One of the newer interests in the realm of cosmetic surgery involves the removal of hair using lasers. Currently, the favored method of hair removal is electrolysis, which accounts for almost a billion dollar market in the United States. In America, over one million women undergo electrolysis and probably spend an average of $1,000.00 per year on an average of twenty-seven procedures. The interest in lasers, in part, is due to the fact that lasers allow a much quicker, easier, and less painful resolution to decrease unwanted hair.
In order to better understand how laser hair removal works, it is essential to understand the general anatomy and biology of hair. Hairs come from hair follicles. The bulb is generally about 4 mm in depth from the surface of the skin. The hairs undergo a growth cycle, which is extremely important in treating patients for laser hair removal. The basic three growth phases include the anagen phase, the transition or catagen phase, and the resting (telogen) phase. During the growth phase, hair grows rapidly from the hair shaft and this is the time period where hair is most sensitive to the effects of laser. During the transitional stage, the hair follicles regress and finally, in the resting phase, the hairs fall out and new hair can replace it in a new hair cycle. The duration of the resting phase varies in various parts of the body and may be as long as one year on the leg. It is during the anagen or growth phase, where the pigment in the hair follicles has its largest content, making them most susceptible to laser treatment. It is for this reason to understand that laser does not remove all hair at one session, but can only destroy the hair follicles in the anagen phase at that time.
There are various lasers for hair removal, but in general, the Ruby laser, Alexandrite laser, and Diode lasers all attack the pigment of melanin, which resides in the hair follicle. By destroying the hair follicles in the anagen phase, the amount of hair in the area desired for removal is significantly decreased. Because the laser attacks pigment in the hair follicles, the optimal patient, is a patient with very light skin and dark hair. On the other hand, a very dark patient with very light skin is not a very good candidate for laser hair removal.
Once it is decided that a patient is a good candidate for laser hair removal, the sessions are relatively quick. A treatment of an upper lip, for example, takes less than one minute. Because laser only attacks the hair during its growth phase, one needs to wait until there is regrowth of hair before lasering the area again, which generally takes anywhere from one to three months. After lasering the area of treatment, most patients experience a little bit of sunburn-type feeling with some redness, but that generally disappears within one day. The complications of laser hair removal are few, and the most common are hyper pigmentation or dark spots in the areas of lasering, which is relatively rare, and usually, resolves within six months. As far as the number of treatments required for each area, it varies from patient to patient, but in general, anywhere from three to six treatments may be necessary. It must also be remembered that laser does not remove all hair, but removes all the pigmented hair and one is generally left with very fine hair that is nearly invisible. Most patients are extremely happy with the results from laser hair removal.
It is also important to make sure that you are a good candidate for laser hair removal. The most common areas to be lasered are the underarms, upper lip, chin, and bikini line, in addition to legs and back.