How laser hair removal at home works?
At-home laser devices burn out hair follicle to reduce hair growth. The first laser hair removal treatment in the United States took place in mid-90’s. Later on, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital published articles about medical lasers. Their lab data proved lasers are safe and effective.
Since then, many patients and beauty fans chose laser to remove unwanted hair. Thanks to advanced technology, hair removal is possible in beauty salons and at home.
Today, we are going to take an in-depth look at how much further laser hair removal has progressed in 2021. This article covers all aspects, including hair removal safety, costs, and efficacy. Either you are an amateur or veteran, we hope you might learn something new!
Table of Content
- History & Development
- Hair Removal at Clinic
- Hair Removal at Home
- Benefit & Risks
- Laws & Regulations
History & Development
Like we mentioned in the beginning, laser hair removal has been out there for a few decades. Plus, scientists proved in the 70’s that lasers for medical surgeries are safe. Laser hair removal is one of the most popular cosmetic services in beauty salons.
Dr. Richard Rox Anderson is a professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School. He discovered that lasers of certain wavelengths can target specific types of chromophore. Melanin is the chromophore in hair cells. Lasers can penetrate skin and burns out the basal stem cells inside of hair follicles.
Anderson’s discovery later became became the permanent solution for hair reduction. In 1996, he treated patients who had hypertrichosis or hirsutism. These patients had excessive hair growth on abnormal locations. The symptom may occur on more-exposed areas such as the face, chest, and back. It also appears on less-exposed locations like armpits, genital, nasal or perianal skin. Medications, hormones, malnutrition, tumors, or metabolic maladjustment are the main causes of hirsutism.
In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration started to approve commercial laser devices for hair removal. Manufacturers must follow the FDA's guidelines to advertise laser hair removal at home.
What hair removal options are available nowadays for both females and males?
Hair Removal at Home Methods
You can find gazillions of ways to remove unwanted hair. Shaving, plucking, tweezing, waxing, burning, zapping – you name it. To make it simple, the catch is that some are more painful than others. No kidding. The amount of pain is what people afraid the most about hair removal. You might still recall the scene in Friends, where Monica and Phoebe lifted tapes from each other’s legs. OUCH!
Ironically, it seems the more painful the experience, the better the result. Or, at least that is the general consensus. But is it true? The short answer is: no. The feel of pain varies by skin profile, including size and location, thickness, and others. But, laser hair removal by far is the only reliable method for permanent hair reduction.
How does laser hair removal work?
Types of Lasers and How They Work
To understand how laser hair removal works, we should learn about “thermal destruction.” It is a physical reaction that destroys matter with focused thermal energy. Certain lasers can target and destroy melanin inside hair follicles under the skin.
Common lasers for hair removal include ruby, alexandrite, and diode. These lasers yield the best results on light-skinned and dark-haired patients. Then there are the Nd:YAG lasers that use garnet as medium. They work on patients with darker skin like African-Americans.
Laser hair removal is permanent and almost painless. But it takes many sessions to complete the treatment. This is because human’s body hair cycles about six weeks as it grows. A total of three to eight sessions may be necessary to produce a permanent result of smooth and even skin. As a rule of thumb, laser hair removal works the best on light skin with dark hair. During preoperative consultation, a doctor would create a profile of your skin type. It will help you choose the most effective lasers for your treatment.
Laser Hair Removal at Home vs. IPL
Both lasers and intensive pulsed light (IPL) are effective for hair removal. But many people cannot tell the difference between them. The first thing we should clarify is that IPL is not another type of laser. A laser beam focuses light of a single wavelength. Whereas IPL combines sources of light in a few wavelengths. Thus IPL works on more skin types but weaker than lasers.
The key difference between lasers and IPL is their ability to penetrate the skin. Generally speaking, lasers are ideal for hair removal. They can reach deeper down the skin to destroy living hair follicles. In comparison, IPL is more effective for skin treatment. IPL can target on red blood cells in superficial and destroy broken capillaries.
Hair Removal at Clinic
Consult a Dermatologist
We encourage anyone who plans to try laser hair removal to consult a dermatologist. The doctor will create a profile of your skin type, assessing:
- Type of skin, such as normal, dry, oily, etc.
- Degree of tan caused by sunlight and tanning equipment
- Density and location of hair
- Color of hair and skin
- Previous hair removal methods
- Medical history, such as chronic disease, medications history, scarring, etc.
- Presence of tattoos or moles in the treatment area
The preoperative assessment helps you choose the best option for hair removal. Patients with sensitive skin should find out the length of treatment. What medicines they need to take. And understand the chances of allergic reactions.
Before You Go
Before treatment, you should avoid sun bath and tanning services. You can use broad range (UVA/UVB) sunscreens with SPF 15 or higher on your skin. Do not pull, wax, or burn your hair, despite the fact that shaving or depilatory creams are fine.
You need to shave treatment area 1-2 days before laser treatment. You can also take prophylactic medicine on the day of treatment. It reduces the chance of herpes simplex contamination on your treated skin. You might need an oral anti-toxin if the lasers removed hair near nasal or perianal skin.
On The Day of Treatment
Upon the arrival of treatment, your skin should be perfect and free of cosmetic products. You can use a skin sedative cream before the treatment. Most lasers have a cooling part like a cool gel, refrigerant shower. Or they have a water-cooled contact piece that decreases the patient’s uneasiness. The part ought to shield the skin from unreasonable warming when the skin obscuring or easing up. Everybody in the room should wear protective glasses during the laser strategy.
You will need at least three sessions at each site to permanently reduce hair growth. Hazier hair reacts best to the laser, while lighter hair (white, mixed, or red) is less responsive. Skin prescriptions can improve the responsiveness of lighter hair to the laser treatment.
