Laser hair removal is the process of removing unwanted hair from the body using a unique type of light. While the word “laser” is what’s normally used, another technology called Intense Pulsed Light (or IPL for short) can also be used to remove facial and body hair. IPL and laser are both light treatments, but Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is not technically a laser. When IPL was created, the term Laser Hair Removal was already popular so the name stuck and is now used to refer to both laser and IPL removal techniques.
The correct name for the technique is Photoepilation Therapy, but it is not understood among the general public, so it is rarely used.
Transformation MediSpa utilizes the Palomar StarLux 500 light therapy technology. It is a leading developer and researcher of light-based and laser systems for aesthetic treatments. In 1997, Palomar initiated the optical hair removal field when the first high-powered laser hair removal system was introduced. Since that time, a majority of light-based hair removal advances have been rooted in Palomar technology.
Laser vs. IPL – Which is Better?
Short answer: They are both incredibly effective.
In the beginning developments of hair removal, laser was the only option. However, laser light is challenging to use on large areas because the light is so focused, and hair removal treated with a laser is usually more painful.
The IPL beam can cover larger areas in one pulse because it is less focused than a laser. This makes treatments significantly shorter. IPL is not as painful as laser, but it gives results that compare to laser treatments.
How Does It Work?
While other conventional methods of removing hair, like shaving or waxing, remove hair by pulling it out or cutting it, laser hair removal targets the follicle of the hair (or hair root). Cells that are responsible for hair growth are contained within the hair follicle. If those cells are incapacitated, the hair will stop growing and fall out.
During the laser hair removal procedure, an IPL or laser beam goes into the skin to reach individual follicles. The major heat created by IPL or laser beams stops the growth cells of the follicles, which inhibits future hair development.
The hair that is treated will continually appear for 7 to 30 days after treatment. This is not new hair growth though, but the hair that was treated being ejected from the skin.
For optimal results, multiple treatments are required.
What Areas Can Be Treated?
IPL and Laser hair removal can be used to decrease the amount of unwanted body and facial hair.
The treatment is safe for any body area. It is often used on the chin, upper lip, cheeks, underarms, bikini line, and legs on women. For men, the arms, back, and chest are the concentrated areas for laser hair removal.
It is highly recommended to have a consultation with an experienced laser specialist to evaluate the suitability of the individual for the procedure. It is important that you understand the expectations and your treatment options by talking to your laser hair removal provider before you commit to the procedure.
Master Certified Injector and Skin Care Specialist, Kathy Haney of Transformation MediSpa, offers free consultations to assess your skin and answer all of your questions.
Am I A Candidate for Laser Hair Removal?
The success of laser hair removal can be affected by skin and hair color. The beams of both the IPL and laser target the dark pigment (melanin) in hair follicles. Light skin and dark hair are the attributes of the ideal candidate.
Patients with darker skin will receive very successful results after undergoing laser hair removal, but they do normally require a few extra treatments since the laser/light is drawn to melanin. In order to ensure optimal results, treating the hair and also keeping the surrounding area of skin unaffected, it is important that treatments are performed safely.
White, blonde, or gray hair is not affected by laser hair removal as those hairs contain very little pigment.
It is vital to remember that laser hair removal is a medical aesthetic procedure, and in order to determine the suitability of your skin, it is advised that you book a consultation with your hair removal clinic.
We also advise great caution when deeply discounted prices for cheap, “group buy” deals for laser hair removal pop up. It is important to remember that IPL and laser treatments can seriously damage your skin if not performed properly. Though saving money may look good now, it may cost you dearly in the future to correct any damages made from improper procedures.
Is Laser Hair Removal Permanent?
Though it is often advertised as permanent, IPL and laser hair removal can’t guarantee permanent or complete cancellation of hair growth. It is possible for some hair to be resistant to the IPL and laser and return after the treatment. Hair that grows back is normally lighter in color and can usually be controlled with maintenance treatments once or twice per year for a couple of years. Even though the body responds amazingly to the IPL and laser treatments, more maintenance is normally needed for the face.
It should be noted that new hair can produce within the skin in reaction to multiple factors, like hormonal imbalance or pregnancy. Also, development of new hair follicles in men can be stimulated by high natural levels of testosterone by itself.
