The word laser conjures up all kinds of imagery; scenes from Mission Impossible, weaponry from Star Wars, and a favorite scene of mine from Goldfinger where James is about to get sliced in half come to mind. The vast majority of us don’t use lasers in our normal daily life, and the thought of any kind of laser treatment can seem like a sci-fi fantasy more than a treatment option. However, when it comes to permanent hair removal, laser is an option that can’t be ignored. To put your mind at ease, the lasers used for hair removal are quite different from the one that was used to (almost) split 007 into two pieces. Hair removal lasers are safe when used correctly, and extremely effective at getting rid of unwanted hair on the face, armpits, back, legs and around the bikini line.

How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?

Very simply put, a concentrated beam of light is passed over an area of unwanted hair causing the follicle to be damaged and no longer support growth. The wavelength and type of laser used depends on your specific skin type and the area being treated. Usually 4-6 treatments are required, and the results can be very long lasting, or permanent.

What Factors Contribute to How Effective Treatment Will Be?

There are a few determining factors that will contribute to the success of your treatment. Skin color is probably the most obvious. Darker skin is more difficult to treat because darker skin pigments that will absorb the beam of light before the hair follicles. For the same reason, it is recommended that you avoid sun exposure and tanning beds before getting treated. Special lasers are used on African American, Hispanic, Asian, and other darker skin types.

The best candidates for laser hair removal have darker hair and lighter skin. Lasers target darker hair the best, but even if you have lighter hair, a skilled laser technician will know how to calibrate the laser properly to get the best possible results.

Is There Any Pain Associated with the Treatment?

There are some follow-up consequences to laser hair removal. The pain level is variable from person to person depending on the person’s pain tolerance. The pain can be explained as a quick pinch to the feeling of being slapped by a rubber band. There is also usually a breakout in the area following the procedure since the hair follicle will be left open for a few days until healed. Most patients are given an over the counter cream following the procedure for any breakouts.

How Do I Choose a Great Laser Hair Removal Clinic?

As a rule, you can expect better results at a dermatology clinic over a spa. Lasers are sophisticated instruments that require regular maintenance and calibration. Some spas do not pay for the regular maintenance necessary to keep their lasers in top condition.

  • Ask how much experience your laser technician has. You want someone who has been doing the procedure for many years and has treated all types of patients.
  • Ask for before/after pictures so you can see great results before you sign up.
  • Check Yelp!, CitySearch, InsiderPages, Google Places and other popular review sites and see what people are saying about the clinic or spa you are interested in. People are inclined to leave reviews when they either love something or hate it.
  • A dermatology laser clinic will often perform a quick skin check to ensure you are a good candidate. It’s a great way to get screened for melanomas and other skin irregularities before you get laser treatment.
  • Spas often have just one type of laser left on a one-size-fits-all setting, rather than customizing a specific setting for your skin type and hair color. The result can be burning, pigmentation, scarring, or an underwhelming result.

How Expensive is It?

Laser hair removal can be a moderately expensive process depending on the size of the area you want treated. Prices may also vary depending on what dermatologist clinic or spa you choose, but typically you can get a package deal for multiple treatments. When you consider how your lifestyle will improve, the benefit outweighs the cost for most people.

What About Post-Op Care?

You can resume your regular daily life right after each treatment. Apply the cooling skin cream supplied by the spa or clinic to soothe the treated area and restore moisture. It will help the healing process to avoid chlorinated water and natural sunlight as much as possible for up to a week after each treatment.

Suki Han writes about cosmetic dermatology and advanced laser aesthetics from a top dermatology clinic in Beverly Hills, CA.


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