The laser beams feel like the snapping of an elastic band or warm pinpricks against the skin. Preferably, the quick reaction is vaporization of the hair shaft. Slight inflammation and redness around the hair follicles show up within short moment. Ice packs comfort the skin following treatment. Some OTC painkiller also helps depending on the situation before and after treatment.
Whenever blisters show up, you can use a skin anti-infection lotion. Use it a few times a day until the symptom recuperated. You can also use a gentle skin steroid cream to heal inflammation and redness. Patients should stay away from intense sunlight and to use a wide-range (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with SPF 30. You should not put makeup on the treated skin.
Hair Removal at Home
Pros and Cons
Anyone nowadays can conveniently order a self-serving hair removing device online or at your local electronics stores. Both laser and IPL devices are capable of hair removal at home, although with far weaker power output and lesser technical specifications. Which means, they are definitely not on the same magnitude as the high-end professional models installed at your dermatologist's clinic.
This is both good news and bad. The good news is that the less powerful at-home hair removing device is safe to use even for people with minimum training and knowledge. Any adult should be able to quickly learn how to use it after reading the manual. Then the bad news is that less power output means weaker thermal energy level, which means smaller area to cover per usage and more treatment sessions will be required over a much longer period of time.
In practice, you might find doing-it-yourself is fun and satisfying. But after a few sessions, you may quickly lose track of when and where has been done. It won't be an easy task for everyone – I mean it.
Many people would still prefer laser hair removal at a clinic or beauty salon. This is because the pro model can cover a much larger area of skin than a handheld device. In other words, it gives a bigger bang for your buck.
Laser Hair Removal at Home Costs
The average cost of laser hair removal is about $400 per session. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons published 2020 statistics on its website. But the data only reflects the partial cost of a complete hair removal treatment. For example, fees and cost of prescriptions under certain circumstances were not considered. We encourage anyone to consult a dermatologist before their first laser treatment. The cheapest at-home laser device only cost about $100.
Your final price may vary by experience and expertise of the laser technician. It also depends on the model of equipment and total number of sessions for your treatment. Your geographic location is another important factor.
At last, you should know that most medical insurance does not cover cosmetic surgery. It is the general consensus. But you should not hesitate to find other financing options. So call your insurance provider and find it out.
Laser Hair Removal at Home Safety
You can use lasers to remove hair on pretty much anywhere. For example, on your legs, arm, stomach, hands, feet, pubic region, except for area near the eyes. During a laser session, both the patient and technician should wear protective glasses. Looking at laser without any protection can cause temporary or permanent blinding. Do not take any chances of accident.
More and more people now remove hair at home. But not everyone received the ideal outcome. So make sure you read the manual before turning the laser on because, you know, it is laser. Additionally, you should avoid using laser over tattoos or pigmented areas, including moles.
Benefit & Risks
Efficacy of Laser Hair Removal at Home
The outcome of hair removed per treatment varies by treated location. For instance, thinner skin near the bikini line responds better than thicker skin on hands and feet. On average, expect to see at least 10 percent reduction of hair growth. You might need many laser sessions and take a four-to-eight-week break between sessions. After laser treatment, the hair that grows back will be finer and lighter in color.
Laser hair removal is effective. It reduces hair growth to a point that you hardly ever need to shave it again. It does not get rid of your hair for the rest of your life, but the pain and hassle of maintaining hairlessness is gone.
The laser beam relies on the contrast between hair and skin to target hair follicles. So laser hair removal produces the best results on patients with darker hair on lighter skin. But that does not mean patients with darker skin cannot remove hair with lasers. The Nd:YAG lasers can distinguish hair from skin. These lasers work great on darker skin, but they are expensive because garnet is their medium. Or you can try the less-expensive IPL treatment, but it will take longer.
Common Side Effects
In general, the risks of side effects vary by skin type. Other features like hair color, skin thickness and texture also affect the outcome. Common side effects include pain, blistering, swelling, redness, infection, itchiness, among others. Any signs and discomfort generally went away within a day.
Laser hair removal may change the color of the treated skin. These symptoms may be impermanent or persistent. The change of skin color might cause problems for patients who could not stay away from sunlight. Also, patients with darker skin such as African-Americans may find unappealing color patches.
Sometimes, patients reported blistering, crusting, scarring, or abnormal changes in skin texture. Other uncommon side effects include changing treated hair into grey color. Some patients may experience hair overgrowth around treated regions.
Laser Hair Removal at Home Preparation
Patients should always consult with a medical professional before removing hair with lasers. It does not matter whether you do it in a clinic or at home. Here is a list of questions you should consider asking:
- What hair removal option is the best for me?
- What is the average cost?
- How many laser sessions do I need?
- How long is the treatment?
- What are the known risks or side effects related to laser treatment?
- How should I prepare for the treatment?
- What should I do after the treatment?
- How painful is laser hair removal?
- When should I expect to see the outcome?
Laws & Regulations
FDA-approved Laser Manufacturers
Lately, laser hair removal at home became a trending hashtag in the beauty community. More laser manufacturers are seeking potential business opportunity. But they need FDA's approval to put their lasers on the shelf.
The laser business expanded to a point where FDA cannot maintain a list of all laser models. The list keeps on evolving as more and more brands joined the market. You can look up a specific laser model on FDA's Medical Device Databases. It will come up in the search results if the FDA already approved it.
Hair removal lasers now are essential beauty gadgets at home. Laws and regulations on laser hair removal provide helpful information to the public. But the requirements for laser licensure vary by state. In some states, laws decide who are qualified or not to perform laser hair removal. But others states have no specific rules on the subject. Either the state’s medical board or other professional boards constitute the laws.