What is laser hair removal?
Every one wants to know the best ways to remove hair from certain areas of the body. Laser hair removal is one of the most popular methods in the United States, and the New York Times has reported that there were over a million procedures performed in 2016 alone.
But is laser hair removal really effective? In general, it is a safe and fast treatment that helps you get rid of or reduce the hair on your body. Several treatments are necessary, but the end result is usually smooth skin with no stubble. Some hair might be resistant to the treatment and grow in right after. However, the new hair that grows in is very fine and light.
When choosing a laser hair removal treatment center, you have to do your research. Find out who will be performing the procedure, their training, experience and credentials. They should be able to answer all of your questions and address any of your concerns.
In laser hair removal therapy, a strong beam of light is used in a process known as photothermolysis. The energy produced by the laser or light beam is absorbed by the melanin located in the targeted hair root, and this technically damages the hair follicle. When the hair follicle gets damaged, future hair growth stops. As hair grows in three different stages, a couple of treatments are necessary before you no longer see hair growth. Since laser hair removal relies on the melanin to absorb the laser, the procedure is not as effective for people who have grey or white hair. The darker the hair, the better the melanin will absorb the light.
Just about any part of the body that has hair follicles can be treated with laser hair removal. This includes the face, the head, the neck, the chest or back, the arms or legs, along with the genital region. Usually, your skin will look and feel like you have sunburn on the treated area for a few days after the procedure. To relieve pain and burning sensations, cold compresses and lotions might help. If your skin is blistering, do not try to cover it up with makeup, because this will cause further irritation.
Throughout the month following the procedure, the hair that was targeted should fall out. Afterwards, the skin in that treated area will be very sensitive, so be sure to wear sunscreen.
Possible side effects of laser hair removal include:
Some degree of pain will be experienced during the procedure, and this is normal. However, if the procedure is not done properly, the pain experienced can become excruciating and even unbearable.
After the procedure, you may experience some itching around the area that was treated, but this feeling usually goes away after a few hours. To help soothe the skin irritation, a compression with ice for a few minutes will help.
Discoloration of the skin on the treated area
The treated area will also become red, but that’s only because of the heat produced during the procedure. Discoloration might occur as well, where the skin becomes lighter or darker, depending on the color of skin.
Heat from laser hair removal equipment targets the darker parts of the skin, and therefore, it is most effective when the hair is dark and the skin light. Nevertheless, the settings could be adjusted so that it works regardless of the skin or hair color, but the discoloration may occur if the settings are not properly inputted. When this happens, do not panic, the skin color will regain its tone in a few hours.
People who have darker shades of skin might experience lightening skin. If the wrong laser is used or a laser is used at the wrong setting, a person's skin could lighten in the area.
Skin tone changes
Hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation can also occur after the procedure. Hypopigmentation is when the treatment causes the skin to lighten. The laser can sometimes inhibit the production process of melanin, leading to a permanent loss of pigmentation. This means that hypopigmentation is not reversible.
On the other hand, hyperpigmentation is a darkening of the skin on the treated area. The laser can sometimes stimulate the production process of melanin, a reaction similar to when the body gets a sun-tan.
Burns are one of the most frequent risks of the procedure. These happen when the skin absorbs the laser beam instead of the hair follicle. If the professional is well-experienced, burns are less likely to occur. If the procedure is performed incorrectly and/or by someone without certification, you might be burned.
Since darker skin absorbs more light, people with darker skin tones are more likely to experience burns.
Typically, these burns are mild. However, severe skin burns have also been reported as a result of laser hair removal. As mentioned, in most of the cases skin burns have resulted from treatments performed by inexperienced and not qualified people.
In rare cases, laser hair removal treatment can cause blistering, crusting or scarring of the skin.
There is usually a plume of smoke discharged during the procedure as the hair follicles are ‘burned’. Various toxins have been found in this smoke. Risks can be avoided by using a mask or evacuator–suction machines.
Laser hair removal can sometimes, in rare occasions, cause serious changes in the skin like scarring, crusting or blistering. Swelling, redness, color changes of treated hair, or increased hair growth are other uncommon side effects of the procedure.
Besides the risks cited above, some people might not want laser hair removal because of the misconceptions surrounding the procedure. One of these concerns is cancer. Some people are afraid that the radiation might cause certain forms of cancer. However, this isn't true. The radiation from laser hair removal equipment is non-ionizing radiation, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states does not cause any harm.
The dangerous kind of radiation is ionizing radiation produced by gamma and X-rays. Ionizing radiation has a higher frequency and can pass through the body, affecting the cells’ DNA and causing cancer. Radiation from laser hair removal is only superficial, turning into heat and only destroying the hair follicles. These same concerns spread to the effects of the procedure on fertility, particularly if the procedure is performed in the genital area. Again, this is just not true because the radiation does not go past the skin layer.
Always be informed about any hair removal treatment you choose. Also, be sure the procedure is suitable for your skin type. Make sure to choose a reputable clinic and a professional team for your laser hair removal treatment. In the hands of a non–professional the laser hair removal therapy can become dangerous. The damage may outweigh its benefits.
Be careful when considering salons or spas offering this treatment. Even though they offer inexpensive laser hair removal therapy, this therapy is usually performed by non–professionals. Choose dermatologists or plastic surgeons instead to perform the procedure.