All about laser hair removal
Rightly performed laser hair removal is one of the most effective methods for permanent reduction of unwanted hair.
The rapid development in laser technology has made the treatment very popular. To learn more about laser and how they work, read more on our page about cosmetic laser treatments.
Exactly how effective laser hair removal depends on four factors:
- Skin colour
- Hair colour
- Laser equipment
Therefore, to be satisfied it is not enough to go to a clinic that offers laser hair removal. You need to know more to make the right decision.
The laser destroys the follicles by heating
Before understanding how laser hair removal is performed, you should be familiar with how hair growth works. You can learn more by reading the page about general information on hair removal.
There must be more pigment in the hair than the skin
Laser hair removal works by the laser light passing through the skin and converts into heat when it hits the darker hair.
The lighter your skin is, the more of the light energy is released through. It works the same way as when the sunrays hits a light surface leaving it cool, while a dark surface gets burning hot.
The laser light that reaches in the skin is converted into heat when it hits the darker pigment in the hair. The hair conducts the heat to the follicle, when the follicle hits 70 degrees; it destroys and stops producing hair.
In order to be able to perform laser hair removal, there must be a contrast between skin and hair
The darker a hair is, the more of the laser light energy is converted into heat. In other words, it is much easier to deal with thick dark hair than thin and bright.
The above mechanisms means that thick and dark hair on light skin are easier to treat with laser, while thin and light hair on dark skin is much more difficult to treat with laser.
Red and blond hair has very little pigment in itself, but can in some cases be treated. Gray and white hair cannot be treated with laser.
For such hair diathermy or electrolysis can be good options.
The right equipment + sufficient knowledge = successful hair removal
There are many different types of lasers and techniques to use. Learn more about the basics on our page about laser treatments.
The challenge with laser hair removal is to heat up the hair follicles with the help of laser light WITHOUT burning the skin. Exactly which laser method is most effective depends on the skin and hair:
- Hair on light skin types are always treated best with Alexandrite laser. It is effective against both thin and thick hair. It is estimated up to 80-90% permanent hair reduction after 6 treatments with Alexandrite laser when you have light skin and dark hair.
- Diode laser is a good “all-round” laser. It works well on everything from light to fairly dark skin (skin type 5, for example people from India). The downside is that it often has problem with removing the thinnest hair.
- When it comes to really dark skin, only Nd:YAG laser works. Probably because the laser light penetrates and affects the blood vessels that supply the hair follicles with nutrients without absorbing much of the pigment in the skin. Usually a few more treatments are needed when using Nd:YAG laser than with Alexandrite and Diode.
In order to get an efficient hair removal treatment, a use of several high quality lasers or a multi spectral laser is needed, depending on hair and skin type.
The results obtained after a complete laser hair removal is more or less permanent. However, you can’t exclude that some hair will return after some time or if hormonal hair growth occur.
How laser hair removal is performed
A laser hair removal treatment is relatively simple, expect that each area requires 4-8 treatment sessions conducted by at least one month apart.
During the treatment a number of laser pulses hits a predetermine pattern over the area. When the laser pulse hits the hair in the skin, it may burn a little. In some cases, cooling or anesthetic cream is applied to minimize discomfort and to prevent burns.
The actual treatment takes between 10-60 minutes depending on the size of the area. Treating the back obviously takes longer than the upper lip.
Important considerations before laser hair removal
- The lighter the skin, the better results you get. Avoid sun or tanning products for at least 4 weeks prior to the treatment.
- Light and thin hair requires multiple treatments than darker hair. White and gray hair doesn’t respond to laser treatments.
- You should not have waxed or in other ways pulled out hair six weeks before hair removal. Shaving can be done to do all the way to and during the treatment.
- For optimal results, after a hair removal treatment you should do it once again every year.
- You should not perform treatment during pregnancy, but breastfeeding is however no prevention.
- In some cases the resting hair follicles will be activated by the laser, then you may experience increased hair growth. However, it’s positive since the laser will access these hair follicles faster.
- Choose a clinic with laser equipment from well known manufacturer such as Fotona, Candela, Cynosure, Lumenis, etc. This way you will ensure certain standard equipment. Ask the clinic what laser machine they use and why.
Risks and complications are rare
You can return to your normal activities immediately after each treatment session and you can also put make up on as usual. In some cases, the skin may be slightly red and swollen but it is only for a few hours. Pigment changes in the skin with bright and dark parts can occur but is usually over within two months. This is common in people with darker skin tone.
In exceptional cases, blisters, sores, scarring or other changes in the skin texture may occur. This usually happens when a faulty laser is used or the machine’s settings are incorrect. It is over within a month, but can remain permanently.
A sunscreen of SPF 25 or higher is recommended if the treated area is exposed to the sun within two weeks.
Prices for laser hair removal
Prices for hair removal with laser depend on the patient’s condition and treatment goal and how much skin area is treated. These factors can affect the number of sessions that is needed.
If you treat multiple areas at the same time there’s normally some sort of discount.
The price for ONE laser treatment with high quality lasers performed by a specialist is about:
- £ 100 for a small area (cheeks, chin, upper lip, sideburns, underarms, etc.)
- £ 200 for a medium area (bikini line, both lower legs, arms, etc)
- £ 300 for larger areas (the back + shoulders, chest + stomach, etc.)
Based on the average treatments needed for a successful permanent hair removal it is usually 5 treatment sessions needed, the total cost is from £500 for smaller areas and £1500 for larger areas.
Additional options for laser hair removal
- Find clinics that perform laser hair removal in your neighborhood in our Clinic Directory
- Learn more about the different options for hair removal
- Learn more about how cosmetic lasers works on our page about cosmetic laser treatments
- Ask questions about laser hair removal in ”Ask the Expert”
- Discuss laser hair removal in our forum
This information about laser hair removal has been examined by dermatologist Tore Nilsen from Vaxjo Medical Center. It should be seen as general guidance to laser hair removal and cannot replace a consultation