If you’re considering having laser hair removal you may be wondering what to look for before going ahead. The key takeaway from this article is that laser is the safest form of hair removal available – if it is performed by a qualified and experienced therapist! Furthermore, the technology is also very important – the risk is minimal with the right high quality machinery. Laser hair removal, for this reason, is the gold standard in the world of beauty, and the go-to for celebrities and models.
Research your laser hair removal clinic
As a word of caution, you should always approach a reputable, leading clinic, which uses high quality machines. Also ensure the procedure is undertaken by staff with laser certifications. If you are unsure, ask the consultant what training the staff have had and if you can see their certificates. If you feel unsure or uneasy, leave. Also, certain technology does pose some risk. Intense pulsed light (IPL) does have some dangers attached to it which is why we at Victorian Cosmetic Dermal Clinics prefer to use the best medical grade Class 4 laser on the market: the Candela GentleLase.
Avoid certain “laser” treatments
Perhaps you’ve heard of IPL and you’ve considered it. Often marketed as a laser hair removal treatment, it is actually unsuitable for hair removal but it is still suitable for some skin conditions (e.g. redness, superficial pigmentation, capillary problems).
IPL is not actually a laser because it doesn’t use a concentrated beam. For hair removal, you need a concentrated beam to solely focus on the area in question. IPL beams tend to spread out, therefore producing light and heat that affect the areas surrounding the follicles you want to target. First and foremost, this can cause significant damage to the surrounding tissue. And second, it means the hair follicles in question don’t absorb as much heat and light, so the results are not great!
IPL also has to use higher energy levels because it really needs to reach its target. Unfortunately, there is some risk in this with side effects such as burns, hypo and hyper-pigmentation, blistering, and even possible scarring. Lasers on the other hand, are exceedingly precise, targeting only the hair while leaving surrounding areas safe and free from any heat or light. Lasers also have different settings which may be adjusted according to different hair colours and skin tones. This means they can treat any skin colour whatsoever. Yes – IPL is less expensive than laser hair removal, but it’s not worth the added risk. We at Victorian Cosmetic Dermal Clinics have personally performed treatments to fade scarring on a number of clients who had been to less reputable clinics. It breaks our hearts that there are people who cut corners in such a serious profession.
Types of laser hair removal
There are many different types of laser hair removal which can make it confusing if you’re not sure which to choose. The following will give you a brief overview of what’s available:
The gold standard. This is what we use at Victorian Cosmetic Dermal Clinics. It combines a 755 nm Alexandrite laser with an equally powerful 1,064 nm Nd:YAG laser (see both below) for the best of both worlds. It can cope with large areas at a high rate of repetition. This means that you can remove hair from a large area in approximately half an hour (chest, back, legs, etc.). The machine works by delivering laser energy through a targeted hand-piece. The light is absorbed by the skin and in turn generates heat which targets only the hair follicles, destroying them. The surrounding skin is left in perfect condition. It is perfectly suitable for all skin types and can even treat fine hair as well as thick, coarse hair. We swear by this machine.
As noted, this is one of the lasers in the Candela GentleLase. It’s a super-fast laser that can cope with large areas and a high repetition rate. It can treat large areas of the body (such as back, chest, legs) in less than half an hour and is perfectly safe for most skin types. The surrounding skin is left in perfect condition.
With a long wavelength, this type of laser machine allows deep penetration into the skin and is also perfectly suitable for those with darker skin tones. However, it’s not recommended for fine, light hair removal. The diode treatment time is longer than other lasers because it is a small hand-piece, with many clients finding this more painful. Although not the most effective option on the market, it is safe and will not result in scarring if operated by a well-trained clinician.
This is the other laser in the Candela GentleLase. It is suitable for darker skin types, who in the past were traditionally turned away from laser hair removal treatments. It penetrates more deeply into the skin and thus has a lower attraction to the superficial pigment/skin colour, avoiding potential epidermal damage or risk. It uses a large beam that can treat large areas with a high rate of repetition. Its drawback is that it is not as effective for light, fine hairs.
Ruby laser hair removal
The original laser hair removal machine, the Ruby (or Epilaser) damages and ultimately destroys the hair’s follicles, but there is some risk against damage to surrounding areas such as burning, scarring, and swelling. However, this system is only suitable for small areas of skin, so treatment for large areas takes a long time. It is also unsuitable for darker skin tones. This technology is now predominately only used for freckle/pigment removal. We recommend avoiding this laser because it is an older technology with greater risk of scarring.
