Laser Hair Removal
In 1995 the US FDA approved the use of lasers as a medical device for hair removal. In 1999 it approved lasers and flash lamp (IPL) systems for use in “permanent hair reduction’’. The ruby, alexandrite, and diode were the first lasers to be approved.
For laser hair removal, high powered diode lasers are considered top of the range followed by Long-Pulsed Alexandrite lasers, with Nd: Yag lasers being the less effective and often more painful option.
With IPL (not technically a laser) there are a range of systems from units that provide good permanent hair reduction all the way through to systems that only result in a lighter hair growth.
The proliferation of machines on the market that resulted from FDA approval created confusion for those new to these technologies. The difference in the laser machines is the result of the length of the wave length they emit thereby affecting the depth it can travel. Laser has a single colour of light and all wavelengths are the same and IPL has a broad spectrum light made up of different wave lengths.
The new IPL laser works quicker and faster than the older hair removal models
How it works
The hair removal laser, sends out a light wave that is absorbed by the hair pigment. The light wave travels down the hair shaft to destroy the hair follicle, preventing further growth.
In cases where women have dark hair, containing a lot of pigment and light skin containing very little pigment, it is easy for the light wave to differentiate between hair and skin pigments. Lighter hair colours however do not contain enough pigment to absorb the light wave while darker tanned skins ‘’confuse” the light wave, as it is attracted to the pigment in both hair and skin, which can cause scarring of the skin.
At least three treatments are needed to catch each hair at its optimum stage of growth. Some people however need more treatments than this – it depends on the size of the area to be treated and the thickness of the hair.
Contrary to what many manufacturers may want us to believe the FDA has not approved any laser machines for “permanent hair removal” – even though some machines are allowed to claim “permanent hair reduction”
“Permanent hair reduction is defined as the long-term, stable reduction in the number of hairs re-growing after a treatment regime, which may include several sessions. The number of hairs regrowing must be stable over time greater than the duration of the complete growth cycle of hair follicles, which varies from four to twelve months according to body location. Permanent hair reduction does not necessarily imply the elimination of all hairs in the treatment area”
My Beauty Advice
Unlike laser devices there are no international standards for the performance of IPL systems – this means that even the most skilled operator may be under or over treating the skin simply because her machine is not working at the optimum standard for performance and safety – check your operator and their machine.
Most disturbing for many women is the need to shave the area to be treated before laser hair removal is performed – usually the day before the treatment is scheduled as the laser needs a small amount of hair to show through the skin in order to attract the light. After years of being told not to shave as it will make the hair thicker may women will avoid laser hair removal for this reason
The treatment may sting a little like an elastic band flicking on the skin and the area may be red afterwards however this will fade over the following hour.
Laser hair removal treatments can be very effective hair removal method especially for body hair even if it doesn’t permanently remove the hair – treatments are getting cheaper and if your salon visits are 2-3 times per year for maintenance then this should be acceptable. Laser doesn’t seem to be so effective on the face especially on the upper lip so discuss with your operator before agreeing to treatment.