A variety of lasers and intense pulsed light (IPL) sources are marketed for the purpose of hair removal. One of these is the Nd:YAG. This laser can be pulsed rapidly and it has a large beam size. Taken together, these two features mean that an experienced laser practitioner can cover large areas of someone’s body with the Nd:Yag (e.g. the legs and back) quickly and effectively. The following categories of patients are most appropriate for this type of treatment:
- Nd:YAG for Asian skin
- Nd:YAG for black skin
- Nd:YAG for Mediterranean skin
- Nd:YAG for olive skin
- Nd:YAG for Latin skin
Laser hair removal works by the laser attacking the hair follicle in its growth (anagen) stage. The laser’s energy is absorbed by the melanin in the hair follicle and the more melanin in the follicle (or the darker the hair), the more effective the laser treatment.
However, light must pass through the epidermis to reach the deep hair follicle. People with dark coloured skins also have a high degree of melanin in the epidermis which will absorb the laser’s energy. When this happens in large quantities, adverse effects such as burns, crusting, vesiculation and pigmentation can occur.
In clinical tests and in practice every day at laser clinics across the country, the Nd:Yag laser has proved to be exceptionally safe because of the wavelength at which it operates. Its side effects are fewer and of shorter duration than with any other light-based hair removal system.
That said, the Nd:YAG laser can still affect cutaneous melanin and a small proportion of patients with dark skins can develop superficial crusts following treatment. These typically peel off in a week, presenting a sharp contrast to the person’s normal skin colour when they do. Almost always the patient’s skin will return to normal in a fortnight. It’s important for the patient to protect the skin from the sun during this period using a high SPF cream.
Little preparation of the skin is required prior to a treatment with the Nd:YAG laser for hair removal. However, for patients with skin types V and VI, the practitioner may advise using a bleaching cream for a month before starting the treatment. This enables the skin to be a treated at its lightest colour, reducing the chances of any side effects and better enabling the laser light to reach the hair bulb. Multiple treatments using the Nd:Yag laser will be needed in order to achieve the best results.