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Say Goodbye To Unwanted Hair: Lasers and Permanent Hair Reduction
For some, it is purely a hygienic measure, while for others it is a way to feel and look good. Whatever the reason, removal of excess or unwanted hair is an integral part of ‘to-do’ lists of men and women alike. Commonly employed methods of hair removal are temporary. This, coupled with a fast hair re-growth would mean exercising hair removal frequently. If you are discouraged by having to wax or shave regularly, or have unsightly body hair, permanent hair reduction is the solution for you.
Due to its apparent cosmetic benefit, hair growth reduction has gained popularity since 1997 with the FDA approving use of lasers for permanent hair reduction. This is second in its frequency among cosmetic procedures performed in the United States, after Botox. On the other hand, electrolysis and certain topical creams are prescribed for hair removal.
Mode of Action
Laser hair reduction is based on a simple principle of heat-induced destruction of hair follicles. Beams of concentrated light are selectively penetrated into the skin. This light is absorbed by the pigment melanin, thereby generating heat locally. It is this heat that destroys hair follicles, rendering them incapable of producing new hair. A variety of lasers and light sources are utilised– the most common ones being Alexandrite, Diode, Neodymium YAG and Intense Pulsed Light sources.
Fitzpatrick Skin Type and Lasers
Skin colour and the effectiveness of laser treatments are closely related. Dark objects absorb laser. Therefore in candidates with lighter skin tone and dark hair, all light is absorbed by the melanin concentrated in the hair, showing good results. Iin those with darker skin tones or lighter hair, light is absorbed by melanin present in both skin and hair, thereby reducing the concentration on the hair alone. Fitzpatrick classification allows dermatologists to classify an individual’s skin type and decide the best laser device for them. Here is a summary of Fitzpatrick classification and laser devices used:
1. Caucasian, European (Fitzpatrick skin type I, II, III)- Diode, Alexandrite and Ruby lasers
2. Eastern Asian, American Indian (Fitzpatrick skin type IV)- Diode laser
3. Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Hispanics, Afro-American (Fitzpatrick skin type V)- Nd: YAG laser
4. African descent (Fitzpatrick skin type VI)- Nd: YAG laser
What to Expect Before, During and After the Treatment
Once patients have zeroed in on their specialist and scheduled an appointment, the treatment begins with trimming hair to a few millimetres above skin surface. The laser device and light wavelength are set in accordance with the patient’s skin and hair colour, thickness and location of the hair. Eye protection is worn to avoid laser beams entering the eyes. A cooling gel is used to prevent laser light from penetrating the skin. A pulse of light is then applied to the area to be treated for several minutes.
Laser hair reduction feels like a rubber band snapping the skin for a quick second. This is virtually painless, however, depending on each individual’s pain tolerance, numbing creams might be used.
It is common to observe redness and some inflammation of hair follicles post treatment. This generally disappears 12-24 hours post treatment, barring which special aloe gel or an anti inflammatory cream or lotion is applied to soothe the area.
Number of Sittings
Hair follicles are constantly in any one of the three stages of development- the anagen, catagen or telogen stage. Laser treatment is most effective only during the anagen or active stage and at any given time, only 30% of the hair is in the active stage. Multiple settings are therefore required to allow all dormant hair follicles to become active and then weakened.
Depending on the area and thickness of hair, number of sittings may vary between 4-6, with a minimum interval of three weeks between sittings.
Post Treatment Care
One can resume normal activities almost immediately after the procedure. However, effective sunscreen should be applied to the treated area for a few weeks post treatment and physical exercise should be avoided.
Laser hair reduction is a very safe technique with minimal or no side effects and shows up to 80% reduction in hair growth. Find yourself a reputed laser clinic and a physician and bid unwanted hair goodbye.