Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal works by sending a beam of laser light to an area on the skin with enough power to disable or destroy the root, but not enough power to harm the surrounding skin. This process is called selective photothermolysis. It is selective because it targets only the hair and not the skin. Photo means light and thermolysis means destroying with heat. The surrounding skin is usually cooled to protect it and make the process less painful. Some methods include a gel, a spray, or a cooling tip.

The Laser beam finds the hair follicles by targeting the substance that gives skin and hair dark color - melanin. The idea is that the hair should absorb the the laser energy (heat) and transfer that energy down to its root and destroy it. The skin also absorbs energy but hopefully not enough to damage (burn) it. Since the laser takes advantage of the different absorption rates of skin vs. hair the ideal candidate for laser has dark hair and light skin.

The laser will not work as well on light hair color. People with brown and red hair still get very good results. People with blond hair get the least results and will need many more treatments than people with darker hair. People with white or gray hair will get no results. The hot laser light will also be attracted to the melanin in the skin, so people with suntans, or dark skin types are at more of a risk for discoloration of pigment and other side effects such as burns.

Hair Removal by Laser is NOT ELECTROLYSIS. Electrolysis is a method of removing individual hairs one-at-a-time by directing an electric current into each hair follicle. This is the high tech/modern day method of destroying massive amounts of hair follicles with a simple trigger pull.

Hair Physiology

Hair is in one of 3 stages of growth at any given time: Anagen, Catagen, and Telogen. Hair's active growth phase is called Anagen. During Anagen, the hair contains an abundance of melanin. Catagen is the regression phase when the lower part of hair stops growing but is not shed. The follicle is reabsorbed. The resting phase is called Telogen during which the old hair falls out in preparation for the develpment of new hair.

Hair Growth Phases

Laser treatments are most effective when the hair is in the active Anagen phase when the melanin is most abundant. It is the melanin that is the target of the laser light. Laser only destroys hair in its active growth phase, the anagen phase. This phase lasts several years, and up to 85% of our hair is in this phase.

Types of Lasers

There are four different kinds of laser light that are commonly used for hair removal:
• Alexandrite- such as the Candela GentleLase Plus.
• Ruby- such as the EpiTouch or the Epilaser.
• Diode- such as the Coherent Light Sheer.
• ND, and LP ND Yag- such as the Candela GentleYag and the Altus Cool Glide.

These are all effective, fast, comfortable and safe for permanent hair removal.

There are several factors or parameters that a laser clinician can often control to customize a laser hair removal treatment for efficacy, safety and comfort:
• Pulse length- longer pulsed lasers are considered safest.
• Fluence- Selection of energy levels can be varied for skin type.
• Delay- The time in between pulses of light affects how much the skin and hair follicle are allowed to cool off
• Spot Size - Affects the speed and penetration of the laser. A larger spot penetrates deeper. A good selection of spot sizes helps the technician reach the hair at the depth at which it grows.
• Cooling- The surrounding skin may be protected by a gel, spray or cooled tip pressed against the skin.