The removal of unwanted body and facial hair has long been a concern for many. Over the centuries there have been all sorts of methods – some extremely effective and some less so! However, recent advances in technology have brought about new permanent hair removal treatments which have long-lasting results. Previously, we provided a summary of some of the popular options for hair removal available currently. Now we would like to go into further detail and break down the pro’s and con’s of each method so anyone considering this kind of treatment can make an informed decision.

Electrolysis

Until recent laser removal systems were introduced, the only real way of removing hair permanently was via electrolysis. Electrolysis is the destruction of the lower follicle which is done through the application of electrical current.

  • Benefits:  This method effectively depletes the hair follicle, thus negating the issue of any future hair growth. Electrolysis is also effective for treating any hair and skin colour and works for a range of hair diameters. If your hair is blonde or very fine, electrolysis may be the prefered method for you.
  • Side effects and limitations: There are multiple ways in which electrolysis can be performed. However, each technique has some undesirable side effects such as causing redness and tenderness of the skin which can last up to 24 hours. This method is also quite painful for some people (although some clinics do offer pain relief). There is also quite a high risk of infection with electrolysis, so your practitioner’s instructions must be carefully adhered to in order to prevent this. The progression to long-term hair removal with this method is slow and due to the electrical current being used, sessions will have to be spread out over a longer period of time. Clients will also need to reveal three days of visible hair growth in order for the needle to be applied correctly as incorrect needle placement can result in scarring and infection.

Light-based technology

Laser, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and Variable Pulsed Light (VPL) use the same method as light-based technology. The same principle of selective photothermolysis is used to bring long-term destruction to the hair follicles. This method of permanent hair removal includes the use of light to selectively destroy hair follicles under the skin without harming the skin tissue of the selected area.

Laser

Lasers use one band of light in which each wavelength has varied absorption rates depending on the client’s skin properties. Once absorbed, the light from the laser is turned into heat energy which is then conducted by the follicle and results in its destruction.

  • Benefits: Laser treatment can be used to treat any amount of hair, from an individual hair to an extensive amount. It is an extremely effective method for coarse hair and results are apparent within just two weeks of the first session. The client also doesn’t need to have very much hair growth in order to be treated. The risks of infection and scarring are non-existent, making it a particularly safe and easy method for most.
  • Side effects and limitations: Too much exposure to laser light can be dangerous to the eye and therefore goggles must be worn at all times. There is a slight risk of mild skin pigmentation, however this issue usually resolves itself after several months. The main limitation of this procedure is that it can only be performed on caucasian skin without any suntan. It is also very difficult to use laser treatment on people with fine hair. There is very little redness but in some cases clients may feel a sense of mild sunburn for 15 minutes to 24 hours.

Intense Pulse Light (IPL)

This variation of light-based technology doesn’t involve a laser; instead it is based on an intense pulsed light. This means that multiple wavelengths are used to heat the skin and hair. As the skin cools, the hair raises in temperature which causes destruction of the hair follicle.

  • Benefits: As with laser treatment, IPL can be used for any amount of hair (although the procedure is typically performed faster on larger treatment areas). A wider range of skin tones can be treated with IPL, which makes it a preferable treatment for people who are not caucasian. IPL is the same as laser in regards to the amount of hair required for treatment and the number of sessions needed. Like laser, IPL also carries no risk of scarring and infection.
  • Side effects and limitations: There is very little skin irritation via this method; some people may experience some slight redness but this typically subsides very quickly. As with laser treatment, IPL can damage the eyes and therefore goggles must be worn by the client. There is also a slight risk of skin pigmentation, but this typically subsides within a few months. This treatment is not suitable for blonde or grey hair.

Variable Pulsed Light (VPL)

In this treatment, VPL units are used to emit short, controlled pulses of filtered light, interspersed with rest periods. The periods of rest allow the heat to dissipate into the skin tissue whilst the heat builds up in the hair shaft (all of this is undetectable to the eye). The energy and rest periods can be altered to provide a more intense or less intense session depending on the needs of the individual. The benefits, side effects and limitations of this treatment are exactly the same as with the IPL treatment.

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[Photo by krosseel]