It’s hard to believe that just over 15 years ago there was no such thing as laser hair removal. Now lasers and light sources are used the world over to permanently remove hair with little discomfort and little effort. Developed by Harvard dermatologists, this technique has revolutionized hair removal. While the effectiveness and safety of laser hair removal devices are no longer in question, results and patients’ satisfaction depend on several factors.
Brown/black hair vs. blonde/white hair
Laser hair removal is effective in most individuals regardless of the color of their skin. However, brown and black hair can be permanently reduced in a series of 4 to 6 treatments in most areas of the body, while blonde and white hair remains a challenge owing to its lack of melanin pigment, the target for laser light. The good news is that studies are underway at SkinCare Physicians to develop an effective laser to reduce blonde and white hair.
Facial hair vs. body hair
The most commonly treated areas are the upper lip and chin, sideburns, underarms, bikini area, arms and legs in women and the chest and back in men. Facial hair is a bit harder to remove and takes 6 or more treatments while bikini and underarm hair responds a bit quicker, and leg and arm hair clears in as few as 3 or 4 treatments.
After treatment there is usually mild redness and swelling that lasts a few hours. With most devices the hair is removed temporarily with 6 treatments. Our experience at Skincare Physicians shows that about 20% of the hairs never regrow and the rest slowly regrows over 4 to 6 weeks at which point it is time for the next treatment.
Cost is an issue? Consider at-home laser hair removal devices
Home devices are also available for laser/light hair removal. 2008 saw the first FDA-approved laser hair removal devices for at-home use. These devices are now safe and effective. While they are much slower and they remove less hair per treatment than the professional treatments, they provide the ultimate in privacy and at a lower overall cost. However, before trying an at-home procedure, discuss it with your dermatologist to ensure the best results.
Editor’s note: This updated blog was originally published on September 3, 2013.