What is Laser Hair Removal?

There is a problem that virtually every human being experiences and unfortunately it’s a problem that all experience every day. And the problem is body hair. Men constantly have to shave their face. Six or eight hours later, they get that rough stubble or have those annoying ingrown razor bumps and ingrown hairs on their neck.

And women having to shave their legs, they are trying to shave that part right behind the ankle and immediately nick that ankle. If not razors, they can go ahead and get waxing. Here they put burning hot wax strips on their skin and then rip the flesh off of their body. Is that process comfortable? No, it causes excruciating torture but these are the options they have had until now. The solution is laser hair removal.

It’s time to get out of the Dark Ages and move into the light. We got in contact with Dr. Firdous Ibrahim, one of the well know aesthetic physicians from Secunderabad, and in this article she explains how laser hair removal works. Dr. Firdous practices in Aesthetic Advanced Cosmetology Centre and has been internationally trained.

If you are looking to get the laser hair removal procedure done, it is advised that you get it done through a trained dermatologist in major metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad or Chennai. This ensures that you receive the best treatment using the latest technologies available for the procedure.

Well, laser stands for light amplification through the stimulated emission of radiation. Sounds technical but, all that means is it’s a focused optimized beam of light.

Now what a lot of people don’t understand is that light is actually energy. It’s a system of a bunch of photons basically and that energy can get absorbed or reflected depending on what it hits. Now for hair removal, the energy is actually getting absorbed by the hair follicles. So as the actual light energy from the laser hits the hair follicle, it heats up because all that energy gets absorbed by the follicle. As it heats up, it singes the hair and slowly burns the hair down to the root effectively killing the surrounding follicle and disabling the hair from ever growing again.

Dr. Firdous says that, a good way to express this is when you exit the house depending on the clothing you’re wearing you may notice a difference in how hot you get. Imagine you were to go outside in a white t-shirt. When you go outside in that white t-shirt all of that laser energy, all of the sun’s rays, all of that light energy is actually being reflected off of the white t-shirt. Because white reflects all light and by reflecting that light you stay cool.

But if you were to leave the house again in a black t-shirt all of that heat gets transferred into the actual clothing and black gets hot much more quickly than lighter colors do. And so that’s why you stay cool in white clothing and they suggest that you wear white in the summer particularly in hot places so that light energy gets absorbed differently based on different colors.

If you are opting for laser hair removal, what are the things you need to take care of?

Before the procedure, you need to avoid:

  • any medications or antibiotics for two weeks
  • no sun exposure for two weeks. Laser treatment feels like a little stinging sensation like a rubber band is snapping at your skin. It lasts for a couple of seconds and then it goes away completely.

How does laser hair removal work?

So the way the laser works is all of that optimized energy is attracted to the dark hair rather than the skin which is why hair removal they say is most effective based on people who have light skin and dark hair. The reason why that is has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that there’s more contrast so the more contrast the more the laser energy is actually absorbed only by the hair rather than any of the skin.

The steps involved in the laser hair removal are:

1. First the area where laser hair removal has to be performed on is shaved or trimmed. This is done so the laser can directly affect the roots.

2. After that, the skin is cleansed and an anesthetic or numbing gel is applied so that the procedure can be less painful. Firdous mentions that the pain depends on the area that the laser is administered. If the skin is thin, like the area above the lips and your cheeks, then its more painful. But the doctor, will make sure that it the procedure goes smoothly for you.

3. Everyone puts on protective glasses before starting the procedure. While getting laser hair removal you must wear your eye protection as some time lasers work with light based energy and even though that energy is non-photo mutagenic meaning it can’t cause cancer and it doesn’t have the same radiation properties that the sun does but you do want to minimize the fact that it is a very intense beam of focused light and you want to minimize any risk of that hitting you directly in the eye.

So having high protection allows you to more safely get treatment and no risk to the eye which is the only vulnerable part of the body during this procedure.

4. Then the technician/ doctor will pull out the skin taut and treat the area with laser. What the laser does is it hits the hair follicle, burn it down to the root and then the root itself gets affected by the burning hair and dies. But as you are growing and moving through life, hair is not always attached to the root.

