A Permanent Solution to Unwanted Hair
March 02, 2018
By Adrienne Schupbach, MD, Dermatology and Mohs Surgery Institute
Unwanted body hair is a common concern for both men and women. Most hair removal methods — waxing, shaving, plucking, or creams — are annoying, time consuming, and even painful. In addition, these methods often cause razor bumps, acne-like breakouts, and can sometimes lead to infections.
Would you like to permanently get rid of unwanted hair? Laser hair removal is the answer. Recent advances in technology have made laser hair removal very popular due to its safety and effectiveness. The most commonly treated areas include the upper lip, chin, jawline, neck, back, armpits, legs, and bikini line in women. It is also effective for men who are bothered by excessive hair on their back, arms, or chest.
The use of lasers for medical purposes is one of the great innovations over the last 20 years. The term “laser” stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” Ordinary light has many wavelengths and spreads in all directions, while laser light has a specific wavelength that is focused in a narrow beam, creating a very high-intensity light. Because the laser can focus very accurately on tiny areas, it can be used for very precise surgical work in many different specialties.
In laser hair removal, the laser works by generating a beam that passes through the skin and targets the hair sitting within the hair follicle. The intense heat of the laser damages the hair follicle, which eliminates future hair growth. Each pulse of the laser takes a fraction of a second and can treat many hairs at the same time. Most patients achieve permanent hair loss after an average of three to seven sessions, performed four to six weeks apart. Each treatment typically takes five to 30 minutes, depending on how extensive of an area is treated. Over the month following the procedure, the treated hairs fall out. With each subsequent treatment, most patients see noticeably less hair than before, eventually achieving complete or near-complete hair removal. Several treatments are necessary for near-complete hair removal, though this depends on several factors including the density, color, and coarseness of the hair.
It’s important to understand that laser hair removal is a medical procedure and should only be performed by a healthcare professional with extensive knowledge and training in the use of lasers. It’s not as simple as just zapping some hair! There are many different types of lasers with different settings that need to be customized for each person’s skin and hair type. You may see laser hair removal offered at day-spas, walk-in clinics, or even in a shopping mall. Some laser manufacturers have begun to offer devices directly to consumers for use at home. You’ve likely seen infomercials for one such product. However, laser hair removal that is not done under the care of a physician may not be effective and also carries a higher risk of complications, such as blistering, discoloration, swelling, and scarring.
Laser hair removal can be safely performed on all patients, but it is most effective for darker hair. Grey, white, and blond hair is less responsive to treatment. In patients with darker skin, care must be taken to choose only specific lasers and appropriate settings to ensure safety and decrease the chance of complications. Most patients experience only mild discomfort with the procedure and do not describe it as painful. Avoid sun exposure prior to the treatments to reduce complications. Immediately following the treatment, there may be mild redness with slight swelling over the treated area for the rest of the day. Make up can be worn following the treatment.
Laser hair removal is very well tolerated, safe, and extremely effective when treatments are performed by an experienced physician. So, what are you waiting for? Start now and you’ll have silky-smooth skin by the time swimsuit season rolls around.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, you may contact the Dermatology and Mohs Surgery Institute at 309-451-DERM (3376) or www.dermatologistbloomington.com. Dr. Leone and Dr. Schupbach, both residents of Bloomington, are board-certified dermatologists, specializing in both medical and cosmetic dermatology, including the treatment of skin cancer, moles, acne, rashes, warts, and all skin disorders. Their practice is located at 3024 E. Empire St., in the Advocate BroMenn outpatient center.
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