For the technical aspects of how LASERs function, please refer to my prior post titled “Medical LASER Technology.”
LASER treatments are the best means for long term hair reduction. The procedure may take only a few minutes for a small area or up to an hour for full legs. The treatments are relatively painless but in sensitive areas topical numbing cream can be used. For LASER hair reduction to be effective the hair must be actively growing and must contain melanin.
Melanin is the pigment or color of human skin and hair. Three different types of melanin occur: eumelanin which creates a brown or black color, pheomelanin which creates a red color, and neuromelanin which exists only in the brain. LASER energy is most efficiently absorbed by the eumelanin contained in black or brown hair. The eumelanin absorbs the energy from the LASER and heats, causing destruction of the hair and surrounding structures, like the hair root.
The presence of the hair at the root is required for an effective treatment. Means of epilation, such as waxing, tweezing and sugaring, remove the hair at the root or with the root. These means of epilation are not recommended prior to a LASER hair reduction treatment. Shaving, however, is acceptable as the root and the hair shaft right on top of the root is still intact.
(Shaving prior to a treatment actually makes for a less painful treatment. Excess hair on the skin surface will heat causing unnecessary discomfort during the procedure.)
On the human body not all of the hair is actively growing all at once. The percentage of actively growing hair varies depending on the body area. For example, the beard has over 70% of hair actively growing, the under arms only 30% and the legs have only 20% actively growing hair. Actively growing hair is still attached to a functioning root. The root is the target for the energy delivered by the LASER as described above. The energy from the LASER heats the root and can kill or at least damage the hair root. A damaged root can regrow a hair but the hair tends to be thinner and lighter in color.
Having only a percentage of the hair effectively treated by the LASER and the possibility that the hair root will only be damaged makes LASER hair removal a numbers game. Multiple treatments are required for long lasting hair reduction. Depending on the area of the body treated and the individual, some people have good long lasting results with just two or three treatments, on the other end of the spectrum, quarterly maintenance may be needed to keep the hair at bay.
Thank you for your time and attention,
Robert Zieber, MD
De Luz Medical Aesthetics