You have some hair that is in the telogen phase which is the shedding phase. And you have some hair that is in the catagen phase which is growing at the bulb but not actually showing at the surface of the skin.

And then you have hair which is treated with laser hair removal which is in the anagen phase. Anagen is when the hair follicle is still growing and is attached to the root. At any given point in time, your body has about 30% of its hair in the anagen phase which is why multiple treatments are necessary. After each treatment, the laser is capable of getting all of the hair in the anagen phase and that phase only.

5. After the procedure ends, then a cooling agent is applied to affected area.

So when you are treated with an optimized laser all of that energy affects the hair not the skin. It kills the hair leaving your skin smooth, silky and untouched. And one of the ways you can demonstrate this is you can actually take a laser and fire it at a black balloon inside a flesh tone balloon. And what’s unique is through laser that is optimized to provide quality laser hair removal will actually pop only the inner balloon and not the outer one.

Ideally, because you want this high contrast you want all of that energy to get absorbed in the follicle rather than in the skin. It’s good to have lighter skin and darker hair because the more contrast the easier it is for all that laser energy to not affect the skin. So when you have really light skin and really dark hair the laser energy can be very very high and not have any risk of any of that energy getting absorbed by the skin.

What are the precautions to be taken after the procedure? 

After treatment you have to take care of your skin for the next couple of weeks. No going out in the sun and make sure you put on SPF 30 or preferably 50.

You can shave after a couple of days though the hair is going to feel a little bit strange. After shaving start exfoliating a couple of times in a week in circular motions with a little rag or a little loofah anything like that is to help the hairs come out.  They will be shedding over the next two to three weeks. The hairs are going to come out and detach from the root and fall out. After three weeks or so, they will all shed at different stages so in three weeks you will be completely hair free.

 It is going to depending on how fast your hair grows. Four to six weeks of no hair, not having to shave, not having to do anything. The hair does come back but it’s a little bit less and a little bit thinner. Each additional treatment makes the hair growth less and thinner to the point where you have no hair.

Can Laser hair removal be used for darker skin tones?

So does that mean that if you have dark skin you can’t have laser hair removal?  Fortunately, not at all but if you do have dark skin you must be treated with the right kind of laser. So with modern technology you can now treat all skin types but it’s important that darker skin individuals are treated with the right laser.

What happens is you have more melanin in the skin and because of this additional melanin you want to make sure that you’re treated with either an Nd:Yag or a diode laser. Now, these lasers are set up a little bit differently to make sure they effectively treat darker skin types in a safe manner. And so the way they’re set up based on the wavelength that they use you’re still able to gradually increase the energy and kill hair follicles and not damage the skin.

As there are other devices out there called IPL which is intense pulse light. It doesn’t optimize that wavelength that is why it is absolute not okay. It’s a much higher risk of complication and adverse reaction. If you’re ever treated with an IPL laser particularly if you have a dark skin type though it works in a similar manner of a laser it uses all wavelengths of light not an optimized beam so it’s like shooting five beams and hoping some of that energy hits the hair and burns the hair itself and therefore there’s more risk for burning the skin. So laser hair removal works by making sure that you’re being treated by optimized lasers that are set and capable of killing hair follicles.

Does it work on all hair colors?

The simple answer is not yet. White blonde and very light red hair currently doesn’t absorb enough light to actually effectively singe hair and burn all the way down to the follicle and kill the root. So the key to this is if you are aging and you know eventually you’re going to go gray as most people do the important factor is to get laser hair removal as quickly as possible. So that way you can make sure you have the results you’re looking for before any of those hairs go gray.

“Now for those of you with light blonde or light red hair, yes the technology currently isn’t capable of treating your hair follicles but over time there’s a lot of stuff in the work from the laser manufacturers to try and make that effective. But for now, light brown hair, brown hair and dark black hair is the best and most optimal candidate for laser hair removal. “ – Dr. Firdous Ibrahim

For complete results, it is going to require more than one treatment and the reason why that is, is the hair follicles that are growing in your body are merely a target for the laser to help it get to the root because what it is trying to do is disable roots from actually growing.