In short, long- lasting and stable hair reduction is delivered by IPL and laser hair removal with minimal discomfort and zero downtime.
Is Laser Hair Removal Painful?
The heat produced by the beams of light that penetrates the hair follicles and eliminates them can create some level of discomfort during the treatment. Different cooling techniques that keep heat from damaging the surrounding tissue have been implemented by some manufacturers to help decrease any discomfort.
Though there are many distinct differences, laser treatments are generally more painful than IPL treatments. Hair thickness and color are major attributes to pain level. The darker and courser the hair, the more pain should be expected, since the pigment of the hair attracts the light energy. It should be noted that the body part that is being treated also plays a role in the pain level. More delicate areas like the face or bikini, bring more discomfort than less sensitive areas like the legs.
Pain can be significantly decreased by effectively cooling the area. The Palomar StarLux 500 system, used at Transformation MediSpa, utilized clinically tested and patented skin cooling technology, which significantly reduces risk of complications and discomfort. Palomar’s cooling technology verifies that the end of the hand-piece is consistently kept at ~4˚C. It feels like an ice cube and helps keep the skin calm during the procedure
The very large spot size on the hand-piece of the Palomar StarLux 500 ensures that the procedure can be performed more quickly than with other machines, which also adds to greater comfort.
Another additional option is numbing cream for when situations cause even more discomfort or pain.
What Are the Side Effects?
Though it is rare that any side effects occur, it is possible for them to develop in some patients, especially those who tan on a regular basis. Patients with darker skin or who take photo-sensitizing medications are at a greater risk of developing complications.
Skin irritation is the most common side effect of IPL and laser hair removal. It might feel like a light sunburn, but should disappear within 3 to 7 days. Scabbing and crusting are other rare side effects. In the event that this happens, notify your hair removal provider and follow the instructions they give.
Pigment changes can occur after laser hair removal. On the site of the treatment, the skin may seem darker or lighter. This change is normally temporary and disappears with time. People with darker skin usually experience a lightening of their skin, which often means that the treatment was performed at the incorrect settings.
Even though it is quite rare, things like scarring, blistering, and other changes in skin texture may be caused by IPL and laser hair removal. These complications are often the result of too much energy being used during the procedure, or when sensitivity to the treatment is extremely high. In even more rare cases, the IPL or laser treatment may cause the reverse effects to take place on the hair, causing the hair to grow back thicker and at a higher density. The reason for this is currently unknown.
How Many Treatments Are Needed?
Hair cells that are in the active phase of growth and development during the treatment are the only cells that the IPL and laser beams can target. Not every hair is active all the time, as some of them are dormant. Hairs in the dormant stage are not affected by IPL and laser treatment, so it is required that the patient undergo multiple sessions spaced over time to guarantee that all hairs in the active phase are treated.
To achieve satisfactory hair removal, 4 to 8 treatments are usually required. Depending on the area and hair properties that are being treated, treatments should be spaced 3 to 8 weeks apart.
Once the main set is completed, it is required that maintenance treatments be performed approximately once or twice per year to eliminate thinner and smaller hairs that may grow back. A lot of patients do not need any maintenance after the first year, and can make do with shaving if they have little hair growth.
At Transformation MediSpa we will ensure that you receive the number of treatments that is best for you. We will guide you on what to expect before and after each treatment, and advise you on how to properly take care of you skin in between procedures.
There are many important factors to consider when deciding if you should take the step and receive laser hair removal. An important thing to note is that hair removal is likely to be an intimate procedure, so ensuring that the person who will be performing the treatment on you is not only educated and well trained, but also trustworthy and courteous is very important. Prior to purchasing any packages or treatments, book a consultation and make sure you ask all of your questions during this time. The staff should be welcoming, confidential, and willing to answer all of your questions with no hesitation.
Meet your technician and be sure that he or she will be consistent with all of your treatments. The overall outcome may decrease if technicians change each time you undergo your treatment.
To understand the procedure and everything that it involves, the best tool you have to use are consultations. Use them to your benefit. They are important to your provider as well in order to properly determine what to expect from your treatment and what can be done to best benefit you and your skin.