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Laser Hair Removal

Millions of men and women with unwanted body hair spend countless hours on temporary hair removal methods -- including shaving, waxing, applying chemical depilatories, and tweezing. A traditional semi-permanent method, electrolysis, cauterizes and destroys each individual hair follicle, but this procedure is quite time-consuming.

Laser hair removal is a promising new treatment. The laser works by sending energy into the pigment of the hair shaft, which is absorbed by the surrounding follicle. The heat generated by this process damages the follicle and stops hair production.

Laser hair removal is appropriate for any area where there is excess hair, with the important exception of the eye area. Since the laser works on more than one follicle at a time, larger areas like the back, arms or legs are just as easily treatable as smaller areas like the upper lip or bikini line. However, because the hair is targeted on the basis of color, the hair must be darker than the underlying skin for the laser to be effective.

Although the FDA has approved several types of laser for permanent hair reduction, results can vary. Each individual has a different metabolism, hormonal level, hair quality and number of hair follicles, all of which can influence the outcome. Moreover, normal hair goes through a growth cycle in three stages: the anagen, or growing phase; the telogen, or resting phase; and the catagen, or transitional phase. During the anagen phase, hair is susceptible to the laser’s energy, but during the telogen and catagen phases, it is resistant. At any one time, various percentages of body hair will be in each of these phases, making complete removal unlikely without multiple sessions.

If you're considering laser hair removal, the following information will provide you with a good introduction to the procedure. For more detailed information about how this procedure may help you, we recommend that you consult a dermatologist who is board certified or has completed a residency program that includes instruction in this procedure.

Common Questions

What are some of the most common benefits of laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal is efficient, long-lasting method for removing unwanted hair that saves much of the time and energy previously given to other methods.

How is laser hair removal performed?

The area to be treated will be shaved clean and an anesthetic cream will be applied to minimize discomfort. During the procedure you’ll feel intense emissions of light on the skin as the laser is absorbed by the hair follicles. Each pulse of the laser lasts a fraction of a second and treats an area of approximately 1⁄2 inch. Many lasers are equipped with cooling systems to decrease skin temperature, providing an additional mild anesthetic and preventing burns from the heat generated by the laser.

How long do the treatments take?
The treatment time can vary considerably depending on the size of the area treated, and the particular technique used. A small area such as the upper lip may take only five minutes, while a larger area like the back or legs may take up to one hour.

Since the laser affects only those hairs in the growing stage, and not all hairs will be in this stage at the same time, several treatments will most likely be needed to effectively remove all the hair from one area. Subsequent sessions will be scheduled at least a month apart, when you will probably begin to notice the regrowth of hairs that were previously in the resting stage.

Where are the treatments performed?
Laser treatment is usually performed in a doctor’s office, and a hospital stay is not necessary.

How much pain is there?
You should expect some discomfort during the treatment. This is most often described as a burning or stinging sensation, and varies from one individual to the next. A numbing cream can be applied to the skin prior to treatment to minimize pain.

What can I expect after laser hair removal?
Following the procedure the area may be red or swollen, as if mildly sunburned. Your doctor may prescribe a topical cream to soothe the skin. Occasionally, the skin in the treated area becomes slightly crusty, but this reaction should fade within a few days.

Although you can resume your normal activities, you should avoid exposing the treated area to the sun. Clean the area with mild soap and water and do not use any products that may irritate the skin (such as Retin-A or astringents).

You’ll notice hair “growing” in the area within ten days of your treatment. This is actually the damaged hair falling out, rather than re-growth. You may shave these hairs if they bother you, but do not wax, tweeze, or bleach hairs between sessions.

If you have a dark complexion, you may notice a temporary lightening of the skin in the area. Although most patients are satisfied with the results of laser hair removal, it is impossible to predict the success of the treatment for each individual. The resiliency of hair follicles in different parts of the body and in different individuals can vary widely. Multiple treatments are usually needed to remove hair permanently and in some cases complete hair removal is never achieved. However, even in these cases, you should have fewer hairs in the treated area than you would have had if you hadn’t had the procedure.

Other important information:
Laser hair removal is more effective on people with light skin and dark hair because dark hair absorbs the laser’s energy more efficiently. People with dark skin can be treated, as long as their hair is darker than their skin. Light hair is very difficult to treat on all skin types. Your physician can advise you on what to expect based on your particular skin and hair type.

Risks and limitations:

Although laser treatment is generally safe and effective, possible side effects of the procedure include:
* Darkening or lightening of the skin in the treated area.
* Blistering, burning, or crustiness of the skin
These side effects are almost always temporary. However, to reduce the risks involved in this procedure, carefully follow all of your doctor’s instructions, both before and after the procedure.

Laser Hair Removal Costs:
The national average of 1999 doctor fees for laser hair removal was $413 (Source: The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery). Regional averages: New England states: $684; middle Atlantic states: $358; north central states: $324; south central states: $338; and mountain/Pacific states: $340. These are physician fees only, and do not include related expenses.

Be sure to:

* Tell your doctor about any allergies you have (to foods, drugs, environmental elements).
* Tell your doctor if you have any serious medical conditions.
* Tell your doctor about all medications you are taking (both prescription and non-prescription).
* Carefully follow any instructions your doctor gives you regarding eating and drinking, smoking, and vitamins.
The information on this web site is only intended as an introduction to this procedure and should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor as a guarantee of the result. The best method of determining your options is to consult qualified surgeons who are able to answer specific questions related to your situation.

Laser Hair Removal

Laser Hair Removal