IPL Lasers for Permanent Hair Removal
More people are using laser treatment these days to permanently get rid of hair from their faces and bodies than ever before.
Laser hair treatment usually requires a 6-8 treatment over a series of months and hair removal is usually permanent.
Lasers work by emitting light at various wavelengths, energy output, and pulse widths. The wavelength used determines the skin structures it will affect and heat such as veins, melanin, or water.
Most lasers used for hair removal target melanin and are therefore designed to burn structures that contain melanin. The more melanin, the more damage. Laser hair removal works for both men and women and is works very well for light-skinned people with dark hair.
Cosmetic benefits of laser hair removal include fewer hairs, thinner hairs, lighter hairs and slower growing hairs. Note that all 4 of these improve appearance, not just fewer hairs.
Other benefits of laser hair removal include the following:
• Long term savings (less money or no money spent on waxing, shaving, shaving supplies).
• Less or no razor burn, abscesses or folliculitis.
• Less sweating in armpits or groin areas, leading to drier clothes and less body odor.
• Less time spent shaving, waxing or going to the aesthetician for these..
Commonly Asked Questions About Laser Hair Removal:Below are answers to some of the common questions I get about Laser Hair Removal.
Q: What is the most effective technique to permanently remove hair?A: Laser hair removal. This is most commonly done with an 810 nanometer wavelength diode laser--the industry standard. Less effective is IPL (intense pulsed light). The laser is safer for people with darker skin, such as Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Middle Eastern & East Indian skin types. Occasionally results are not as good as one would hope with laser hair removal and IPL may be added to it for more effect. Sometimes, clients have had IPL treatment elsewhere and are not happy with the level of hair removal. We then add laser treatment for better effect. There are other lasers that work as well.
Q: What is the safest technique for permanent hair removal?A: Laser hair removal, commonly done with an 810 nm wavelength laser, is by far the safest. This is why it is the industry standard. IPL (intense pulsed light) is less effective than laser hair removal and not nearly as safe. For light skinned clients both are quite safe. However, laser is much safer for people with darker skin, such as Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Middle Easterners & East Indians. The major problem in these darker skin types is that the pigment (melanin) in the skin can be destroyed to the point where the skin can become much lighter. This may leave permanent light spots. Lasers (at the wavelengths used for hair removal) are much safer to use. Operator knowledge and the person choosing light and energy settings on these machines is important. Most patients don’t need a test spot for laser hair removal, but in some darker skinned patients I will sometimes do one.
Q: How effective is laser hair removal?A: Laser hair removal is very effective, provided we are talking about the right kind of hair. Perhaps first we should mention what is will not do. It will not remove gray hairs or tiny, peach fuzz hairs (common on the cheeks or jaws). What it will do is remove darker colors of hair fairly effectively. Black and brown hair are included. Light blond hairs may be partly removed. Red, gray and white hairs are not effectively removed. After a series of treatments black or fairly dark hairs respond the very best. An example might be a light or olive skinned Italian or Latina lady with upper lip, chin, bikini area and armpit hair. A series of treatments with this skin type might result in 95-98% hair removal.
Q: Are some body parts harder to treat than others?A: Yes. In general, larger, thicker hairs are easier to treat. Thick hairs are typical in the armpit and pubic and/or bikini area. This makes a great target for the laser light and the hair follicle is easier to treat because of greater light absorption. Let's say you had 6 treatments in a young female of 18 in the armpits, bikini area and upper lip. Even before treatment these hairs are different. They tend to be pretty large in the armpits and bikini areas. They are much finer in the upper lip. Such a woman would probably have very good results already with just 6 treatments in these large hair areas, but her upper lip hairs, though far fewer in number, might still improve with more treatment.
Q: How many treatments will I need?A: It depends on the goal. For example, let's say the goal is not complete hair removal, but reduction of razor burn. Jose is a 40 year old Latino male. He has a full beard, dark hair and does not mind his beard and mustache, but he always shaves the front of his neck. When he shaves he gets razor burn--small areas of irritation, stinging and infection, often with pimples (small abscesses). Every few years he even gets a large abscess (boil) and he has some scars on his neck where this has happened before. Jose wants to shave more quickly and markedly reduce his razor burn. 2-3 treatments would probably drop the hair count by more than half and reduce his razor burn by 95%. Faces, cheeks & upper lips in women often have small hairs. Some of these women are still getting hair reduction after 6 or 8 treatments and will occasionally need up to about 12. 4-6 treatments often produces great results in armpits, chest, back, or bikini areas. Legs are variable, but often do well with 6 treatments. We even have a guarantee package, wherein one can pay for 6 treatments at full price and we'll do more than the 6 at no additional charge if someone still has hair.
Q: Does laser hair removal hurt?A: Laser hair removal does hurt some, but the pain is variable, usually mild and easy to control. It does not last long. First, discomfort depends on how much hair is in the area. Upper lip and chin in women tend to not hurt all that much due to the fine hairs and small hair counts in these areas. Armpits and bikini areas tend to hurt a bit more. Most people getting treated describe the sensation as similar to getting snapped with a rubber band--it stings, but not for long. Numbing creams are helpful and cut the pain when rubbed on before the hair removal process is started. Occasionally, if patients are really pain sensitive, we even prescribe a single narcotic pill an hour prior to laser hair removal. The great majority of clients do not find this necessary. It is important not to drive when under the influence of narcotics. As such, someone else has to drive the client to and from the appointment when a narcotic is taken.
