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Overview of Laser Hair Removal

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Laser hair removal is rapidly becoming one of the best ways to deal with unwanted hair almost anywhere on the body. For women, laser hair removal can be used on legs, arms, facial areas, armpits, and the pubic areas. For men, laser hair removal can be used on the face and body.

Laser Hair Removal Is Long-Lasting

No laser hair removal procedure guarantees permanent hair removal. But, laser hair removal treatments can often provide permanent or long-lasting hair reduction in a healthy manner. While procedures like electrolysis hair removal are still effective methods of permanent hair removal, laser hair removal is a more lasting solution — and a far less painful and more state-of-the-art alternative to unwanted hair. Compared with electrolysis hair removal, which uses a thin metal probe or needle to penetrate the skin and destroy individual hair follicles, laser hair removal is quicker and requires less frequent treatments.

How Laser Hair Removal Works

Laser hair removal works by damaging the hair follicles, the tiny sacs in the skin that contain the hair roots and from which hairs grow. The light from the laser passes through the surface of the skin to the hair follicle and is absorbed by the darker follicle, heating it to damage or destroy it without harming the skin tissue around it. Most hair growth will be inhibited for some time. Because the laser wand treats several follicles at once, the procedure is faster than electrolysis. Most people need around three visits. With more treatments, lasting or even permanent hair removal is possible.

What the Laser Hair Removal Procedure is Like

With any medical procedure, it's best to have a general idea of what will happen — how long the procedure usually takes, the amount of pain that may be involved, whether or not you need multiple treatments, etc. Here's a brief overview of what to expect from laser hair removal:

  • The area targeted for hair removal will be washed and prepped with alcohol.
  • Both you and your doctor will wear safety goggles for protection from the laser.
  • The laser is set to the right setting for your particular hair removal needs.
  • The targeted area is numbed.
  • The laser is aimed directly at the hair follicles to be removed.
  • The laser will feel something like a small rubber band snapping on your skin. It's more intense for some people, but generally, pain is minimal.
  • Most procedures last about 30-40 minutes. Procedure time largely depends on how much hair is being removed.
  • Once the initial procedure is completed, you may experience minor swelling — which usually goes away in a few hours.
  • Most people need an average of at least three visits to complete desired permanent hair removal.

Are You a Candidate for Laser Hair Removal?

Although there are almost no risks when performed by an experienced practitioner, laser hair removal isn't for everyone. The biggest factors in the success of laser hair removal are your hair color and skin color. For laser hair removal to be effective at all, your hair must be darker than the surrounding skin. Dark hair absorbs the light energy from the laser better than light hair, and the same is true for darker skin. Therefore, light hair will not absorb the laser and not be damaged, while darker skin will absorb the laser energy and is at greater risk for irritation or burning. For this reason, laser hair removal may not be effective for everyone. People with darker skin can have laser hair removal, but they may require more treatment sessions and results may be slower.

Only your physician can tell you for sure if you are a good candidate. If you are tan or use a self-tanning product, you may be asked to wait until your tan fades before undergoing laser hair removal.

Do-It-Yourself Hair Removal vs Laser Hair Removal

There are a number of over-the-counter hair removal products available these days. And while they all provide an adequate "quick fix," none of them are a long-term solution to unwanted body hair. Even given their easy availability, store-bought hair removal alternatives, along with other options such as shaving and waxing, often result in problems such as irritation, rashes and frequent itching and leave many people searching for a more permanent hair removal solution.

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