Zap! Your hair's gone. Sounds like a dream, and indeed, laser hair removal can be a very effective method of semi-permanent hair removal. Lasers deliver intense heat to individual hair follicles, damaging the ability of hair to regrow. Women made up 87% of the patients seeking laser hair removal procedures in 2009, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
What It's Good For
Lasers are commonly used to remove unwanted hair from the legs, underarms, upper lip, chin, stomach, arms, back and bikini area.
Who it works for: The ideal candidate for laser hair removal has light skin and dark hair. Hair removal lasers target the melanin (dark pigment) in hair. The darker the hair, the more pigment there is to target. And the lighter the skin, the less likely that nearby skin will be accidentally targeted by the laser.
The diode is the most versatile laser. If used properly, it should theoretically be suitable for anyone (though it's most effective for light skinned, dark haired individuals). The alexandrite laser can treat light, fine hairs, while the Nd:YAG laser is best for darker complexions, because the laser is minimally absorbed by the skin's melanin (color), reducing the likelihood of discoloration.
Recommended age range: The procedure can be performed on people of any age. Laser hair removal was one of the most common nonsurgical aesthetic procedures performed in 2010 on individuals under the age of 18.
When will I see results?: Hair will continue to fall out up to two weeks after your appointment. For best results, follow-up appointments should be four weeks apart.
Laser hair removal is most effective when hairs are in growth stage (anagen) meaning they are connected to blood vessels. Hairs are in anagen about 70 percent of the time - which means 30 percent of hair at any given time won't be affected.
The number of sessions it takes to remove hair depends on how thick and dark the growth is and how much pain the patient can tolerate, but typically a body part will take five to 10 sessions to treat successfully.
How long it lasts: There is no single answer when determining how long laser hair removal lasts. At first, the hair may grow back after just four to six weeks. With continued treatment, hair will grow back thinner and lighter, and take months to reoccur.
Key benefits of laser hair removal: Aside from the pleasure of defuzzing, laser hair removal is particularly useful for treating ingrown hairs. Ingrown hairs are those that grow into the skin instead of emerging from the follicle. They can get bumpy and infected. By burning the hair from the root, ingrown hairs can be reduced or eliminated.
Licensed uses: Laser hair removal was FDA-approved in 1995. Not every laser machine is specifically approved as a safe device for laser hair removal. Make sure to look into whether the machine being used has been cleared as safe and effective for hair removal.
Did you know?: In 2010, 938,000 laser hair removal treatments were documented, making it the number four most popular nonsurgical procedure in the U.S.
Who's Done It?
In case her Twitter followers were curious, the dark-haired Kim Kardashian tweeted, "Just finished laser hair removal...Gotta love being an Armenian!" Actress Alyssa Milano isn't quite so excited by the prospect of laser removal though, telling her Esquire magazine readers, "I'm doing laser hair removal right now. Oh, my God! I've had two sessions, and I can honestly say that it's the most painful experience ever." Adding his opinion to the mix is child actor Christopher Knight, who de-fuzzed his nose, ears, and neck hair on Dr. 90210. He was so pleased with the clean results that he proposed future procedures to get rid of the hair on his arms.