Laser Hair Removal
What is laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal is a widely sought-after cosmetic treatment that makes use of concentrated light beams to eliminate unwanted hair from different areas of the body. This procedure zeroes in on the hair follicles, hindering their capacity to produce new hair. It’s a lasting solution for reducing hair growth, providing smoother skin, and diminishing the need for frequent shaving, waxing, or other temporary hair removal approaches.
Cost of laser hair removal
The average cost of laser hair removal is between $100 to $1,500 per treatment session.
- Small Areas: Areas such as the chin, upper lip, or underarms may range from $100 to $200 per session.
- Medium Areas: Areas like the lower legs, bikini line, or upper arms may range from $200 to $400 per session.
- Large Areas: Areas such as the back, full arm, or full legs may range from $400 to $1,500 per session.
It is important to keep in mind that multiple sessions are typically required for effective and long-lasting results. On average, individuals may need around 2 to 6 sessions, spaced several weeks apart.
Factors affecting the cost of treatment
There are several factors that can affect the cost of laser hair removal. Some of these factors may include:
- Treatment Area: The size of the area being treated plays a major role in determining the overall cost.
- Number of Sessions: The total number of sessions needed to achieve your desired result will vary based on hair type, color, and thickness.
- Clinic Location: Where your clinic is located can make a difference. Prices are often higher in urban cities compared to rural areas.
- Your Provider: The experience of your provider can affect the cost as well. Highly skilled laser hair removal providers often charge a premium for their services. The best types of providers for this treatment are dermatologists or plastic surgeons.
- Laser Technology: The type of laser used will make a difference. Advanced laser systems typically are more expensive.
- Special Offers: Some hair removal clinics offer discounts and package deals for multiple sessions.
- Additional Services: Additional services like numbing creams, cooling gels, or post-treatment care products may increase your overall cost.
Are you a candidate?
The best candidates for laser hair removal should have light skin and dark hair, although the treatment can still be performed in candidates with darker skin if done by someone with experience and with the correct laser.
Individuals with white, blond or red hair are not ideal candidates for this treatment because their hair does not have enough pigment to absorb the light emitted from the laser. You may not be advised to have laser hair removal if you also have any of the following.
- Keloids (raised scars) or other scars
- A history of skin disorders
- Recent tan
- A desire to treat an area that has tattoos or pigmented lesions
- A desire to treat eyebrows or other areas around the eye
- A tendency for cold sores
- Take gold salts for rheumatoid arthritis
How does it work?
Laser hair removal works by emitting light of different wavelengths to targeted hair. The light is absorbed by a pigment in hair called melanin, gets converted to heat, and destroys or damages the hair follicle. This prevents or delays the hair follicle from producing more hair.
Many different types of lasers can be used to remove hair, with the most popular being the Alexandrite, Diode and Nd: YAG.
- Alexandrite laser – the Alexandrite laser emits light with a short wavelength and is best used in individuals with light skin and dark hair. This is because the shorter wavelength does not penetrate as deeply into the skin and the light may not only be attracted to the dark pigment in the hair, but also to the dark pigment in the skin. This can result in laser-induced burns or changes in skin color in individuals with tan or darker skin. However, the Alexandrite is highly efficient and can reduce hair by 78% at one year.
- Diode and Nd: YAG lasers – The Diode and Nd: YAG lasers emit light with long wavelengths and are preferred to be used in individuals with darker skin because the longer wavelength can penetrate more deeply and interfere less with the skin’s melanin. For this reason, both of these lasers result in less pain and fewer skin color changes. However, out of the two, the Nd: YAG is considered a better option to treat individuals with dark skin.
How to prepare for treatment
Before getting laser hair removal, you will be advised to avoid the sun and use sunscreen and other skin protection 6 weeks before treatment because a darker tan could increase the risk for skin color changes or burns during treatment.
You should not wax, pluck or thread at least 4 weeks before treatment or in between treatments. However, you should trim or shave hairs just before the procedure to minimize the risk of burn from the laser being attracted to the pigment in the hairs above, rather than below, the skin.
You will also be asked to stop taking blood-thinning medications such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications.
You can expect the procedure to last anywhere between a few minutes up to an hour depending on the size of the area being treated. Smaller areas like the upper lip will take a much shorter time than the back or legs.
Your doctor or technician will give you a topical anesthetic or local anesthesia before starting the procedure if treating more sensitive areas. You will also be given eye protection to wear to prevent the laser light from being absorbed by pigmented areas of your eye, such as the retina.
During the procedure, a handheld instrument will be used to deliver precise laser pulses to a quarter-sized area of hair. The instrument may have a cooling gel at its tip to lower the skin’s temperature and protect it from burns or discomfort. With every pulse of the laser, you will likely feel a bit of discomfort that feels like a warm pinprick. Many people describe the feeling as similar to a rubber band snapping against your skin.
Following the procedure, you may experience pain and swelling in the area that was treated. Ice packs should be applied to help the swelling go down.
If you experience burns or skin color changes during the procedure, you will be given topical steroids immediately after to be applied daily for the next several days.
You can expect to resume your normal daily activities once the procedure has finished.
When to expect results
Although you might expect hair to fall out immediately after treatment, it usually takes a few days or weeks for this to occur.
Your first laser treatment should delay hair growth for 2-6 months. However, the stage a particular hair is at in its growth cycle may affect how effective laser hair removal is.
Additionally, the color and thickness of hair, the color of skin and the type of laser all can influence the effectiveness of treatment. For example, there may be only a 10-25% reduction of hair following the first treatment.
How many treatments will you need?
For more permanent results you may require between 2-6 treatments spaced apart 4-8 or 12-16 weeks depending on the rate of growth of the hair being treated as well as a maintenance treatment performed annually.
How long will your results last?
The results you obtain from the procedure are not necessarily permanent, as hair follicles may recover and grow hair again. However, treated hair usually comes back finer and lighter. After all treatment sessions, patients may experience hair removal that lasts several months or even years.
Alternatives to lasers
If you are unsure about getting laser hair removal, there are other similar options available. Some of these alternatives include:
Electrolysis: This procedure involves putting a very fine needle in each hair follicle. An electrical current passes through the needle and destroys the follicle, preventing hair from growing. Electrolysis is likely to result in more permanent hair removal compared to laser hair removal, but like laser hair removal it takes multiple treatments to achieve optimal results. It is capable of treating all skin colors and can treat areas around the eye, but the procedure takes longer because it cannot cover as much area at a time.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): IPL works similarly to laser hair removal, but instead of a laser emitting light with one wavelength, it emits light with many wavelengths. Because the light from the IPL is less focused and more scattered, it can treat larger areas at a time, resulting in a shorter procedure time. Other options for hair removal include shaving, waxing, plucking and chemical depilatories, although none of these methods result in permanent hair removal.
To learn more about laser hair removal, visit the American Academy of Dermatology Association website.
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