Unwanted hair growth may appear on many areas of the body including the upper lip, sideburns, chin, ears, chest, back, armpits (axillae), legs, fingers, feet, or toes and is annoying for both men and women. Lasers help eliminate unwanted hair.
Excessive hair growth is classified as either hypertrichosis or hirsuitism. Hypertrichosis is the presence of excess hair in a normal or abnormal pattern. This may be inherited (genetic), or due to medications, hormones, malnutrition, tumors, or metabolic problems. Hirsuitism is the presence of excess hair in women in a male pattern such as the beard, mustache, or lower abdomen, and may be due to hormonal problems, medications, tumors, or heredity.
There are many ways to remove unwanted hair including shaving, plucking, electronic tweezers, radiofrequency tweezers, waxing, depilatories (creams), and electrolysis (inserting a needle into each hair follicle one at a time followed by an electric spark to burn out the follicle). Most of these methods, however, are temporary.
A topical cream called eflornithine can be applied to slow hair growth on the face in women, but must be used on an ongoing basis.
Lasers offer the only method for permanent hair reduction.
A large area of the skin can be treated at one time making laser hair removal cost-effective and faster than other methods. Lasers send a low-energy beam through the skin that is absorbed by dark pigment (melanin) present in the shaft of the hair follicles. Since hair cycles as it grows, repeated treatments are necessary to destroy about 90 percent of the hairs.
Prior to laser hair removal we will need to make an assessment of:
- Skin type (i.e., ability to tan or to burn)
- Hair color
- Thickness and location of hair
- Presence of tan
- Previous hair removal methods
- Medical history including ovarian or thyroid disease, medications, history of abnormal scarring, history of cold sore (herpes simplex) outbreaks in the treatment area, or past isotretinoin use
- Presence of tattoos or moles in the treatment area
After this evaluation, the appropriate laser and treatment settings can be determined. Realistic client expectations should be discussed including the need for multiple treatment sessions, the potential need for maintenance treatments, and the possibility of variable responses to treatment.
On the day of treatment, the area should be clean and free of cosmetics. The Dynamic Cooling Device on the GentleMAX™ is a refrigerant spray that lessens the client's discomfort. The protects the skin from excessive heating as well as the potential of skin darkening or lightening. Everyone in the room must wear protective eye wear during the laser procedure.
In general, 4-6 treatments are required at each site to achieve permanent hair growth reduction. Darker hair responds best to the laser, while lighter hair (white, gray, or red) is less responsive.
The laser pulses feel like the snapping of a rubber band or warm pinpricks against the skin. The immediate response is usually vaporization of the hair shaft. Slight swelling and redness around the hair follicles appear within a few minutes. Ice packs may be applied to the skin following treatment or at home, and over-the-counter pain relief medicine may be taken as needed before and after treatment. A mild topical steroid cream or Benadryl may be applied to reduce swelling and redness. clients are instructed to avoid sun-exposure and to use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with SPF 30 after the laser treatments. Cosmetics may be applied to the treated skin.
The percentage of hairs removed per session varies in different body locations, with areas of thin skin (for example, bikini and armpits) generally showing a better response than areas of thick skin (for example, the back and chin). Approximately 10-25 percent reduction in hair growth can be expected with each treatment. Treatments are repeated every four to eight weeks. The hair that re-grows tends to be lighter and finer in texture.