Laser hair removal is the most rapidly growing aesthetic laser procedure. At The Angel Laser Clinic in Islington, London, we use the FDA approved Cynosure Elite laser. This enables us to select the wavelength that best meets each patient’s needs. Lighter skin types I – III are treated with the Alexandrite laser (755 nm) while darker skin types IV-VI are treated with the Nd:YAG (1064 nm).
Typically about six treatments are recommended, spaced at four to six week intervals to accomplish a 70-90% reduction in hair count regardless of skin type. The Elite laser affords a wide range of power settings and pulse widths to achieve optimal outcomes, something other lasers with fixed parameters are unable to do. Individual results will vary and thicker hair responds better than finer, lighter hair.
All skin types need top quality cooling and for this we use the SmartCool 6. This system delivers air at -4°C and provides cooling protection before, during and after each laser pulse.
Light Skin Types I – III (Alexandrite Laser)
Very light skin (type I) is treated starting with a short pulse width of 10 msec, reserving a more aggressive pulse width of 5 msec for later sessions as the hair gets finer. Coarse hair requires a lower fluence than fine hair so a general starting point is 20 Joules. Men’s facial hair and thick, dense hair on other areas of the body might be started as low as 15 Joules. We use the largest spot size possible given the combination of settings to provide a rapid as well as effective treatment. Repetition rates greater than 1 Hz may be chosen based on patient comfort.
Dark Skin Types IV-VI (Nd:YAG Laser)
People with dark skin types have a heightened risk of side-effects using the Alexandrite laser so the Nd:YAG is the wavelength of choice. To protect these patients’ skins we use longer pulse widths (longer time of delivery of energy). We begin using 30 Joules of energy except in the case of very dense hair, which may dictate a fluence as low as 20 Joules. Pulse width is set to 30 msec and we use repetition rates of 1-1.5 Hz. Again, the size of the body area being treated determines the spot size. This might be 10 mm on small areas like the face, bikini and underarms, and a 12 or 15 mm spot size on legs, backs and chests.
Effective Laser Hair Removal
Women usually choose to treat their bikini area, underarms, face, legs, arms and back. Men commonly choose their chest, abdomen and back as well as the beard and neck areas. We are able to reduce unwanted hair by 80-90% in most of our patients without major complications. Those seeking treatment due to in-growing hairs and razor burns typically see complete resolution after six to eight sessions spaced at six week intervals.
Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal
Follicular edema, or hair follicle swelling, is a perfectly natural result of every laser hair removal session. In 90% of patients it has gone in 15 minutes. In rare cases it can last for several days and cause itching. In these cases treatment with Aloe Vera or 1% hydrocortisone lotion is advised.
Hyperpigmentation can occur occasionally with the Alexandrite laser. While unsightly, these spots will disappear with time if left alone or treated with 4% hydroquinone cream. It is important to avoid sun exposure when using this medication. Hyperpigmentation is extremely rare using an Nd:YAG laser.