specific target without damaging the surrounding skin tissues.

During a laser hair removal treatment, the specific target is the hair (or the pigments within). The desired effect is altered hair growth through damaging the hair follicle. The light energy travels through the hair to the follicle where it turns into thermal energy. The latter will damage and deactivate the follicle.

The main goal of laser hair removal is to damage the hair follicle beyond repair. If the follicle cannot regenerate nor function, it cannot produce any new hair. It is the combined effects of all hair follicle on a specific area going through that same process that will produce consistent long-term hair growth reduction.

Although laser hair removal is not permanent as per the FDA standards, most patients do experience permanent hair removal. Touch up sessions may be required later on to treat hair that was not caught during the previous sessions or regenerated because the damage was not strong enough.

Can anyone undergo laser hair removal?

The man who invented laser hair removal tested the treatment on itself before making it available to more people. Since he had fair skin and dark hair, the treatment was tested, tried and made for light skin in mind. Therefore, the procedure was more effective when there was a sharp contrast between skin and hair.

As a consequence, lasers were more suitable for light skin and dark hair, making it believe that people of color and with fair hair would not be ideal candidates for laser hair removal. While this was true for a long time, technology improvement changed that. Laser hair removal works on all skin types, colors and complexions as well as blonde and ginger hair.

It all comes down to the laser machines used. Dark skins are at a greater risk of burns should the laser be unable to make the difference between skin and hair. However, diode lasers and ND:YAG lasers proved very efficient and safe for people of color.

ND: YAG can safely treat all skin types as it deposits its energy deep into the dermis without relying on melanin to do so. On the other hand, it is the non-existence of skin to hair contrast that made laser inefficient for blonde hair. Here again, ND: YAG laser is the solution.

The only contraindications to laser hair removal concern pregnant women, people on certain medications or suffering from certain medical conditions.

Why do I need to wait six weeks between sessions?

Patients may wonder why they need six sessions of laser hair removal. This is simply because of the hair growth cycle.

Body hair goes through three cycles during their growth: anagen, catagen, telogen. For laser hair removal to be efficient, the energy must be able to travel through the hair to the follicle. Therefore, the two must connect. The anagen phase is the only time the hair and the follicle do so.

Laser hair removal will thus only work on hairs that are in the anagen phase. However, only 20% of all body hair is in that phase at any point in time. This means that one treatment will be able to target up to 20% of your hair. Each being unique, it has its own cycle and it is impossible to determine how long each hair will stay in which phase.

This is why sessions must be spaced out six weeks. It allows the laser to target hair that was not previously in the right phase of growth but that now is. Spacing out sessions may also give time to hair follicle that were inactive to wake up and produce hair to be targeted during the treatment.

Do I really need to shave prior?

Patients may wonder. If the point of the procedure is to remove unwanted body hair and stop shaving or waxing, why do I have to shave prior to each session? This is most of all a matter of safety and efficiency.

You need to shave so that the hair on the targeted area is cut flat at the surface of the skin. As explained above, the energy travel through the hair to the follicle. The shorter the hair, the shorter the journey to the destination. Long hair may lose energy along the way and make the treatment not as efficient.

Furthermore, as the laser target hair pigments, longer hair means the surface to target is bigger and not as precise. This increases the risks of burning and scarring. Shaving just ensures that the treatment is more efficient and safer for the patient.

It is better to shave at least six hours before your session. Indeed, shaving irritates the skin and may induce tiny cuts. Doing it in advance will give the skin more time to heal and will make it less sensitive to the laser.

What are the risks of laser hair removal?

Even though laser hair removal is a very safe treatment, just like any other cosmetic procedure, it has risks. However, patients can drastically reduce the likeliness of side-effects when following pre and post-care recommendations as provided by the laser technician.

Any concerns or questions a patient may have must be addressed prior to the beginning of the treatment. It is important that patients are open about their medical history or prescription they may be on as some medications and conditions are not compatible with laser hair removal. Communication is key to a successful session.

Laser hair removal leaves the skin more sensitive and vulnerable to sun damage. Therefore, patients must stay away from direct sunlight as much as possible and apply a strong SPF whenever they are outside. Tanning should also be avoided as a sudden melanin change may interfere with the treatment.

Other more common yet still rare side effects of laser hair removal include mild swelling, small pigment changes, skin redness, mild irritation, etc. However, those are all temporary and should go within hours.

In conclusion

Laser hair removal reduces hair growth by up to 90%. The laser targets the hair pigments and sends energy to the hair follicle, thus damaging it. This action will cause hair growth to stop. A very safe procedure, it has very few contraindications, no downtime and works on all skin colors.

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