Laser hair removal is so great we now wonder how we got by without it! But how does it work?
To help you understand laser hair removal, we’ll first begin by describing what the laser does, and then we will give you some information about the way the body grows hair and what this means for laser hair removal.
Both types of lasers that we use have been approved by the FDA for safe and effective hair reduction. During treatment, the laser emits a pulse, which travels through the skin and is attracted to the darkness of the hair. The laser then heats up the hair’s shaft and root, destroying it. Because the follicle is eliminated, it is unable to re-grow hair. The Dynamic Cooling Device™ of our Candela GentleLASE Plus® laser emits a highly focused spray of coolant on the skin just before each laser pulse, targeting the exact area. This process protects the epidermis from overheating, burning, and scaring while reducing any discomfort.
So, a damaged hair follicle means no more hair. Because the laser effectively targets many hairs at one time, lots of follicles are destroyed at once. This allows us to remove the hair of large areas in a very quick treatment session.
Below is some additional information that will help you to better understand laser hair removal, and the factors that affect hair growth. The human body has a mixture of hairs with varying amounts of melanin, also known as dark pigment, and a combination of activated hairs that are cycling through the growth cycle and hairs that have not yet become active. Most importantly, many factors such as hormones, age, ethnicity, weight, metabolism, and medication all influence the body’s hair growth.
Hair Growth Cycles
When the hair is actively growing each individual hair goes through three main cycles, which are Anagen, Catagen and Telogen. Anagen is considered the growing stage, this is when the root of the hair is the largest, has an abundance of melanin, and is attached to the root. It is only during this stage that the hair is able to be targeted by lasers. Anagen can last several weeks normally, and at any time, about 15-20% of a person’s hair is in this stage. Catagen is often called the transition stage. The hair at this point has completed its growth stage and is as long as it will get. The hair retreats from the root and will fall out on its own. This stage can last anywhere from a week to just two days. Telogen is the “resting” stage where the hair is not growing or shedding. During this stage the hair is not visible and it is fully detached from the root, this stage does not have a set time duration, it can last as short as a week up to a year or more before it comes back to Anagen.
There can be as many as 2,500 hair follicles per square inch, however less than 100 hairs are actually actively growing. The hairs that are inactive are “waiting” to be activated by hormones. This is why many people experience heightened amounts of hair during puberty, and less amounts of hair in some areas as we grow older, such as the head, and more in other areas, such as the ears or back. Our genetic makeup tells our body when to produce more or less hormones, thus affecting our hair growth. Hair must be in the active anagen phase to be treated by laser; this is why treating a young child before puberty will not prevent future hair growth during puberty, it will only kill the hair they have actively growing at that time.
Melanin, or dark pigment is the amount of color present in the hair. Because laser light is absorbed better by dark objects, removal of dark hair is much more effective than for lighter hair. Additionally, the more contrast the skin has with the hair, such as light skin with dark hair, the more effective the treatment will be. Each hair is different and has varying amounts of melanin, which will also influence the effectiveness of laser treatments.