It’s almost impossible to listen to the radio for more than a few minutes without hearing an advertisement for laser hair removal. Because, really, is there anything we hate more than shaving, plucking and waxing? As lasers have blanketed the cosmetic industry for all types of procedures from skin resurfacing to liposuction, laser hair removal has become a multi-billion dollar industry. But are the results worth the price?
How It Works
Laser hair removal works by using laser energy to damage hair follicles during their growth, or anagen, phase. The laser’s light and heat is attracted to pigment, which is why laser hair removal works best on people with dark hair and light skin. If your hair is white, blonde or gray, the treatment will not be effective. Similarly, if your skin is too tan or if you have darker ethnic skin, the laser could actually damage the tissue surrounding the treated area in the form of burns.
The human body has about 5 million hair follicles that are all in one of three stages of growth. The anagen phase is the active growth phase, and 80 to 90 percent of hair is in this stage at any given time. Catagen is the transition between active growth and rest, and telogen is the resting phase before the hair sheds. Laser hair removal usually requires several treatments for optimal results because of these phases. By treating the area 4-5 times, patients are more likely to treat follicles that were not in the anagen stage during previous sessions.
How to Prepare for Laser Hair Removal
Patients should abstain from waxing or tweezing for several weeks prior to treatment. These methods of hair maintenance actually remove the root of the hair from the follicle, leaving nothing to treat with the laser. Shaving, however, is recommended and often required immediately prior to laser hair removal. You also can continue to shave between laser treatments, which are typically spaced 3-5 weeks apart.
Laser hair removal does usually involve some discomfort during treatment similar to waxing. You may choose to take an over-the-counter pain killer such as Tylenol or Advil approximately 30 minutes before the procedure. Most professional hair removal providers also offer a topical numbing cream and/or ice packs shortly before treatment begins to assist in pain relief. Staying out of the sun for several weeks both before and after laser hair removal will provide the best results.
Set Realistic Expectations
Almost any area of the body that grows hair can be effectively treated with laser hair removal. However, in an industry that has become increasingly competitive, many medical spas and doctor’s offices over promise and under deliver in an attempt to attract clients away from the competition. Laser hair removal does slow hair growth and even halt it for a time in many people. But there is NO SUCH THING AS PERMANENT HAIR REMOVAL. Almost everyone will need subsequent treatments at least 2-3 times per year after the initial round of 5-7 treatments. Yes, the hair will grow back lighter, softer and slower after laser hair removal, but it WILL grow back. With so many providers promising an end to all hair growth, too many patients are disappointed to learn that they will never truly be “hair free.”
How Much Laser Hair Removal Costs
The good news about competition is that it also provides competitive pricing. Costs will vary based on the size of the area to be treated and how many treatments will be necessary. But after diligent research to find experienced and skilled providers, you can still often find a wide range of prices. Use it to your advantage to find the most economical laser hair removal solution for you.
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