What is Laser Hair Removal?

January 19, 2009


What is Laser Hair Removal? If you’re like most men or women, you’ve had some form of hair removal procedure. There are several options in the market but most are temporary hair removal systems. In this blog, we introduce you to laser/light permanent hair removal, one of the most popular skin treatments in Singapore today.

How does laser hair removal work?

Laser hair removal is the use of laser energy to produce permanent hair reduction. This is accomplished by producing heat in the hair, which is transferred to the hair follicle, which in-turn produces inflammation, and this inflammation sends a signal to the hair follicle to go into the resting (telogen) phase.

What is a laser versus an IPL?

First of all, what is a laser? A laser is a device that produces light of a single color or wavelength. In the case of hair removal, the target is the melanin pigment contained within the hair shaft. In contrast, intense pulse light, which can also be an effective hair removal device depending on your skin type, the equipment being used on you, and the experience of the doctor, uses a broad band of light for hair removal.

A delicate balance

The tricky part of laser hair removal is targeting the hair shaft without damaging the melanin pigment in the surface of the skin. Thus the laser light has to be on long enough to heat the hair, but not too long to allow that heat to spread to the surrounding skin causing damage. In addition, the darker a patient’s skin, the more difficult it is to avoid injuring the surface of the skin while treating the hair. The laser we use in our clinic, the Cutera CoolGlide is the first US FDA approved hair removal device that is proven to remove hair on all skin types (regardless of skin color or whether there is any tan), safely and effective.

How many treatments?

Normally, a series of five to seven treatments are administered at four to eight week intervals depending upon the location of the hair. Following the initial series of treatments, subsequent treatments are administered, usually at longer and longer intervals. Some number of maintenance of treatments may be needed to keep all the hair away in a given area. After a single treatment, the hair in a given area is usually reduced in amount and thickness for a very long period of time. However, it may not be completely gone. To keep an area completely devoid of hair, maintenance treatments may be required. These maintenance treatments may eventually be required at only yearly intervals or even longer. This depends on the area being treated as well as the individual. As with any other traits in an individual, the frequency of maintenance treatments varies considerably from person to person

Is it Effective?

Although other forms of hair removal–such as electrolysis, depilatory creams or waxing–can be used, each has its own limitations as to effectiveness and ease of use. In an average of five treatments, laser hair removal may accomplish a permanent reduction in the majority of hair (usually 80%). The procedure is very rapid and well tolerated. Even the hair that remains is many times reduced in diameter, making them significantly less of a cosmetic issue while also reducing the irritation of the hair follicle. Overall, this procedure is commonly performed with high patient satisfaction. Remember lasers are medical devices that need a high level of expertise to be used safely. Ask your doctor about their experience in hair removal.

Things to Consider Before Treatment

Before you begin treatment, you should talk to your doctor to determine if you are a good candidate for laser hair removal. The three most important questions to ask during a consultation are:

Do you own the laser or rent it? If the doctor owns the laser, that tells me they have a high level of commitment and experience.

How many patients have you treated?

What kind of results can I expect?

You should also note that in general, equipment that is used in medical clinics for hair removal differs in several ways from equipment used in salons/spas. First, lasers are only used in Singapore by doctors, and so only IPL systems are used in salons/spas. Second, the IPL systems used in spas/salons are generally of a different grade and effectiveness than that used by a doctor. This is why when you have hair removal at a spa/salon, you need many more treatments than when hair is removed at a clinic.

What can I expect during the laser hair removal procedure?

The length of a laser session may range from a few minutes to an hour or more depending on the size of the area being treated. How long the procedure takes depends on the area of the body involved. A small area such as the upper lip may take several minutes. A larger area such as the back may require several hours.

Since laser tends to treat hair follicles that are in an active growth phase (anagen), several treatments are required to disable hair follicles that subsequently enter this growth phase.

During the procedure, laser light will be delivered through a hand held piece attached to a laser console. You may experience a stinging sensation as the laser pulse is delivered. To reduce discomfort, the cooling system automatically removes heat from the surface of your skin before, during and after the laser exposure. You should not need general anesthesia or pain medication, but a topical anesthetic cream may be applied to sensitive areas. The process can take from just a few minutes for an upper lip to several hours for a full back and legs.

Laser treatment itself may cause a slight tingling sensation. Most patients tolerate the procedure well. But because some areas of the body are more sensitive than others, topical anesthesia can be an option. The appearance of the treated area immediately after the laser session will vary from patient to patient depending on the extent of treatment and skin type. Immediate after-effects, if any, are minor. They may include redness and swelling, which disappear in a short time. Most people return to normal activity right away.

During the procedure, you wear goggles to protect your eyes from accidental exposure to laser light. The procedure causes a slight charring of your stubble. You may notice a strong odor of singed hair, which is normal. Afterwards, you may experience some temporary redness and swelling.