Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal is a cosmetic practice done to remove unwanted body hair. By using highly concentrated pulses of light from a laser, hair follicles are destroyed and cannot grow back. The pigment in the follicles absorb the light which leads to their demise. Laser hair removal is a permanent procedure and can be done on all areas of the body including the back, chest, face, bikini, legs and arms.

Who is a good candidate for laser hair removal?

Before, men and women with fair skin and lighter hair were considered the only ideal candidates for laser hair removal. Now, technology has advanced to allow darker skinned people to also benefit from this procedure. The laser’s wavelength can be adjusted to all skin and hair types to ensure that the treatment is effective. When you meet with your surgeon for the initial meeting, he/she will evaluate your skin type to see what wavelength is necessary for your laser hair removal procedure to work.

If you have a tattoo on the area of the body you wish to have treated, you cannot have laser hair removal on that patch of skin. The laser may cause your tattoo to discolour and fade. Although laser hair removal and laser tattoo removal are not the same thing, the light pulses from the hair removal device cannot distinguish between pigment and tattoo ink.

What does the recovery process from this procedure entail?

The recovery process from laser hair removal treatments is minimal. Following your procedure you will be given an ice pack, cold water or anti-inflammatory creams for your comfort. The skin will be pink and swollen and can appear as if it is sunburnt. These side-effects generally dissipate within an hour or two and you can return to your normal activities. If your underarms were treated, you cannot wear deodorant for 24 hours following your procedure.

In rare cases, blistering, scabbing or temporary pigment changes can occur. If the aforementioned happens, return to your surgeon immediately so he/she can apply specific medication to reduce the blistering, scabbing or pigment changes.

What to look for in a surgeon?

Only surgeons, dermatologists and certified laser technicians can perform laser hair removal. Dermatologists must be members of the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA). Laser technicians must receive their certification from a reputable college or training centre to be qualified to perform this procedure. Surgeons must be members of the Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Below you’ll find three questions you can ask potential surgeons, dermatologists and laser technicians to find out if they’re the right fit to administer your hair removal treatment:

1. Where did you train?

2. How many laser hair removal procedures have you completed?

3. How long have you been in practice?

What happens during the laser hair removal procedure?

Generally, laser hair removal yields very little pain but if you do have sensitive skin, your surgeon may apply an anesthetic cream to the area before beginning. Then, the laser equipment will be adjusted to the colour, thickness and location of the hair being removed. If the face, chest or underarms are being treated, you will be given protective eyewear. A test will be done on your skin to ensure that the settings of the laser are correct for your skin type. Once the test is done small pulses or laser are applied to the skin in succession, destroying the hair follicles.

The number of necessary treatments varies for each person. Usually, the entire hair removal procedure can be completed in three sessions. Hair follicles need to be active in order for the laser to take effect. The first session addresses the follicles from the active phase of the hair growth cycle. The second and third sessions target the follicles that were dormant during the first session and are now active. Treatments can be scheduled six weeks apart.

Avoid chemical peels, collagen injections, direct sun exposure, tanning beds and smoking for at least two weeks prior to your laser hair removal treatment. The day before your session, do not wear perfume, deodorant or scented lotions. Your surgeon may also ask that you shave the area 24 hours before your laser hair removal session so that the laser has easier access to the hair follicles. At some clinics, the shaving is done on the spot. It depends on your skin type.

Laser hair removal is an alternative to traditional techniques. Shaving, plucking and waxing are only temporary hair removal techniques and can sometimes stimulate hair growth. Another traditional hair removal technique, electrolysis, is effective but it requires years of ongoing treatments whereas laser hair removal only takes about three sessions for the same, permanent results.