Any skincare clinic or beautician offering laser hair removal should always conduct a full consultation first. This is to determine whether you are a suitable candidate for the treatment. There are some people who perhaps shouldn’t undergo treatment and this is usually due to medication or medical problems, skin or hair colour, or other issues. A good clinic will do a thorough history to ensure you are not at risk.
During your consultation you will go through a series of questions with your practitioner. You may also have a patch test in a hidden area (it’s usually carried out on the arm) so your clinician can assess your response prior to treatment. You will also wear special eye-protection and must make sure the clinic you choose gives you these goggles.
Once the treatment begins the machine’s hand-piece will emit light onto the area. Cool air is also applied simultaneously to cool the area for comfort and skin safety. The laser light is absorbed by the melanin (the pigment in hair) creating heat which damages the blood supply in the follicle, but leaves the surrounding tissue unscathed. After a few sessions, the follicle is damaged and cannot regrow hair.
Your practitioner will recommend a course depending on your skin and hair type. Most clients are advised to undergo 8 to 10 sessions, but in some cases patients may require more or less. Sessions are carried out every four to eight weeks depending on the area being treated, this being in line with your hair growth cycle. And you thought you wouldn’t learn anything reading this article!
Does laser hair removal hurt?
If you’re wondering whether the treatment hurts overall, don’t worry – it doesn’t. There is a level of discomfort but it is very mild. Imagine someone gently flicking your skin with their fingertips. This is the best way of describing the level of discomfort.
Following treatment you might experience slight redness or follicle swelling, but this subsides very quickly with some people experiencing no redness at all. Some people with very sensitive skin may have redness for a few hours following laser hair removal – you will know after your initial test patch if you are prone to such a reaction so you can plan accordingly. There might be some itchiness around the area too but again, this subsides quickly and your clinician will advise you how to look after your skin post treatment.
Within a couple of weeks, you will notice that the hair falls out on its own or if you apply very gentle pressure, a single hair should slide out of the follicle with no resistance. This is a good sign that the laser is working. Unlike waxing, you also don’t need to wait for the hair to be long before having a session. After a couple of sessions you should notice that hair doesn’t grow back in some areas or seems significantly finer than it was. Again, this shows how well the laser is working for you.
After treatment it is important not to develop any extra heat in the skin. This means taking cooler showers, no vigorous exercising, sweating, or taking spas or saunas the day you have laser. We also recommend using a soothing gel post laser to ensure you are looking after the treated area and reducing any risk of reactions. In between sessions you can shave if need be (but you shouldn’t really need to!). Make sure you do not wax or pluck the areas being treated because this works against laser; if the hair has been removed the laser has nothing to treat or target. This is exactly what you don’t want to happen! So just use a good old-fashioned razor. You’ll find hair growth lessens and becomes patchy so ultimately you won’t need to use anything at all and skin will soon become silky-smooth. Bonus!
Once you’ve completed your course of laser hair treatment, your skin should be hair-free. However, some people experience a very sparse or patchy re-growth after a few months or so. This is rare but perfectly normal – it just means you might need a top up session once or twice a year to keep the hair at bay.
Remember, laser machines target pigment, so you shouldn’t have laser hair removal on tanned skin and you should also avoid the sun before and after a treatment. This is because the area of skin that has undergone laser hair removal is far more sensitive to the sun than normal and you could end up with hyperpigmentation. We recommend wearing an SPF with a factor of 30+ or greater anytime the area being treated is exposed to sunlight.
Other hair removal treatments
Of course, if you don’t want to go the laser hair removal path, there are other methods that you could consider. Apart from traditional shaving or epilation creams, you can wax using hot wax or warm wax which is a very effective method of hair removal, although hair does come back. And you must then allow it to grow to a certain length before you can wax again. Plucking is another method although it isn’t suitable for large areas of hair because it takes so much time. So it should really be reserved for stray hairs and eyebrow shaping.
As a final word, Victorian Cosmetic Dermal Clinics prides ourselves on being the most reputable clinics with premium quality machines (the Candela GentleLase) and a professionally qualified team of laser clinicians. We will always provide you with time (no rushing you in or out) and quality service, along with post-treatment advice which includes post laser gel, avoiding sunlight, and using a high SPF suncream.
You can also visit us to learn how easy the process could be for you. Contact us today to book your free consultation.