The effectiveness of laser hair removal is now widely accepted in the dermatology community and laser hair removal is extensively practised in cosmetic clinics around the world. Hair removal lasers have been used since 1997 and have been approved for ‘permanent hair reduction’ by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States.
Who Sees the Best Results?
Laser hair removal is based on matching a specific wavelength of light and pulse duration to destroy the hair follicle. Lasers cause localised damage by selectively heating the melanin in the hair follicle. The more melanin in the hair follicle (the darker the hair), then the more effective the treatment. Laser does not work well on light coloured hair so people with blonde, white, grey or red hair tend to see little improvement.
People with dark coloured skin (more melanin) are at greater risk of absorbing the energy from the laser into the dermis. This means that they need to use the long pulsed Nd:YAG laser which is specifically designed to be effective for patients with dark skin types (Fitzpatrick IV – VI). Overall, laser hair removal works best for patients with dark, coarse hair and light coloured skin.
Use of the Laser for Permanent Hair Removal in London
The following factors will influence the laser’s effectiveness:
- Its energy (joules per square centimetre) needs to be high enough to heat up the follicles sufficiently to disable them from producing hair.
- The shorter the pulse width, the more effective the laser is in disabling the hair follicle. However, longer pulse widths are likely to be safer for darker skin types.
- The width of the laser beam (spot size). Hair removal lasers have a spot size similar to the size of a fingertip. Larger spot sizes help light from the laser penetrate more deeply, making treatments faster and more effective.
Several Sessions are Required for Permanent Hair Removal
The number of sessions a person needs will be influenced by a range of factors. These include the part of the body being treated, the thickness of the hair, the colour of the hair, the colour of the skin and the reason for the hair growth (e.g. polycystic ovary syndrome).
Hair growth happens in several phases (anagen, telogen and catagen) and a laser is only able to affect hair follicles in the active (anagen) stage. Treatment sessions are therefore usually spaced four to six weeks apart to allow a new set of hair follicles to enter the anagen stage. In order to catch all the hair follicles whilst they are in the anagen stage, several sessions of laser treatment (typically 6-8) are required. After this, the patient is likely to experience a dramatic, permanent reduction in hair count.
Laser Hair Removal versus Electrolysis
Electrolysis is another option for permanent hair removal for very fine and light-coloured hair. Laser hair removal has though become far more popular than electrolysis because of its speed and efficiency. A study conducted in 2000 at the ASVAK Laser Centre in Ankara, Turkey, concluded that laser hair removal was 60 times faster, less painful and more reliable than electrolysis.