Time to shed your winter coat? Check out the best hair removal hack
Say buh-bye to your razor
About 6 years ago I decided to invest on laser hair removal for my legs, underarms and bikini area. It was by far one of the best self-care decisions I have made. I no longer had to shave or wax and I am beach ready year-round. It has been a huge time saver. About once every year I go for a touch up for some of the thinner hairs that periodically pop up. And to be honest, nobody can notice them but me! I mean guys, seriously, this is a game changer. The best hair removal option we currently have.
Sometimes I hear people saying that they don’t want to get laser hair removal because they are concerned about the radiation or the laser going too deep and affecting their organs. Other times I hear some people say that their skin is too dark for laser hair removal.
I would love to debunk some of these myths and at the same time, discuss some basics of laser hair removal.
How does laser hair removal work?
Laser hair removal works by targeting the pigment (melanin) present in black or brown hair. It will not work on blond or white hairs. Melanin absorbs the energy from the laser and it produces heat, damaging the hair follicle and preventing regrowth. Of course, you want the heat directed at the hair follicle and the laser will have a cooling system to ensure that the surrounding skin does not overheat. You will also need to shave prior to going to ensure that the energy from the laser goes to the hair follicle and the outside hair does not absorb it.
As we mentioned, the melanin is present in the hair shaft and the laser will target those hairs in a specific stage of the hair growth cycle called anagen. Our hair growth goes through three different stages and the active growth phase is called anagen. The laser must target the hair in this stage to achieve the best results, versus targeting it in the telogen phase. In the telogen phase, the hair enters a resting phase where we release and shed it.
It is hard to know in what stage a hair is in, hence you need several treatments so that you give your hair enough time to enter the anagen stage and be most responsive to treatment. Each area of the body varies in terms of their hair growth cycle. For example, your axillae spend 3 months in telogen and 4 months in anagen and about 30% of the hairs are in anagen at any given point. Legs, however, spend about 6 months in telogen and 4 months in anagen, with only 20% of the hairs in the anagen phase at any given point. So, it is easy to see that you will need multiple treatments over several months to be able to target all hairs.
How deep does the laser go?
The laser will affect the hair follicles located a few millimeters in the skin and it does NOT go deep in to the tissues. So, the laser will NOT affect muscles, bones and other organs.
Is laser hair removal safe?
Yes! However, you must ensure that a trained professional who knows what they are doing treats you. Additionally, make sure the laser is appropriate for you and for your skin type.
Any reputable place should give you a questionnaire (aside from looking at you) to figure out your skin type.
Fitzpatrick classification is the system we use to classify human skin color. It is based on how a person responds to sun exposure (tanning versus burning). Light skin individuals are 1 as opposed darker skin people who are 5 or 6 on the scale. This is very important because it will determine the laser type you should use. If someone uses the the wrong type of laser on dark skin, then the laser could cause discoloration of the surrounding skin.
For people with darker skin, Nd:Yag laser with a wavelength of 1064 nm is ideal and lasers with wavelengths around 750 nm should be avoided to prevent adverse skin effects. IPL type lasers can also be effective for darker skinned individuals.
What are potential side effects?
As mentioned, pigment changes (either darkening or lightening) are possible. In addition, you should have some mild redness and/or swelling after the treatment, but this should go away soon after. More significant problems are rare if done by properly trained individuals, but these include blistering of the skin and potential scaring.
Does it last forever?
Nothing lasts forever ☹️. It’s important to have the right expectations. Usually you will need at least 6 treatments 4-6 weeks apart (this will vary depending on the area you are treating). Each person responds differently and it depends on skin type, hair coarseness and the treatment area. So, you may need more than 6 treatments.
You will likely require touch ups periodically. Also, it most likely won’t get rid of 100% of your hair. Most experts agree that you will experience 80-90% hair reduction overall (which is still pretty great in my book 🙋🏻).
What about radiation?
Let’s talk about the radiation concern. All radiation is not created equal.
There are two types of radiation: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is the bad type of radiation that is present in x-rays, radiotherapy and ultraviolet light. It is associated with DNA damage and development of cancer. Non-ionizing radiation is present everywhere. It’s emitted by daily items like light bulbs and radios. This type of radiation is NOT associated with damage to our DNA or cancer.
Furthermore, when we look at the wavelength of each one of these, ionizing radiation has wavelengths below 350 nm versus the lasers used for hair removal are between 750 and 1400 nm. So, you can see there is a large difference in term of wavelengths and a big safety net.
What about pain?
The pain factor is pretty mild. It literally feels like someone is snapping tons of little tiny rubber bands on your skin. It was manageable for me; the bikini area was the most uncomfortable. That said, pain thresholds vary a lot, so you can always ask for some numbing cream application for particularly sensitive areas.
And there you have it!
If you feel tired of the shaving, waxing or creams, check out the best hair removal option out there. It really made a difference for me and totally simplified my life. It was a worthy investment. Most places have deals if you buy a package, so make sure you investigate and you can save money.
BTW, if you are wondering about hair removal for your child, check out this post by fellow blogger and pediatrician. She discusses all the options out and when they should start!
This post also came out in the FACE blog! Make sure you pay them a visit if you are interested in aesthetics or would like to know about training in this rapidly growing area!
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