Laser hair removal is fast becoming a popular alternative to traditional hair removal methods like shaving, waxing and tweezing. Its popularity has a lot to do with the fact that it offers an almost permanent solution to unwanted hair, with none of the side effects that are associated with the traditional hair removal methods.
The basics of IPL
Permanent laser hair removal is sometimes referred to as IPL or Intense Pulsed Light treatment because it makes use of an intense pulsed beam of light to target hair follicles. The underlying principle behind this aesthetic treatment is selective photothermolysis, the process whereby the laser selectively targets hair follicles without affecting the surrounding tissue or the surface of the skin. The heat from the laser destroys the hair follicle at the root, causing the hair to fall out.
Effectiveness of laser hair removal
Laser hair removal treatment works by matching the wavelength of the laser to the colour of the hair that is to be removed. It tends to work best on individuals with light skin and dark hair because light skin is less likely to absorb the heat given off by the lasers, which can instead focus on the dark hair. Laser hair removal treatment may not be as effective on those with fair skin and light hair as the lasers may not be able to differentiate and pick up the light hair follicles. Individuals with dark skin and dark hair can run the risk of skin damage caused by the skin absorbing too much of the laser’s heat.
Laser hair removal is technically not permanent as it is designed to slow hair regrowth by killing the hair follicles. Nevertheless, most people who undergo IPL treatment experience near complete hair removal after three to eight treatments and simply require the occasional touch up or maintenance treatment. The number of treatments required will depend on the individual’s skin and hair type.
Nature and frequency of laser treatment required
Your aesthetic professional will be able to advise you on the type of laser most suitable for your skin and hair type, as well as the number of treatments required for optimal results. The number of treatments will also depend on the area on which you are getting laser hair removal; generally the legs and arms require fewer sessions than the face and neck, as the hairs on the face and neck tend to be finer. Ideally you should wait three to eight weeks between each treatment.
The procedure is relatively painless as a cooling gel is usually applied to the skin or used at the tip of the instrument, to protect the skin from the intense heat of the laser. After a treatment session, one can experience shedding for one to two weeks as the targeted hair follicles drop off.
Side effects of laser hair removal?
Side effects from treatment are relatively rare but can include skin irritation and discolouration of the treated area. Skin irritation symptoms include itching, redness or swelling. This is usually temporary and will subside shortly after treatment. In very rare cases, IPL can cause blistering or scarring of the area.
Preparing for a laser hair removal treatment session
It is always wise to get laser treatment only from medically-trained professionals who have a thorough understanding of the process and the risks involved. At your first consultation, your treatment professional should go over your medical history, including any medications you may be on. He or she should be able to explain the process, discuss benefits and what you can expect from the sessions.
Once you decide on IPL, you should take certain precautions in the weeks leading up to your first session. These include staying out of the sun and avoiding other hair removal techniques that can disrupt the follicle.
After an IPL session, a cold compress is sometimes applied to the treated area to minimise discomfort. If you experience side effects, you may be prescribed a gel or lotion or even pain-killer medication. In order to facilitate healing and to get optimal results from the procedure, you should stay out of the sun and avoid tanning for a couple of weeks.