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Before we can fully understand how laser hair removal works we need to look at the process of hair growth. On the surface of the skin all hair looks the same but the condition of the hair follicle is vitally important to the success of laser hair removal. The growth and shedding cycle of the hair follicle is divided into three phases.
In the growing stage (anagen) the cells at the base of the hair follicle divide and form the new hair, which is pushed upward and appears on the skin surface.
Once the formation of the hair is complete the cells at the base of the follicle stop dividing and the follicle then moves into the next stage (catogen). The follicle continues to nourish the hair, which is still firmly attached.
The final stage (telogen) occurs where the follicle no longer nourishes the hair, which in turn is shed. After a dormant period the hair follicle will spring back to life and the process is then renewed. The length of each of these stages varies in different body sites for example the follicles of the scalp remain in the anagen stage much longer than any other body site, which is why our head hair grows long. It is only in the anagen stage that enough thermal damage can be done to the hair follicle thus destroying its capacity for re-growth. This coupled with fact that all of our hair follicles are not active at the same time explains why laser hair removal requires more than one treatment.
How many treatments will I need?
Everyone will need at least 4-8 treatments for good results, because while all hair is temporarily disabled during each treatment, not all hair is destroyed. A series of treatments is necessary to allow results to accumulate. Most people do not need to continue beyond six treatments. People with hormonal imbalances or people who have waxed or plucked a lot may need more than average. After the treatment regimen is completed, hair growth is most commonly not seen.
Lasers work by producing an intense beam of bright light, which travels in one direction. Ordinary light from non-laser sources is composed of many different colours or wavelengths, and appears white, whilst a laser has the unique ability to produce one specific colour or wavelength. As each wavelength has different absorption properties with the skin, lasers are successfully used to target specific structures within the skin, without causing damage to surrounding tissue.
Selective Photothermolysis Laser hair removal is based upon the technique known as “Selective photothermolysis”. This is the principle of using laser energy to selectively destroy a target beneath the surface of the skin whilst leaving the surrounding healthy tissue intact. The laser seeks to use the concentration of pigment (melanin) in the hair shaft to absorb the laser light, thereby heating the hair and causing thermal damage to the follicle whilst passing harmlessly through the other tissue components.
Factors That Can Effect Treatment
Colour of the hair – there must be a concentration of colour in the hair to absorb the laser light. The treatment does not work on gray hair.
Skin colour – With the latest ND:yag lasers, hair removal can be performed on all skin types.
Hair texture – The hair needs to be just visible on the surface of the skin in order to indicate the position of the follicle. The shorter and more coarse the hair the better the treatment results.
Medication – some medications can cause photosensitivity of the skin, these include some antibiotics, blood pressure / heart tablets and Premarin. These medications do not exclude patients from treatments but a full list of medication should be asked for and disclosed by the patient to the treating clinician. Test shots are always advisable in order to gauge individual skin reaction.
Is The Treatment Permanent?
It appears that many clinics are somewhat evasive when asked the question “Is laser hair removal permanent?”. Patients who took part in the clinical trials for the Chromos 694 Ruby Laser have remained hair free for at least 5 years. Most physicians consider that the chances of re-growth after this period are negligible, however for legal reasons the manufactures refer to the process as permanent hair reduction.
Skin Type and Classification:
To determine your skin type, apply the following types to yourself as if you were in the sun without sunscreen:
Type I (very white or freckled) – Always burn
Type II (white) – Usually burn
Type III (white to olive) – Sometimes burn
Type IV (brown) – Rarely burn
Type V (dark brown) – Very rarely burn
Type VI (black) – Never burn )
1. A topical anaesthetic is usually not required or recommended, consult the technician prior to treatment if you have a low tolerance to previous lasering.
2. Do not get laser when you have sunburn.
3. It is not necessary to shave, but it will quicken treatment time. A shadow or stubble should be visible.
4. Stop bleaching or plucking for a couple of weeks before treatment.
5. If you get cold sores or have genital herpes, alert the technicians as you may need to start taking Zovirax, or similar medicine before treatment, consult your physician before treatment.
1. After the treatment, you may have redness or bumps. This is normal. You may use a cold compress if needed.
2. Makeup may be used. Moisturizer is good to use.
3. Use sun block of SPF 25 or more for a couple of weeks after your treatment.
4. There are many acceptable hair removal methods during your treatment regimen, consult you laser specialist for details.
5. Hair will shed up to three weeks after treatment. It may seem like new hair growth, but it is just the hair coming out. You can help the hairs out by using a loofah, washcloth or by shaving.