Like my patients, there are many good reasons why you may be considering laser hair removal. Whether you’re a lady who doesn’t want to shave her legs or underarms anymore, or you have facial hair you find unattractive, or if you’re a man who has hair on his back or upper arms and is tired of the constant pain of tweezing or waxing, permanent hair removal solutions may be of interest to you.
It used to be that if you wanted to permanently remove unwanted hair, electrolysis was your only option. However, many people found it to be painful. It was also expensive as it had to be repeated several times. For most people, laser hair removal provides a less painful, but only slightly less expensive, option to get rid of unwanted hair.
What Is Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal is generally a safe and effective way to reduce unwanted hair from legs, armpits, chin, upper lip, cheeks, bikini line, between eyebrows, or anywhere unwanted hair occurs.
In laser hair removal, a laser light is used to damage the follicles much like in electrolysis. The hair either stops growing permanently or it grows slowly and is much lighter in color and texture. However, laser hair removal doesn’t completely guarantee that hair will not grow back and often requires several treatments before you can achieve a prolonged hair-free result.
Drawbacks to Consider
Laser hair removal doesn’t work equally well for everyone. The laser light is calibrated to react to darker colors. People with fair skin attempting to remove dark, coarse hair tend to have the best results. It isn’t very effective on white, blond or gray hair, though research is continuing in this area and solutions may be available soon.
However, this doesn’t mean that if you have darker skin, you can’t take advantage of laser hair removal, but you may need more treatments to get the results you want. You should discuss the possible outcomes with your dermatologist before making a decision.
Second, you cannot do laser hair removal if you have a tan. The pigmentation in your skin when you have a tan can interfere with the laser light. It can also result in dark patches appearing on your skin. So, you have to wait for the tan to fade before scheduling your treatment.
Third, no matter what your skin type multiple treatments are almost always required to achieve permanent hair removal. This does add to the expense.
Finally, there is the possibility that you will experience adverse side effects from laser hair treatment. The lasers may change the pigmentation of your skin in the treated area, making it appear lighter or darker than the surrounding areas. You may also experience burning, blistering or scarring. Minor swelling after the procedure is normal.
What To Look For In A Laser Hair Removal Clinic
To be assured that your laser hair removal procedure will be done correctly with no/minimal complications, this is what I recommend to my patients in choosing a laser hair removal clinic:
- Board Certification: You want to make sure you are going to a board certified physician in either dermatology or plastic/cosmetic surgery who has experience with laser hair removal. Some physicians also have PA-C’s, a certified physician assistant, or CNP’s, clinical nurse practitioners, or RN’s, registered nurses, who are qualified to perform the procedure under the doctor’s supervision.
- Spas and Medical Estheticians: These practitioners also advertise laser hair removal, often for much lower prices than dermatologists or plastic surgeons. However, remember the age-old caveat, “you get what you pay for”. Be absolutely sure you ask and know that there will be a board certified physician who is actually there at the spa during your treatment and will be available to supervise and make medical decisions should the need arise. Licensing boards in most states are becoming more patient/consumer protective in trying to ensure the presence of a board certified physician during laser procedures.
- Costs: Be sure that you have all your costs in writing and that you have read and understand exactly what you will be responsible for and how much, if any, your insurance company may cover.
Laser hair removal is generally safe and effective, albeit perhaps somewhat expensive, depending on how much hair you have to remove and how often you will need to repeat treatments until it stops growing back.
If you decide to look into laser hair removal further, my recommendation would be to stay with the board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. These doctors know skin and can provide you with the best result. Schedule an appointment to have a detailed consultation first and ask all of your questions to be sure you know exactly what can and cannot be done and what results to expect.
All caveats aside, the positive psychological boost that getting rid of appearance-detracting unwanted hair can give could be well worth the time and cost you put into laser hair removal.
Jay Brachfeld, M.D.
Laser Hair Removal, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/laser-hair-removal/MY00134/DSECTION=results
Laser Hair Removal, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqZu1kGi1Ws
Photo Credit: aestheticmedicalnetwork.com