Laser Hair Removal

Laser Hair Removal
By David F. Jaffe M.D.

Unwanted hair can now be treated quickly and effectively using the latest generation laser systems. The CoolGlide Vantage laser system used in Dr. Jaffe's office is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for removal of unwanted hair. The light beam from the laser targets the pigment in the hair follicle beneath the skin surface. When the pigment in the hair follicle and hair shaft absorbs the laser light, the hair?s growth center is damaged. This results in either complete destruction of the hair, or severe restriction of re-growth. Those hair follicles that are in the active growth phase are the best targets for absorbing the laser light and it is these hairs that are preferentially damaged and destroyed.

Imagine no more painful waxing, plucking, shaving, or electrolysis. Now your unwanted hair can effectively be removed from the face, lip, chin, neck, underarms, bikini line, chest, back, legs, and other areas. The skin is cooled during treatment so the laser treatment causes little discomfort. Usually, a minimum of three treatments is necessary to achieve optimum results. Sessions are separated by an average of 4 to 8 weeks.

Common Questions about Laser Hair Removal:

How Does Hair Grow?

Hairs develop from a complex series of interactions between different elements within the skin. Interestingly, not all hairs are actively growing at the same time. They actually go through distinct phases: growth, regression, and resting. The duration of each phase is dependent upon several factors, including body location. For example, at any one time 90% of the hairs on the scalp are in the growth (anagen) phase, compared to only 70% of the hair on our arms. During the regression (catagen) phase, the surrounding skin begins to absorb the hair bulb. Finally, the hair enters the resting (telogen) phase, at the end of which the hair falls out and the follicle begins the cycle again.

What Affects the Appearance of Body Hair?

Age, ethnicity, medication, hormone levels, and body site influence the length, coarseness and color of body hair. How much hair you have depends on how many hairs are in the active growth phase, and how long that phase lasts.

What Other Options Exist for Hair Removal?

Shaving: A simple method, it doesn?t affect the coarseness, thickness, growth rate or cycle of hair. However, it is only a transient solution and requires a constant commitment to maintain a hair-free appearance.
Tweezing: Tedious, painful, and impractical for large areas.
Waxing: This procedure can cover a large area at a time and results may last a month or more, but it?s painful and can often cause allergic reactions and inflammation of the hair follicle.
Electrolysis: This involves inserting a needle into each hair follicle and applying an electrical current. Expertly used, it can be successful in eliminating hair permanently. However, because you can treat only one hair follicle at a time, it is a tedious, time-consuming process.

How Does the Laser System Remove Hair?

The light emitted by the laser is absorbed by the pigment located in the hair follicle. The laser is pulsed, or turned on, for only a fraction of a second. The duration of each pulse is just long enough to disrupt the hair follicle. The cooling hand piece helps protect the skin by cooling during the laser energy delivery. The light is absorbed by the pigment in the hair follicle and this energy is converted to heat which results in thermal damage to the hair follicle. This thermal damage causes delayed re-growth of the hair as well as permanent destruction of the hair follicle.

Does It Hurt?

You may feel a tingling, stinging, or heat sensation, and some areas of the body are more sensitive than others. No anesthesia or pain medicine is required, but some patients may prefer a topical anesthetic when treating sensitive areas.

How Many Treatments Will I Need?

The laser works by disrupting hairs that are in the active phase of growth at the time of treatment. Since other hairs will enter the growth phase at different times, additional treatments will be necessary to disable all hair follicles in a given area. Treatments are usually given at intervals of approximately 4-8 weeks, or whenever new hair growth is first noticed. Many patients are completely satisfied with their results after only one or two treatments, while others will have four to six treatments for maximum removal of all hair.

Are the Results Permanent?

The FDA discourages the use of the word ?permanent? because lasers have only been used for hair removal for the last few years. We simply don?t know if the results will persist in 10 or 20 years. We do know that the laser causes delayed re-growth of the treated hair follicles. In some patients this will last for 24 months or even longer after several treatments. Most patients will require some maintenance treatment as dormant hair follicles cycle into the growth phase. Although most patients will achieve prolonged hair removal in areas, this is not possible in all cases 100% of the time. Most patients, however, are very satisfied with the results of their treatment.

What Happens After Treatment?

Within several minutes, the treated area may become slightly red and puffy. This reaction subsides quickly and within a day or so the areas return to normal. Patients often describe the sensation of mild sunburn for the first day or so. You should not, however, plan any important social engagements during the first several days after your treatment, especially if the treated areas are on the face. Around day 3-7 after treatment you may experience what seem to be hairs re-growing. Most of these hairs, however, are treated hairs that are being shed and are not re-growing. In between treatments you should not wax or pluck your hairs.

Who Is A Good Candidate for Laser Hair Removal?

The perfect candidate has dark hair and light skin. Darker hair absorbs more of the laser light, and lighter skin interferes less with the movement of the laser light into the hair follicle. Dark or tan skin runs a higher risk of pigmentation changes following the procedure. The unique longer wavelength lasers used in Dr. Jaffe's office allow darker-skinned and tanned patients to be treated safely. Hairs that lack pigment will not respond to laser therapy.

What Special Instructions Do I Follow After Treatment?

Treat the area as you would mild sunburn. You may apply cool compresses, aloe gel or cortisone lotion for any discomfort. Do not apply any aggressive products to the treated areas, such as Retin- A, alpha hydroxy acids, or bleaching creams etc. until the skin returns to normal. You may resume the use of all other products as tolerated. Do not expose the treatment areas to direct sunlight or tanning beds. Sunscreen should be worn daily. Three to seven days after treatment some of the hairs may seem to be re-growing. This occurs due to elimination of the hair that remained under the skin and is not true re-growth of the hair. Do not wax or pluck any hairs between treatment sessions, shave or trim closely only. Do not pick or manipulate the skin in the treatment area.