A laser is a very powerful light source. Using this very powerful light source (combined with selective targeting) we are able to create the right kind of damage to a hair follicle so that it ceases to grow. That’s the simple explanation for laser hair removal!
Now, the more complex explanation. In laser hair removal, the target for the heat energy of the laser is the pigment (color) within the hair. By utilizing the correct energy level and type of laser (which depends on the patients skin type), it is possible to cause permanent changes to the root (or bulge) of the hair follicle.There are very small blood vessels that feed the hair follicle at the root. When the laser energy penetrates the skin, it is absorbed primarily in the bulb of the hair follicle. This in turns heats up the bulb of the follicle as well as the small blood vessels that feed the hair and allow it to grow. By heating up these small blood vessels enough, we aim to close them off so that they no longer supply blood flow to the hair follicle. When this happens, the hair ceases to grow.
Now that you have an understanding of how laser hair removal works, there are several other very important factors you should understand before getting laser hair removal. The body has amazing ability to heal the blood vessels that feed the hair so the process of closing them takes repeated treatments over an extended period of time. In our practice we find that typically patients will need between 6-8 treatments and the average time btween treatments is about 8 weeks. So the process does not occur overnight.
The thicker and darker your hair, the better chance of being able to achieve good outcomes. This is why very fine light colored hair does not respond so well to laser hair removal. The bigger the target for the laser, the easier it is to absorb the energy. Thick dark hair absorbs the most laser energy so it responds the quickest. At this time, there is no laser technology that can produce long-term results for hair that is lacking pigment such as white, grey, and blond hair. There are some lasers that must be combined with the use of sprayed on color (carbon) to the hair to add enough pigment for the laser to be able to locate the hair. However, the long-term results are inconsistent at best and we do not practice this technique at our facilities.
Using the correct laser for laser hair removal and the correct amount of energy for each different patient is very important in the outcome for someone doing laser hairremoval. If you are not getting the right laser for your skin type or the proper amount of energy required to damage the blodd vessel, then your results will be poor. You may have a very low percentage of hair removal or you may not get any permanent hair removal at all. A good practitioner will understand the need to utilize the perfect “recipe” that is tailored to the color and texture of the patient’s skin and hair.
Besides the right technology and settings, it is important to follow the correct treatment schedule to get the best results for your laser hair removal program. The success of laser hair removal relies heavily on timing. For laser hair removal to be effective, the treatment should be rendered when the hair is in the growth cycle known as the anagen phase. It is during this hair growth phase when the hair is optimal for permanent destruction. This is another important reason why multiple treatments are needed for optimal results. Multiple or successive treatments allow for more opportunity to target hair in the growth phase and induce permanent damage to the blood vessel. When the hair is not in the anagen phse, there is no target fo rthe heat energy because the hair is not present in the follicle – it has fallen out. By waiting the appropriate time between treatments, the hair is given the correct amount of time to grow back in.
Finally, what the patient does between treatments is crucial in maximizing benefits. If patients utilize other hair removal methods between laser treatments such as plucking or waxing, outcomes will be negatively affected as this will disrupt the hair growth cycle. The only acceptable method of hair removal when receiving laser hair removal treatments is shaving.
Read about the basics of Laser Hair Removal.