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Laser Hair Removal
by Joanne B. Gonzalez, MD
What is Laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal is a procedure where laser beams are used to deliver intense heat to the hair follicles to miniaturize or reduce hair growth. The laser light is absorbed by the dark pigment (melanin) in the hair roots, the heat produced causes miniaturization or destruction of the hair.
Since melanin is the target pigment, laser hair removal is most effective in dark hairs that are in the active hair growth cycle (Anagen phase). The most common areas treated are the upper lips, beard, underarms, bikini, chest, back, arms, legs. It may not be effective in naturally blond, red, gray, white, and very thin hairs.
How is the procedure done?
There are several kinds of lasers for hair removal, most entail some degree of discomfort like a sensation of a rubber band snap on the skin. This discomfort is usually tolerable but for some sensitive areas and patients, topical anesthetic cream may be applied 30-60 minutes before the procedure.
The area to be treated is cleaned using mild cleansers and water, dried and shaved. The handpiece is applied to the skin to deliver the laser light pulses, passing through the areas where the hair grows. The length of time for the procedure depends on the area being treated. On average, the upper lip may be done in 1-2 mins, underarm area about 5-10 mins, legs may take 30 minutes to more than an hour.
What do I expect after the procedure?
Patients usually don’t feel anything unusual after the procedure. For a few, there may be a slight flushed color of the area treated and small red bumps which subsides in a few minutes.
It is usually advised not to use any chemical products on the skin for the next 24-48 hours like deodorants, anti-perspirants, whitening products, peeling agents etc. It is also best to avoid sun-exposure, scrubbing and scratching of the area treated.
How many sessions do I need?
Laser hair removal targets the actively-growing hairs, therefore, follow-up sessions are needed to treat the new, growing hairs. Succeeding sessions are usually done at intervals of 4-6 weeks. Most patients would require about 3-6 sessions.
What are the risks?
Any kind of laser can be dangerous especially if performed by untrained personnel. The Philippine Dermatological Society recommends that Skin Laser procedures should be done by well-trained, experienced, and certified PDS dermatologists.
Some of the complications and risks are:
- blisters, darkening, scars from burns
- bacterial infections
- breakout of cold sores
- whitening or depigmentation