Laser Hair Removal

Abnormal or excessive distribution of hair can be the cause of great distress for many people. Unfortunately waxing and electrolysis has, in many cases, failed to satisfactorily deal with this very common problem.

Laser technology has developed over the years, addressing the removal of unwanted pigment in the form of red and brown birthmarks, freckles and tattoos. Laser researchers turned their knowledge to unwanted hair and discovered that pigmented hair in its growth (anagen) phase was amenable to laser destruction.

The first type of laser used to remove hair was the Ruby laser. This produced an appreciable delay in re-growth but was unsuitable for darkly pigmented, olive or Asian skin.

Laser Dermatology now offers four different lasers and light systems to manage unwanted hair. These different machines allow for variation in skin colour and hair distribution.

  1. The new Candela GentleLASE PRO™: long pulsed Alexandrite laser with skin cooling spray system. This laser has a 24mm spot size which means that 50% more treatment is possible at no extra cost
  2. Cutera™ ExcelV long pulse YAG and KTP laser
  3. Ellipse Flex™ intense pulsed light (IPL)
  4. Wavelength Sinon™ Ruby Laser

How do hair removal lasers work?

The specifically designed wavelengths of laser light are absorbed by the pigmented hairs and the surrounding skin is spared. The light and energy from the laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) should destroy those hairs which are in their growth (anagen) phase at the time of treatment.

Is laser hair removal and IPL safe?

Successful laser hair removal treatment requires experienced medical operators who understand the important balance of therapeutic laser/IPL energy powers in relation to different skin types. This understanding and experience is essential to avoid excess use of laser energy, which may result in skin damage at one end of the spectrum or weaker doses and therefore ineffective treatments at the other.

What does laser / IPL hair removal treatment feel like?

The light pulses feel similar to the flick of a rubber band. Compared to the discomfort of electrolysis, most people are pleasantly surprised at the gentleness of this hair removal procedure.

What happens after laser hair removal treatment?

Transient redness may be apparent for up to 12 hours. A soothing cream may be used and makeup can be safely applied the next day. We suggest you avoid using irritant preparations such as glycolic acid creams and Retin A prior to and following laser/IPL hair removal treatment. Regular long term use of sunscreen is strongly recommended.

How many laser / IPL hair removal treatments will I need?

The site to be treated, the hair growth cycle and individual response will determine the number of laser/IPL hair removal treatments required. The complexity of hair growth is explained in some detail at the initial consultation.

Some important considerations

After many years of experience with laser hair removal treatment, Laser Dermatology offers the same high standard of treatment with the added benefit of four alternate sources of light and energy available to safely treat all skin types. We continue to achieve some excellent results but still need to be cautious with our information and adamant that our patients will not be misled. For that reason it is important to read and understand
the following:

  • You may be aware of some centres advertising "permanent" laser hair removal. In an unprecedented move the FDA in America has redefined "permanent" with reference to laser hair removal, to be "a sustained diminution in hair growth over a three month period - a lasting reduction in treated hairs for a period greater than the complete hair cycle of hairs in the treated area". We believe the use of this definition to advertise "permanent" hair removal is misleading and unhelpful.
  • In our culture and society the term "permanent" means gone, never to return. Unfortunately, respected medical literature concurs with our clinical experience, viz "None of the presently utilised laser hair removal systems have been proven to permanently remove hair", Olsen, METHODS OF HAIR REMOVAL, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology Vol 40 Part 1 Feb 1999.
  • In the last nine years, many of our laser hair removal patients describe an average of 50% reduction in regrowth and hair density after three treatments conducted at six weekly intervals. It must be appreciated that individuals may vary in their response, with some doing better than others.
  • We are working with exceptionally new technology and are striving to develop a treatment regime that will hopefully lead to hair removal that is aesthetically and financially acceptable to everyone. Time may well demonstrate that regular maintenance laser / IPL treatment may be required to keep regrowth at bay. We are not, however, prepared to suggest that laser treatment at this stage will provide permanent hair removal, according to our society's accepted definition of permanent.

Our current recommendation for treatment is:

  • A laser/IPL test treatment on or near each area to be treated (this is not to assess effectiveness of hair removal but rather to test the skin's reaction to the laser energy). If the skin is unchanged after one week, proceed to full treatment.
  • Laser hair removal treatments are to be conducted at four to six weekly intervals.
  • Management of hair between treatments may be one of the following:
    • Shaving or trimming only OR a full wax one week after treatment with re-treatment after six weeks or when substantial hair growth becomes apparent.
    • Please do not pluck on a regular basis.
    • Do not wax within four weeks prior to a treatment.
  • Laser epilation is not a form of instant hair removal (as in waxing or electrolysis where each hair is removed). We are attempting to destroy the growth centre of each hair with the laser energy. In doing so, individual hairs may fall out between treatments and hopefully discourage regrowth.

Don't forget laser / IPL treatment will only work on pigmented hair. As it is the pigment in the hair which absorbs and transfers the light energy to the base of the hair, laser treatment is ineffective on grey, blond or light red hair.

Laser / IPL hair removal treatment cannot be performed on suntanned skin. If you present with a tan, including solarium tans and "fake" tans, you will be asked to return after it has faded. For this reason, some people may prefer to delay their laser treatment until after summer.

IPL is not safe on skin with any amount of pigment, from olive skin to black skin. The only safe laser hair removal treatments for darker skinned individuals are the Alexandrite (GentleLASE PRO™) and long pulsed Cutera™ ExcelV laser laser hair removal systems.

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