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Laser Hair Removal A2Z

Laser hair removal can be a safe, effective means of managing unwanted body hair. It is pertinent, however, for consumers to know facts about the procedure itself, as well as what precautions to take when seeking a service provider. This report is a must read for anyone considering laser hair removal, or who knows someone who is.


What is Laser Hair Removal?
History of Laser Hair Removal
Advantages and Disadvantages
Laser Hair Removal Precautions


With procedures that take only minutes compared to hours by electrolysis, laser hair removal offers consumers yet another way to remove unwanted body hair.

Although there is no firm data on how long hair reduction lasts or how often permanent reduction occurs, the hands-down consensus seems to be that having hair removed by laser is a relatively safe procedure. And when expectations are realistic, the majority of consumers who have hair removed by laser are pleased with the results.

Even so, some claims by providers about the procedure are unsubstantiated, research inadequate, and many medical practitioners remain skeptical or unconvinced that laser hair removal entirely matches up to marketing claims by those who offer the service.

The mission of this report, therefore, is two-fold:

1.) To remain neutral while what is known about laser hair removal is highlighted.

2.) To remain neutral while distinguishing which claims about laser hair removal are accurate, and which are unsupported by medical research data.

It will also offer sound advice to persons considering laser hair removal.

What is Laser Hair Removal?

In short, laser hair removal is a procedure that uses light at a specific wavelength to rid the body of unwanted hair. It does this by damaging hair follicles, causing the hair to fall from the body shortly after; usually within a few days.

How is this accomplished? When light is absorbed by dark objects, it creates heat; the stronger the light, the hotter the heat. The light generated by the laser targets a dark area; in this case, a hair follicle. High heat from the laser to the hair follicle is localized; surrounding skin tissue remains unaffected. Light skin with dark hair, then, is the best combination for successful laser hair removal.

Persons with gray, red, or blonde hair are not as good a candidate for laser hair removal than someone with fairer skin and darker hair. The same is true for persons with darker skin tones. This is because of the high amount of melanin found in dark skin, and the small amount found in lighter shades of hair.

Melanin is the primary chromophore used by most hair-removing laser instruments. “Chromophore” refers to the dark target area the laser light singles out during the hair removal procedure. Melanin is what gives color to skin and hair. Skin with two much melanin can prevent the laser light from singling out hair follicles.

The deeper into the skin laser light travels, the less effective it becomes. To offset this, there are several wavelengths of laser energy used in the removal of hair; from visible light, to near-infrared radiation.

Wavelength, pulse-width, width of laser beam, and energy level of laser light generated all affect laser hair removal results.

History of Laser Hair Removal

During the 1960s lasers began being considered as a way to remove unwanted hair. The hair removal industry was enthusiastic about the potential generated by research. So enthusiastic, hair removal providers began utilizing laser light before effectiveness and safety factors had been fully explored by dermatologists and researchers.

The first lasers used for hair removal purposes emitted one continuous wave. It was later discovered that this was not practical. Since the beam could not be controlled, damage to skin tissue resulted. Using the same principle as the shutter in a camera, a “Q-switch” was developed to remedy the problem.

In 1969 lasers that delivered energy through a tiny fiberoptic probe to selectively target and “attack” individual hair follicles were developed. Before the device had been cleared as effective and safe, it was rushed to market. Advertising campaigns touted it a safe and painless way to permanently rid the body of unwanted hair. The claims were false, of course, since testing of the devices had not yet been completed; before long the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) intervened.

Ten years later, data verified laser energy was successful in the treatment of ingrown eyelashes. Researchers also found lasers useful in removing specific kinds of tattoos and in treatment for certain types of vascular injuries. After it was noted that hair loss sometimes resulted, the device was once again promoted as a hair remover, even though adequate testing was still lacking.

When the FDA approved use of the SoftLight™ laser for hair removal during the mid 1990s, it was once again pounced on by hair removing industries. Still without sufficient testing, the device was nevertheless marketed as “painless” and “permanent.” Once again the FDA stepped in.

After several more years of unsubstantiated assertions, with consumers “guinea pigs” for a procedure whose long-term effects had not yet been determined, a series of lawsuits resulted. Providers of laser hair removal finally changed their marketing strategy to a more modest “hair-management” theme.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Present day, the use of laser energy for purposes of hair removal continues. Although there is no evidence to the contrary, research that proves it is a safe and effective method of hair removal remains inconclusive.

