Men and women from all walks of life are turning in increasing numbers to laser to remove unwanted hair from their bodies. The most popular areas are faces, backs, legs, armpits and bikini lines. The latest machines allow specialists to remove hair from virtually any part of our bodies, as long as it is fully grown hair and not just peach fuzz. After six months of treatment, we can expect that somewhere between 60 and 95 percent of the treated hair will be gone.
Does laser hair removal work for everybody?
Laser hair removal works best with people who have light-colored skin and dark hair. The latest lasers work with almost all skin types, but generally speaking, people with darker skin and light-colored hair (white, grey or red) are not good candidates for laser.
If laser does not work for you, there are many other techniques you can explore, such as waxing, sugaring or electrolysis.
How does it work?
Hair grows from follicles, which are located underneath the skin. Follicles are dark in color because they contain melanin-the protein that gives color to our hair. Laser generates heat as it goes through the skin and it is attracted by the darker color of melanin. The laser rays generate enough heat to kill the follicles and prevent new hair from growing while not damaging the surrounding skin.
Our hair grows in cycles, which means that only some hairs are growing at any given time while others are dormant. Laser techniques can only target active hair so you usually need several sessions a few months apart to target all the hair in a particular area.
What about laser hair removal costs?
The American Association for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery estimates that the average session costs $388. Laser hair removal prices vary according to the area that you want treated. For example, the price of treating your upper lip is significantly lower than treating your legs or your back. Generally speaking, you can expect laser hair removal costs to range somewhere between $200 and $600, depending on the area you are treating and your clinic.
Even though laser hair removal prices can be steep, you should keep in mind that laser techniques are much more comfortable than the alternatives of electrolysis or waxing and that the results will last for years.
What should you look for in a doctor?
There are literally thousands of places offering laser hair removal, but not all of them employ certified technicians. To be on the safe side, it is best to consult with a dermatologist trained in laser hair removal. During your initial consultation, your doctor will first decide whether you are a good candidate for laser hair removal. After that, he or she will explain the procedure, ask for your medical history and give you a number of instructions to prepare for the session.
How can I prepare for my session?
Avoid tanning. Tanned skin increases the chances of skin discoloration. Also avoid waxing or plucking the area to be treated. Instead, shave the area two to three days before your appointment and allow some stubble to grow back. Some doctors might recommend that you apply a cream with lidocaine-a mild anesthetic-an hour before the session begins.
Is it safe?
Laser hair removal is a safe technique. After each session you might experience some redness and mild swelling, but this should quickly go away. It is recommended that you avoid the sun and strenuous exercise for a few days after the treatment. In some rare cases, patients might experience pain and blisters. In extreme cases, permanent scarring or skin discoloration can occur.
Jim Stacey is an editor at the Laser Hair Removal Directory where you can find more information and listings of laser hair removal providers across the United States.