Laser hair removal can remove unwanted hair, be it from a condition that causes excess hair growth or just the desire for a new look. The Laser treatment has become popular because of its speed and efficacy, although some of the efficacy is dependent upon the skill and experience of the laser operator,  and the choice and availability of different laser technologies used for the procedure. Some will need touch-up treatments, especially on large areas, after the initial set of 3-8 treatments.
Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal is the process of removing unwanted hair by means of exposure to pulses of laser light that destroy the hair follicle. Pigments in the follicles absorb the light that destroys the hair. The Removal treatment is one of the most common cosmetic procedures. The efficacy of laser hair removal is now generally accepted in the dermatology community.
Hair removal methods
A variety of lasers and light sources have been developed that may be employed in laser hair removal. The procedure was originally described to be performed on dark hairs on light skin; newer technologies have made the procedure safer for patients with darker skin and those of colour. Various types of lasers are utilized with laser hair removal – the most common of which are alexandrite, diode, Neodymium YAG and intense pulsed light sources.
For dark skin
How it works: The Nd:YAG Laser is the preferred system when it comes to hair removal for dark skin because it has weaker melanin absorption. Melanin refers to the dark pigment in both skin and hair, and some lasers cannot tell the difference between the melanin in hair and the melanin in dark skin. This means they have the potential to injure the skin. The Nd:YAG laser, on the other hand, is safe for dark skin because of its long wavelengths, which penetrate past the melanin in the epidermis to the melanin in the hair. This seeking out of dark melanin is why, like most of the lasers on this list, it is still not very effective on fine or white hair.
Pros: The Nd:YAG has longer wavelengths than other hair-removing lasers, meaning that in addition to being safe for dark skin, it has the most potential to destroy hair at the papilla (the very bottom of the shaft).
Cons: Because it absorbs less melanin, it requires more treatments for optimal results. Treatments with YAG lasers can also be more painful and less effective on fine hair.
For olive skin
How it works: This laser has a slightly longer wavelength than some of its competitors (though not as long as the Nd:YAG), which makes it useable on a wide range of skin tones, including olive skin.
Pros: Perhaps the Alexandrite’s most important benefit is an increased spot size and repetition rate, which means it, can treat a larger area of skin, faster. This makes it one of the quickest hair-removal lasers available.
Cons: Despite its long wavelength, it still achieves high melanin absorption, so there is a significant risk for discoloration and burns on all but very light skin.
For fair to medium skin
How it works: The Diode, one of the newest and most commonly used laser systems today, was designed for fair to medium skin types.
Pros: The Diode mixes both shorter and longer wavelengths, so it is both good at absorbing melanin and also penetrates deep into the hair follicles. The longer wavelengths also decrease the risk of skin damage.
Cons: The main drawback to the Diode laser is its newness, as there is not yet an appropriate amount of data to assess its long-term results.
For very light skin
How it works: As the oldest type of hair-removal laser, the Ruby has a higher melanin absorption rate than most other lasers on the market, making it most appropriate for very light skin and light hair removal.
Pros: Effective, even on very fine hair.
Cons: Because of the high melanin absorption, it is more prone to leave skin discolored. For this reason, it should only be used on very fair skin.
Laser hair removal procedure steps
Your plastic surgeon may perform the laser hair removal procedure, or may delegate this to a nurse or other licensed provider.
A beam of highly concentrated light is used to target unwanted hair follicles. There is some mild discomfort that does not last long.
Because hair grows in cycles, it typically takes three to four laser hair removal treatments to provide significant hair reduction.
Number of sessions
Hair grows in several phases (anagen, telogen, catagen) and a laser can only affect the currently active growing hair follicles (early anagen). Hence, several sessions are needed to kill hair in all phases of growth.
Multiple treatments depending on the type of hair and skin colour have been shown to provide long-term reduction of hair. Most patients need a minimum of seven treatments. Current parameters differ from device to device but manufacturers and clinicians generally recommend waiting from three to eight weeks between sessions, depending on the area being treated. Certain areas (notably men’s faces) may require considerably more treatments to achieve desired results.
Laser does not work well on light-colour hair, red hair, grey hair, white hair, as well as fine hair of any colour, such as vellus. For darker skin patients with black hair, the long-pulsed Nd:YAG laser with a cooling tip can be safe and effective when used by an experienced practitioner.
Typically the shedding of the treated hairs takes about two to three weeks.
Side effects and risks
Some normal side effects may occur after laser hair removal treatments, including itching, pink skin, redness, and swelling around the treatment area or swelling of the follicles (follicular edema). These side effects rarely last more than two or three days. The two most common serious side effects are acne and skin discoloration.
Some level of pain should also be expected during treatments. Numbing creams are available at most clinics, sometimes for an additional cost. Some numbing creams are available over the counter. Use of strong numbing creams over large skin areas being treated at one time must be avoided, as this has seriously harmed, for patients. Typically, the cream should be applied about 30 minutes before the procedure. Icing the area after the treatment helps relieve the side effects faster
How to prepare for the procedure
Before the procedure, a dermatologist will usually review the patient’s medical history and conduct a physical exam. This is the time for the doctor and patient to discuss expectations, potential risks and outcomes of the procedure. Patients also should:
Avoid sunbathing, tanning beds, waxing, chemical peels or collagen injections for two weeks prior to the procedure.
Avoid perfumes, deodorants or any potential irritants in the treatment area before and after treatment.
Avoid aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements due to increased risk of bleeding.
What to expect during laser hair removal?
Just before the procedure, your hair that will be undergoing treatment will be trimmed to a few millimetres above the skin surface. The laser equipment will be adjusted according to the thickness, location of the hair to be treated, and the skin colour.
Depending on the laser or the light source used, you and the technician will need to take proper eye protection. It will also be necessary to protect the outer layer of the skin with a cold gel or special cooling device. This will help the laser light to penetrate the skin.
Next, the technician will give a pulse of light to the treatment area and watch the area for several minutes to make sure that the best settings were used and to check for the reactions.
After the completion of the procedure, you may be given ice packs, anti-inflammatory creams or lotions, or cold water to ease any discomfort. You may schedule your next treatment 3 – 4 weeks later. You will get treatments until the unwanted hair stops growing.
What to expect after the procedure
Following treatment, patients should expect:
Redness and swelling of the hair follicle, which is a normal occurrence.
Pain and discomfort, which can be easily treated with over-the-counter pain medicines.
To be given a prescription for a topical antiseptic cream to be applied after treatment.
To avoid direct sun exposure for at least one week following all laser hair removal procedures.
Find a doctor for your laser/light hair removal procedure
If you’re interested in laser hair removal, choose a doctor who’s certified in a specialty such as dermatology or cosmetic surgery and has experience with laser hair removal. If a physician’s assistant or licensed nurse will do the procedure, make sure a doctor supervises and is available on-site during the treatments. Be cautious about spas, salons or other facilities that allow nonmedical personnel to do laser hair removal.