Q: Can laser hair removal help with hair growth due to a hormonal imbalance?A: This story is typical for polycystic ovary syndrome. It is common, occurring in 10% of women. Most are overweight. Most of these women have acne, excessive hair (hirsutism) or both. However, these problems are not always severe. PCO syndrome is common in Latinas in my practice and also common in Irish women. Fertility and miscarriages can also occur at higher rates in this syndrome. Many treatments are available. Laser hair removal works nicely, but tends to require more therapy than in a women without hormonal imbalance. Other treatments such as medications are available including a variety of oral medications. Metformin may help such women lose weight or improve fertility, reduce blood sugar, lower triglycerides and regulate periods. It is also commonly used for diabetes or borderline diabetes. Spironolactone will help reduce hair growth and reduce lower face acne, such as on the chin or near the mouth. It may also lower blood pressure and is used for this reason at well. Birth control pills will nicely regulate periods and also reduce acne. Many of these women with PCO syndrome have high triglycerides, low HDL levels, high cholesterol and also frequently have diabetes or borderline diabetes. Their risk of cardiovascular events as they age is higher than those without the syndrome. Since heart attacks and strokes are more common as these gals age it is a good thing for them to be checked out by a careful internal medicine doctor. He can diagnose and manage these other problems, markedly lowering her cardiovascular risk and simultaneously helping the PCO syndrome symptoms and cosmetic problems. . Making these gals look more feminine with laser hair removal is often easy, but they need attention to these other medical issues as well.
Q: Does laser hair removal hurt?A: Laser hair removal does hurt some, but the pain is variable, usually mild and also easy to control. It does not last long. First, discomfort depends on how much hair is in the area. Upper lip and chin in women tend to not hurt all that much due to the fine hairs and small hair counts in these areas. Armpits and bikini areas tend to hurt a bit more. Most people getting treated describe the sensation as similar to getting snapped with a rubber band--it stings, but not for long. Numbing creams are helpful and cut the pain when rubbed on before the hair removal process is started. Occasionally, if patients are really pain sensitive, we even prescribe a single narcotic pill an hour prior to laser hair removal. The great majority of clients do not find this necessary. It is important not to drive when under the influence of narcotics. As such, someone else has to drive the client to and from the appointment when a narcotic is taken.
Q: I'm only 40 but I have wrinkles. Will laser hair removal help the wrinkles?A: Yes and no. It depends on the type of system used. For example, many machines are effective for hair removal, but they are simple lasers within any frills. All that is given is laser energy at one wavelength. This really does not tighten skin or removal wrinkles to any extent. Our machine is a Syneron eMax and it has a central window where the light comes through. However, there is a metal rail on each side of the light window. A few milliseconds after the light pulse it shoots AM radio waves through these rails and deep into the skin. This produces an intentional mild injury to the deep skin layer, the dermis. This needs to heal and during the healing process produces new collagen. This results is some wrinkle reduction and skin tightening with our machine. Our IPL system also has radiofrequency pulses combined with it in a similar set up and this also tightens skin. Many patients receiving IPL for photoaging, such as freckle reduction, note tighter skin as well. Larger wrinkles, such as those in the forehead, are better handled with Botox™ or Matrix RF™, both of which we offer.
Q: What are some reasons I should delay laser hair removal?A: There are several things that should make you delay therapy. All are related to either less effectiveness or a higher risk of complications.
Things that reduce effectiveness:
1. Recent waxing or plucking. For good results you should not do this for at least 10 days before the procedure. For the absolute best results none of this for 6 weeks prior to the procedure. Shaving & dipilatory (hair removal) creams are OK, even the day of the procedure. .
2. Recent electrolysis, most troublesome if done within the last 10 days, may decrease the effectiveness of the procedure. Shaving & dipilatory (hair removal) creams are OK, even the day of the procedure.
Things that increase risk of complications:
1. Recent tanning or significant sun exposure in the treatment area. No recent tanning is wise, especially in the prior 14 days. Those planning laser hair removal in the coming month should wear sun screen or cover the area to be treated with clothing. If a significant tan is present the procedure should be delayed until it is gone.
2. Use of sun sensitizing medications such as doxycycline, tetracycline, minocycline, Levaquin (levofloxacin), Cipro (ciprofloxacin), Avelox (moxifloxacin) in recent weeks. Also, Accutane (isotretinoin) use within the past year would be a strong reason to delay therapy.
3. Diseases that can be aggravated by the sun such as lupus, porphyria, or those with polymorphous light eruptions. I have treated a number of patients with light sensitivity without problems, but I have always done a test spot first and none had problems.
4. Prior herpes simplex infections (oral or genital, most commonly) in or very near the areas to be treated. These are commonly called cold sores on the face and herpes elsewhere in the body. This may be controlled by giving the client an antiviral medication, like Valtrex or Famvir the day of the procedure
5. Active bacterial or viral infection in the treatment area. In this case we prefer to treat the infection first and then do laser hair removal later.
6. Tattoos in the treatment area. We’ll need to avoid tattoos as these may burn, fade or be altered.
Q: Who will perform the procedure?A: In our office we have multiple laser certified technicians: these include Dr. Van Reken, Sandra S, Blanca S. and Lili S. All 4 are bilingual (English/Spanish). Most procedures in our office are done one of these trained staff members, not the doctor. However, Dr. Van Reken always decides prior to the procedure the laser (or IPL when appropriate) machine settings to provide maximum safety and effectiveness. In addition, you may request a specific laser tech. Maybe you like Sandra's sense of humor, Blanca's competence or Lili’s gentle touch. Maybe Blanca did a nice job on your first treatment and you'd like to stick with her. Perhaps you prefer any female because of modesty issues in the area being treated. We are happy to honor such requests.
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