Unwanted hair is a concern for many people. If unwanted hair bothers you, you may want to discuss this with your dermatologist. Many dermatologists offer treatment for unwanted hair. One treatment option is laser hair removal.
Laser hair removal reduces the amount of unwanted hair. A laser sends beams of light through the skin. The heat from the laser light is absorbed, or soaked up, by the color in the hair. This heat destroys the hair follicle – the area through which hair grows. This makes it difficult for that hair to grow. Since hair grows in cycles, repeated treatments are necessary to destroy all the hair follicles.
After each treatment, you can expect a 10% to 25% decrease in hair growth. With repeat treatments, it is possible to destroy about 80% of the hairs. Any new hairs tend to grow in lighter and finer.
Laser hair removal can be used on most parts of the body, including:
- Bikini area
The amount of hair removed during each treatment varies. Areas that have thinner skin such as the armpits and bikini area may require fewer treatments than thicker-skinned areas. The back and chin are areas that have thicker skin.
Several treatments are necessary to reduce the amount of hair. Treatment can be repeated every four to eight weeks.
WHY SEE A DERMATOLOGIST FOR LASER HAIR REMOVAL?
If you are considering laser hair removal, you should consult a dermatologist. Laser hair removal is not right for everyone.
During the consultation, the dermatologist will examine your skin and unwanted hair. The dermatologist will ask questions and review your medical history. Be sure to tell the dermatologist about any medications you are currently taking and if you have:
- A tendency to scar
- Ever had a keloid (type of raised scar)
- Had cold sores or genital herpes
- Taken isotretinoin (a medicine used to treat severe acne)
Some medical conditions such as hormone imbalances and certain medications can affect laser hair removal.
Only after this exam can a dermatologist tell whether laser hair removal is right for you. Improvements in lasers make it safe for people with dark skin, including African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and those of mixed race to have laser hair removal. Gray or white hair cannot be treated effectively. Light hair also is difficult to treat. Many more treatments are required for light hair. The desired result may not be achieved.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT ON TREATMENT DAY?
The amount of time treatment takes depends on the size of the area to be treated. The upper lip takes several minutes. Treating a large area such as the back can require more than one hour.
Prior to treatment, the area to be treated will be cleansed. A gel may be applied to protect your skin. Many patients say that the laser pulses feel like warm pinpricks or a rubber band being snapped against the skin. You also may feel a cool spray. This is used to protect the skin from the heat created by the laser.
Before leaving the office, you will be given post-treatment instruction. It is very important to follow all of the instructions. The instructions will include:
- Protect your skin from the sun for several
- Stay out of tanning beds and do not use other tanning
Following your dermatologist’s instructions greatly reduces your risk of developing side effects.
After leaving the office, you can return to everyday activities that do not require physical exertion. Wait 24 hours before returning to a physically demanding job, working out, or doing other physical activity.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS TO LASER HAIR REMOVAL?
Under a dermatologist’s care, the risk of side effects is small. Everyone has some swelling and redness on the treated skin. This is a normal reaction that goes away in one to two days. To reduce the redness and swelling, your dermatologist may recommend an ice pack, a mild steroid cream or an antihistamine.
A possible side effect of laser hair removal is blistering. If this occurs, an antibiotic cream can be applied to the skin until it heals.
Some people see the treated skin temporarily lighten or darken. The laser also may permanently lighten or darken a tattoo, remove freckles, or lighten a mole that is present on the skin in the treated area.
In skilled hands, serious side effects are rare. When this procedure is not performed or supervised by a dermatologist, serious side effects that can occur include burns, scarring and a permanent change in skin color.
Many people see long-lasting results. Some people have permanent hair reduction. To keep unwanted hair under control, most people need maintenance treatments.
All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Copyright © by the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
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