Hair’s great. But let’s face it, there are some areas we’d rather have bare and smooth. Tweezing, waxing, sugaring, shaving, depilatory creams, lasers, electrolysis — we’ve developed a bunch of methods in the pursuit of hairless skin.
But not all treatments are made equal. Tweezing and shaving are cheap but can lead to annoying ingrown hairs and irritation. Depilatory creams, while effective for short-term hair removal, smell like gasoline and can be dangerous when left on too long on sensitive skin. Waxing and sugaring remove hair quickly, but are infamously painful.
That’s why many today turn to a relatively less painful and quick alternative–laser hair removal. There were nearly half a million laser hair removal procedures performed in the US alone in 2017.
Here are 8 of the most common questions surrounding hair laser removal:
Is laser hair removal really permanent?
Many clinics and aestheticians market lasers as the only permanent solution to hair removal. However, that’s a bit misleading.
Electrolysis is currently the only FDA-approved procedure that can really claim to remove hair. It works like this: hair follicles are zapped by electricity applied by a really, really fine needle. Hairs are then removed by tweezers. If it sounds painful, well, that’s because it is. People have described anywhere from an uncomfortable buzzing to stinging and pricking each time their doctors zap a hair follicle. And there’s another caveat most people aren’t aware of–electrolysis is only really effective when taken over the course of several sessions. Some need up to 30 to see satisfying results.
Laser hair removal, in contrast, doesn’t permanently remove hair but drastically decreases volume and appearance. It does this through targeting hairs with concentrated beams of light, which then turn into heat energy. The heat then courses through hairs and damages the follicle, inhibiting growth. Hairs, when they do grow back, tend to grow slowly and shorter.
What results can I expect?
Lasers can reduce your number of hairs by 40 to 80 percent, according to The Mayo Clinic. Unlike electrolysis, 90 percent of clients only need to undergo around 3 to 6 sessions to see tangible results. Some find they can stop shaving after a few sessions! You should be wary of clinics that peddle more sessions. Excessive treatment may result in dire side effects such as blistering and burns.
Sessions are spaced between 6 to 10 weeks apart, because hairs grow in asynchronous cycles. Laser treatments are only effective during the anagen phase, when the hair is actively growing from the follicle and contains the most melanin. Only 20 percent of our hairs at any given time are in this phase, which is why multiple sessions are required to effectively heat all hair follicles.
Am I a candidate for laser hair removal?
Not everyone is a good match for laser hair removal. As lasers depend on contrast and dark pigments, traditional lasers can be risky for darker skinned people, because the machine won’t be able to accurately separate skin from hair.
This also holds true for people with blonde or gray hair. Make sure your aesthetician uses machines like the Nd: YAG laser, which has been proven to work better for pigmented skin and light-colored locks. Dr. Anita Soosay of The Aesthetics Centre has a particular interest in laser treatments for pigmented skin.
Which side effects do I have to be aware of?
Let’s address the biggest myth in laser hair removal: no, it does not cause cancer. While machines used for treatment do emit a small amount of radiation, it’s well under safe and acceptable levels. “The light energy from these lasers actually remains superficially, it remains at the level of the skin. These lasers don’t cause DNA damage and they don’t cause DNA mutations,” says New York-based dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe in an interview with Fox News.
What you may have to deal with is a little bit of irritation and redness. The targeted area may feel tender and appear swollen. But these symptoms typically go away after a couple of days. Persistent pain, redness, and swelling may be a sign of infected follicles and should be reported to your dermatologist immediately.
Which parts can I get lasered?
How effective your laser treatment is and how many sessions you’ll need actually depends on which part you’re treating. Areas where the skin is thicker and the hairs are thin, like the back or the chin, are harder to treat. However, there is no limit to where you can get laser hair removal treatment. Unlike electrolysis, which works from follicle to follicle, machines for laser removal can target larger areas at once, making them ideal for back or leg hair removal.
Will it hurt?
Hair removal methods have one thing in common–they all hurt to some extent. Laser hair removal isn’t any different. Clients should expect some discomfort, which have been compared to rubber bands snapping against the skin. Some say it’s still not as painful as waxing, so if you’ve ever gotten waxed, then you know laser hair removal is well within your pain threshold.
Fortunately, there are some ways to mediate pain if you’re still feeling apprehensive or have a low pain threshold. You can opt for numbing creams, which block nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. Some apply ice packs to numb the area before performing the procedure.
How much will it cost?
Prices for treatment will depend on a variety of factors, like the size of the target area, and thickness of hair. But generally, treatments in Singapore can start from SGD 150 per session.
Can I do it at home?
You may have seen shops selling laser hair removal devices and kits for home use. However, these machines are typically less powerful than machines used in clinics. As such, results can take longer to manifest. Many people make the mistake of doubling down on use, which can lead to long-term skin damage from burns. These machines are also not suitable for facial hair removal. In other words, if you don’t know what you’re doing, lasers are better left used with medical assistance by trained aestheticians.
At The Aesthetics Centre, we make treatment plans according to the needs of each patient. Consult with us and we can discuss if laser hair removal is the treatment for you.