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Laser Hair Removal

What Is Laser Hair Removal?

bodybackLaser hair removal is an innovative aesthetic dermatology treatment designed to remove unwanted body hair with potent light energy. During the procedure, various wavelengths of laser light are gently passed over the skin and absorbed by the growing hairs, making the hairs smaller and finer until they become virtually invisible. Unlike temporary measures (e.g. shaving, waxing, plucking or sugaring), lasers provide the opportunity for permanent or near-permanent hair reduction. Dr Anne Farrell, our Consultant Dermatologist, can use two different laser hair removal devices depending on your individual skin tone, hair colour and cosmetic goals.

Who is an Ideal Candidate for Laser Hair Removal?

At Dermatology Consulting, we carry both the Alexandrite and long pulse Nd:YAG lasers, both of which are able to offer the full spectrum of hair reduction for all skin colours. That said, certain types of lasers are better suited for different skin tones and colours.

The ideal candidate for laser hair reduction will have thick, dark body hair and fair skin, as the laser can easily target the contrast between these features. The Alexandrite laser (755nm wavelength) is thought to be the most effective laser for hair reduction and is ideal for individuals with fair to light brown skin.

Unfortunately, as the laser systems work by targeting the dark pigment in the hair, patients with very blond hair or white hair usually respond poorly. Patients with lighter hair may be advised to temporarily dye their hair for optimal results. Alternatively, these individuals may benefit from electrolysis or a prescription cream called Eflornithine (Vaniqa®), which can reduce the thickness of the hairs.

On What Areas Can Laser Hair Removal Be Performed?

While laser hair removal can be performed on any area of the body, the most frequently treated sites are the legs, underarms, upper lip, chin and bikini line. Note that any site where there is unwanted hair can be treated, provided the hair contains some degree of pigmentation.

Is a test dose before laser hair removal important?

Dr Farrell typically performs a test dose on the initial visit. A test dose can be useful to assess the correct laser settings and ensure there is no risk of burning or pigmenting the skin; however, if your skin is tanned or you have recently been exposed to the sun, we advise that you do not undergo this treatment until the tan has faded. This is because the laser cannot easily distinguish between tan pigment on the top layer of skin (the epidermis) and pigment in the hair, which may damage the epidermis.

The full treatment can take place four days after the test dose if you have fair skin, and eight days if you have dark skin.

What precautions do I need to take before laser hair removal?

In addition to the above instructions, we usually advise you not to pluck or wax the treatment area for a couple of weeks before the procedure. On the night before, it is best to shave the hair so it is as short as possible. Do not apply gels, oils or deodorants to the area 12 hours prior to treatment.

Please inform Dr Farrell or the laser nurse if you have a history of cold sores around the face. We can prescribe antiviral tablets to decrease your chances of developing a cold sore flare.

Additionally, because certain medications can affect how the skin reacts to the laser light, we ask that you inform Dr Farrell of all medications you are taking, including vitamins and herbal remedies. You are also advised to avoid any laser treatments for 12 months after taking an oral retinoid (e.g. roaccutane/accutane/neotigason) or certain other skin care treatments.

What Does Laser Hair Removal Treatment Involve?

Firstly, note that hair grows in cycles, beginning with the initial growth phase (anagen), a resting phase (telogen) and a transitional phase (catagen). In order for the laser to have a maximum effect, it needs to work on the anagen (growing) hair; however, only a portion of the hair is in the growing phase at any given time. As such, the laser treatment needs to be repeated several times (typically around six treatment sessions) to see an effect. Lasers cannot promise complete permanent removal of all hairs, but they can certainly cause permanent reduction in the quantity and thickness of the hair.

Prior to treatment, you may be asked to remove any metal eye glasses or jewellery to reduce the risk of the laser beam being reflected. You will be asked to wear special eye goggles to protect your eyes against possible accidental exposure to laser light. You will see the flash of the laser, but this light should not pose any harm if you are wearing the prescribed goggles. Laser treatment generally does not affect metal implants or medical devices.

Is Laser Hair Removal Painful?

The sensation of the laser beam has been likened to the feel of the very quick snap of an elastic band against the skin (similar to the sensation of an IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light, treatment). One laser shot generally only lasts for a tenth of a second, and as soon as the laser shot has been delivered, there should be no lasting discomfort. At Dermatology Consulting, we use an air cooler to soothe the skin, reduce discomfort during treatment and lower the chance of burning or adverse pigmentation.

Are There Side Effects to Laser Hair Removal?

Side effects may include redness and swelling around the hair follicles, with each lasting roughly a few days. On occasion, crusting in the treatment area may develop, but this should also fade within a couple of days. Minor tingling, similar to a sunburn, may be noted over the first 24-hours and can usually be mitigated with paracetamol (a painkiller for mild to moderate discomfort).
In certain instances, especially in clients with darker skin, temporary pigmentation changes may be noted.

Hair may still be visible within the follicles for up to two weeks after the treatment; however, this hair should fall out within a couple of weeks to reveal smooth, hair-free skin.

How Many Laser Hair Removal Sessions Will I Need?

Like other laser treatments, such as Fraxel®, multiple sessions of laser hair removal are usually required for optimal results. In this case, the laser needs to act on the growing phase of the hair (anagen phase), and only a portion of hair is growing at any one time. Most clients need a minimum of six treatments, although this can vary.

How Long Should I Wait Between Laser Hair Removal Sessions?

The ideal time between sessions is four weeks for treatments on the face and six for treatment elsewhere. It is important to attend at the intervals recommended by the laser practitioner, as the delay between treatment may warrant additional sessions.

Is Laser Hair Removal Permanent?

As mentioned above, all methods of laser hair removal involve dramatically reducing the size of unwanted hairs. As a result, the hair in fact is not permanently removed, but is rather reduced in size to become so small that the hairs cannot be seen. The laser hair reduction is permanent, but in some cases, certain hairs may increase in size and regrow after a year or two; however, the regrown hairs are usually finer and more sparse than before. Patients may sometimes require “touch-up” sessions to remove regrown hairs.

How Much Does Laser Hair Removal Cost?

The price of laser hair removal will depend on the size of the treatment area(s). At our practice, we offer packages of laser hair reduction treatments at a discount so patients are not required to buy each session individually. Before beginning treatment, we will review the full cost of your programme with you during an initial consultation. Please contact us to schedule an initial meeting today.

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Additional Frequently Asked Questions About Laser Hair Removal

Is laser hair removal safe?

When performed by a trained Consultant Dermatologist, laser hair removal is considered quite safe. Dr Farrell will carefully assess your unique complexion and goals during your consultation, and steps can be taken from there to provide an optimal treatment experience and cosmetic outcome.

Can I get laser hair removal if I have dark skin?

We are able to perform laser hair removal on virtually any skin tone; however, our Alexandrite laser is not suitable for darker skin, as it can cause burning and pigment changes. Darker skin is better suited for the long pulse Nd:YAG laser (1064nm wavelength), which does not run the risk of damaging skin pigment.

Can I undergo laser hair removal while pregnant?

While it is currently unknown whether laser hair removal causes any harm during pregnancy, we advise pregnant patients to wait to seek laser hair removal until after they have given birth. If you are pregnant and interested in this procedure, we recommend you exercise caution and check with your primary physician beforehand.

Professional vs. at-home laser hair removal

You may have come across kits or devices for at-home laser hair removal. Although some claim these treatments work to a certain extent, we strongly advise that you put your laser hair removal procedure in the hands of an experienced Consultant Dermatologist. Undergoing professional laser hair removal greatly increases your chances of a safe, successful process with optimal results.

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