What have been determined are certain advantages laser hair removal has over other methods:

  1. It is considered safe when performed properly by an experienced provider.
  2. Light-skinned, dark haired consumers experience best results.
  3. Re-growth is often lighter, and finer textured.
  4. Because the laser method is quicker than electrolysis, it is especially useful for large areas of hair removal in one sitting.

The flip side of the coin is its disadvantages:

  1. As mentioned throughout this report, long-term data on safety and effectiveness is incomplete.
  2. The procedure requires eye protection.
  3. The procedure can be expensive.
  4. It is not as effective on darker skin tones, or on persons with gray, red, or blonde hair.
  5. Improper treatment or overexposure to laser light can cause burns, lesions, and long-lasting skin discoloration.
  6. Re-growth can be patchy or patterned.
  7. Because regulations vary, inadequate control methods to ensure competent practitioners exist.
  8. Some persons find the treatment painful.
  9. Some persons, even those determined to be a good candidate, do not respond well to treatment.

Laser Hair Removal Precautions

If you or someone you know plans on having laser hair removal, the following guidelines will help to increase the chance of laser treatment success:

  1. If you decide to have laser hair removal as a result of an advertisement, keep a copy of the advertisement, or write down claims if you heard the advertisement over the radio or television. Document date, time, and where the ad ran. You might need this information later; especially if the ad promised removal of hair, and your treatment proved unsuccessful.
  2. Get as much information as possible over the phone. Ask direct questions when you call. Take notes; request the names of everyone you talk to, date and document all conversations.
  3. Go to a licensed dermatologist or plastic surgeon. Anyone can operate a hair removal business; you don’t want to trust someone who might be unqualified, and risk serious skin damage.
  4. Remember, doctors are human, too. They can be fooled by marketing hype; they can also be salesmen who try and sell a service to help pay for expensive equipment.
  5. Don’t set a date to have the procedure without first having a consultation. When making arrangements for one, insist on speaking directly with the supervising physician.
  6. Note whether or not the clinic appears sanitary and well-organized. What about staff? Do they appear helpful and courteous?
  7. When speaking with the doctor ask what their training is, and how long they have been using the particular machine they plan to use on you.
  8. Before agreeing to laser hair removal treatment, ask how much a test patch will cost. Have one done; insist it be done by the doctor who will be treating you.
  9. DO NOT sign up for treatment at the consultation. Wait at least two weeks to make sure the test patch is successful.
  10. Have a list of questions ready. Ask things such as how long treatments will take, the total number of treatments that will be required, when payment of each treatment is due and how much each treatment will cost. Ask what specific types of pain medication you will be given, how long it will take for hair to fall out, etc. Also ask what their policy is for missed appointments.
  11. Before making an appointment for laser hair removal, get a written guarantee of any promises made. Also get a written list of possible side effects, and the doctor’s profile on your skin type.
  12. Treatments are usually sold in packages of 2 to 6 over a one year period. Do not agree to “open end treatments,” where you continue to pay for treatments until all hair is gone. Instead, try and get a written guarantee that any treatments required to fully remove hair beyond the number specified in the package, will be free.
  13. Read anything you sign thoroughly; do not allow anyone to rush you. If you don’t understand something, ask questions.
  14. Keep written records throughout the entire hair removal process.
  15. Make sure you are provided with a pair of goggles for each hair removal session. Lasers can cause severe eye injuries.
  16. During treatment, you may feel a pinching sensation. If you experience real pain, tell the doctor to stop. Pain is sometimes caused by over treatment, which can cause injury to skin tissue.


Follow doctor’s advice prior to, during, and after each hair removal treatment, and keep the doctor informed of any complications or concerns.

Laser hair removal is safe when performed by a qualified and experienced professional. Although skin may be slightly pink or red after treatment, skin color usually returns to normal within a few hours. Cold packs help skin return to normal more quickly.

Maintain accurate records of each treatment and office visit; document the date, time, name of the person spoken to, their position at the clinic, and details of each telephone conversation.

People who do their homework, and carefully select their laser hair removal provider are more apt to be satisfied with the end results, than persons who did not.

Copyright 2006: Remedium. This article may not be copied, in whole or in part, without the written consent of Remedium.

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