Thinking of trying laser hair removal? Here’s everything you need to know about the procedure before you cough up the funds necessary to go hair-free for good.
How long does laser hair removal last?
Years ago, you might have needed 10 or more sessions, plus upkeep treatments, to combat hair growth, but lasers have come a long way. Now, most people will be left hairless after an initial round of laser hair removal treatments and minimal follow-up, thanks to advancements in technology.
So how long does laser hair removal last?
“There is a potential for permanent results, and many people require infrequent touch-ups,” says Dr. Estee Williams. “In-office lasering is the only treatment that comes close to a full claim of permanent, long-lasting hair reduction because it attacks the hair deep in the follicle, whereas other treatments cut the hair mid-shaft.”
How many sessions does it take?
“I’d say 50 percent of patients are done after four treatments while 100 percent are done after eight,” says Scott Callahan, founder of Dolce Vida Medical Spa, who uses the Venus Velocity laser for treatment.
Patients are seeing results much quicker than they used to, says Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, founder of PFRANKMD. The key to destroying the hair for good? Booking your treatments at four-week intervals. “Longer than that could delay results,” he says.
Does it really last forever?
Hormonal changes, like the ones you experience during pregnancy, can bring on new, unwanted hair growth. So don’t be surprised if, after you have a baby, you discover some patches of hair even though you went through a round of laser treatments in your early 20s.
Am I a good candidate for laser hair removal?
When laser hair removal was first introduced, it worked best on light skin. But the treatment is now effective on all skin types. “At one time, hair removal lasers didn’t work so well for people with medium to dark skin,” says Dr. Williams, who uses the Lumenis LightSheer device on patients in her practice.
“Now, awareness around inclusivity and advances in technology have allowed for some of these same women to experience hair removal via laser.”
Not only is it now available for people of all skin types, but it’s also proven to be safe and effective.
“In early years the lasers couldn’t treat darker skin types because there was a risk of burns, but the new technology allows us to perform the treatment on all skin types,” says Callahan.
Although the treatment is definitely more inclusive, it still isn’t for everyone. If you’re a blonde, it’s best that you skip out on a laser session. “In over 20 to 30 years there have been many studies trying to treat blonde hair, white hair, and grey hair,” says Callahan.
“None of them have worked.”
Can I have it done anywhere on my body?
Coarse hair yields the best results. “The bikini line, upper lip, chin, and sideburns all see great results, but some require maintenance treatments,” says Callahan. “That’s because it doesn’t work as well on fine hair.”
Is there any downtime?“Immediately after treatment, you’ll notice mild redness and swelling just around the hair follicle (think pink goosebumps), which is actually the desired endpoint and predicts a great response,” says Dr. Williams. “This can last up to 24 hours.”
Although some patients still compare the discomfort during the session to the feeling one gets when being snapped with a rubber band, the speed of the treatment certainly minimises any discomfort.
“The major difference with the new technology is that it’s much, much faster, so patients don’t need to endure discomfort for long,” says Callahan. “You can essentially remove all of the hair from the back in five minutes.”
How should I prep for treatment?
Once you’ve set a date for your first treatment, hold off on your usual hair-removal routine if it involves removing hair from the root. “The laser is attracted to the follicle pigment, so you should not wax,” says Dr. Frank. But you should shave the night before your appointment.
That way the laser can focus just on the root of your hair, without getting sidetracked by length.
Should I switch up my products?
Prepping for your treatment can start up to a week before and may entail switching out some of your favourite products for the time-being. “Pay attention to what you put on your skin once you’ve scheduled a treatment,” says Dr. Williams.
She says to stop using the following active ingredients at least five days before your appointment: glycolic and salicylic acids, benzoyl peroxide, and retinoids like tretinoin and adapalene.
One more thing to skip?
“Avoid the sun entirely or, at the very least, use proper sun protection,” says Dr. Williams. “Proper protection means using broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher. Tinted moisturiser or foundation with SPF isn’t adequate.”
This article was originally published on Women's Health.