Alright guys, I made a discovery a few years ago that I just really need to share with the world. I finally made the leap and tried laser hair removal and I’m completely and utterly #obsessed. About 95-98% of the hair on my treated areas doesn’t grow anymore and what does is manageably soft baby hair. Now, for someone who used to have terribly thick, dark, coarse hair and suffered from weekly ingrown hairs, this is a BIG deal. If you’ve ever had questions about it or wondered how it works, read below to learn more!
How does it work?
A specialized laser emits a wavelength of light which aims to target the dark melanin in the hair and to reflect off of the lighter melanin in the skin. For this reason, laser hair removal works best on those with great contrast between their skin and hair color (ie very pale skin with very dark hair). The burst of light targeted towards the dark colored hair causes the hair follicle to heat up at a quicker rate than the surrounding skin, thereby damaging or killing the follicle and (hopefully) preventing future hair growth.
How long does it take for the procedure to produce visible results?
Don’t expect to be completely hairless after your first visit. The follicles will be damaged or killed by the procedure and will push the encased hair out generally within 7-14 days after the session. This can produce the illusion that your hair is actually growing faster, but don’t worry, it’s just part of the shedding process!
How long does it last?
Some claim that the results are permanent but it’s important to note that the only guaranteed method of permanent hair removal currently available is by electrolysis. Laser hair removal CAN last forever but the results vary from person to person. At the least, if the hair does grow back it should be much finer and softer. The average person needs between 9-12 sessions to see “permanent” results and will often need a touch up session every year or two for maintenance.
Does it hurt?
This will absolutely vary from person to person but I can definitely say that for me, it was much less painful than waxing. The real draw for me was how fast it was! My full Brazilian treatment usually took no more than 5-10 minutes and my half leg treatments usually take 10-15 minutes. Some people use a numbing gel before treatment (make sure you ask your technician if this is okay!) but I’ve never used it and find the procedure’s pain level to be totally manageable. Most of the newer lasers also have a function that blows cold air on your skin right after the emission of the laser to combat the stinging/burning sensation. Additionally, you can ask your technician to apply pressure to the area after each zap which also seems to help with the pain.
How much does it cost?
Again, this varies wildly depending on where you have the procedure done and how large of an area you’re treating. I’ve heard of people paying as much as several thousands of dollars for a full set of treatments on a large area but the treatments for my Brazilian and half legs (both considered large areas) come out to a little over $40 per session with tip (tip your esthetician!). With a waxing session being around the same price, it made the decision to switch really easy for me. I’ve had great luck looking on Groupon for treatments but make sure you ALWAYS research the business and check out their Yelp reviews!
Who does it work best for?
As mentioned above, the treatments work best on those with light skin and dark hair. The more contrast between those colors, the better results you’ll see! It used to be that only those with this combination of features could be treated, but the technology has seen tremendous growth since its 1995 inception and has been applied in new lasers meant specifically for treating darker skin tones. Ask your technician about it!
Can I shave in between sessions?
Yes! This was honestly one of the biggest draws for me because I HATE letting my hair grow in between waxes. It may seem counterintuitive but when you consider that laser hair removal works by targeting the follicle below the skin, you want to make sure that the laser can accurately “see” it without the hair above getting in its way. This also prevents unnecessary damage to the skin because it keeps the heat targeted at the follicle.
How do I find a great laser technician?
The invention of Yelp has honestly changed my life. Read reviews, and lots of them! If a business doesn’t have very many reviews, move onto the next. Don’t settle for anything less than awesome reviews from lots of people because laser hair removal can cause some actual damage when done improperly. Your technician should make you feel comfortable, inform you of all risks, should educate you on the process, and should tailor a personal treatment plan based on your skin and hair type. Do you research, and find someone who is genuinely passionate about doing their job well.
What areas of the body does it work best for?
Laser hair removal can be done anywhere on the body except near the eyes (hopefully for obvious reasons). The most popular areas are the bikini, legs, armpits, chin and upper lip, arms, areolae, and the chest or back.
Can a laser treatment be done over a tattooed area?
Absolutely not. Because the laser targets dark pigment, it can cause the pigment within a tattoo to scatter, thereby discoloring the tattoo. If you value your ink, stay away from lasers!
Is it the same thing as Electrolysis?
No. Laser hair removal works by applying a high level of damaging heat to multiple hair follicles concentrated in a small area (the area varies depending on what laser head is used). In contrast, electrolysis works by running an electrical current into each individual hair follicle by using a small needle. Electrolysis can be very painful, is much more expensive, and the procedure time is quite a bit longer than laser hair removal, but the results are absolutely permanent.
Can I pluck or wax in between sessions?
No! You can shave as much as you want (yay!) but it is very important to avoid waxing, plucking, or using any depilatory creams in between your sessions. Your hair grows in cycles and laser hair removal works most effectively when the hair is at a specific stage during the cycle. The treatments are spread out every 6-8 weeks to ensure all hair follicles within the area receive treatment at the correct point in the cycle.
Are there other things I should consider?
These are all things that should be explained by your technician but there are a few more important rules to follow:
Interestingly enough, medications such as antibiotics can affect your skin’s sensitivity to light so most technicians won’t treat you if you’re currently taking them. Always let your technician know of any changes in medication before your sessions to avoid unnecessary damage to the skin.
If you like to tan, you’re out of luck. Sun exposure must be avoided as much as possible for at least 2 weeks leading up to your treatment. If you have a tan, most technicians will not perform the procedure. This is because you run the risk of hyper pigmentation of the skin, burning, blistering, and even scarring. Additionally, sun exposure must be avoided as much as possible for up to 6 months after the treatment to avoid these same problems. Be sure to always use sun protection after your procedures!
Bear in mind that the results do vary from person to person. Those with sensitive skin may experience dermal irritation, itching, redness, and swelling. Use a cooling aloe vera gel (preferably alcohol-free) after your procedure to help combat any of these side effects.
**Want to know more? Check out this awesome link explaining the science and engineering behind laser hair removal in great detail!