WHAT IS LASER HAIR REMOVAL?
The only traditional means of removing unwanted hair has been waxing, shaving, depilatories, or electrolysis. All of these methods provide only temporary benefits, and can potentially be very painful. While developing a ruby laser for defense purposes back in the 1980s, a Russian physicist accidently applied the laser beam to his arm. He later noticed that hair in that area was vaporized, and that it took several months for new hairs to begin growing again. This was the birth of laser hair removal, a treatment shown effective at eliminating unwanted growth on the legs, armpits, face, back, or other areas of the body.
HOW DOES LASER HAIR REMOVAL WORK?
Lights from a laser device are used to target individual hair follicles while they are in the active growth cycle. This then damages follicles, while producing only a minimum amount of trauma to other nearby tissues. Since only a small percentage of hair follicles are actively growing strands at any given time, additional treatments will be necessary. Only the hair in the anagen or growth phase is treatable.
Results of this procedure differ based upon a person’s hair color, skin type, and area of the body he or she is treating. Filtered light, such as those used in laser procedures, only detect color. This means that fair-skinned people with dark hair in the treated area normally achieve the most dramatic results. On the other hand, individuals with dark skin and lighter hair often notice very little improvement, since the laser light becomes more dispersed underneath the skin. Likewise, those with white, gray, red, or blonde hair may also achieve less than desirable results.
Even though the desired outcome is permanent hair removal, some individuals notice lighter, thinner hair instead. There are also certain medical conditions that might prohibit you from having treatment. These conditions include pregnancy, the use of certain medications, herbs and vitamins that increase photo sensitivity, diabetes, a history of keloid scarring, or if the skin turns brown when it is scratched. A recent sun tan received within six weeks will preclude treatment until your tan fades.
HOW IS LASER HAIR REMOVAL PERFORMED?
During a laser hair removal consultation, Dr. English will collect a health history and then discuss the goals you would like to achieve through laser hair removal. If you have dark skin, he may test the laser on a small spot of skin to determine if you are a good candidate. We have two hair removal devices in our office, the intense pulsed light (IPL), which is a filtered white light, or the more common laser device, the alexandrite. Laser hair removal is performed as an in-office procedure at the English Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery Center and Surgi-spa in Little Rock by trained physicians. Since some clients may feel discomfort when the skin is exposed to the light pulse from the IPL device and/or the laser device from the alexandrite, topical anesthetic creams are applied to the skin 30-45 minutes prior to treatment to lessen the discomfort on the skin’s surface. Otherwise, the sensation is often described as feeling like a snap from a rubber band.
WHAT IS RECOVERY LIKE?
A burning sensation may result from the procedure that can last for up to one hour. Redness that lasts from 30 minutes to two days may also occur. Swelling may appear immediately after treatment, especially if the face has been treated. With any laser treatment, there is always the slight possibility of developing a superficial crust or blister on the skin. This crust or blister should not result in a scar and is treated like a sunburn or any other blister. The treated areas commonly heal without any pigment changes, however, there is always the possibility that darker or lighter areas may occur. These changes in pigment are usually temporary and fade within one to six months. Some activities should be avoided following laser treatment. Shaving in the treatment area should be delayed until the redness disappears and sun block should be used to protect the treatment area from the sun until the series of treatments is concluded.
WHAT KIND OF RESULTS CAN I EXPECT?
You will not notice the results of your laser treatment immediately. It takes around two weeks or so for the hair shaft to fall out on its own. Only actively growing hair follicles are removed and/or modified, so the re-growth of dormant hair will necessitate additional treatments. Most of our laser hair removal patients return when there is evidence of new hair growth. In facial areas, this growth usually appears after four weeks. Hair growth in other parts of the body can be noticed in six to eight weeks.