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Understanding Laser Hair Removal

"Tired of shaving, waxing or plucking unwanted bodily hair every so often?"
By: Vanessa ValenzuelaUnderstanding Laser Hair Removal

Tired of shaving, waxing or plucking unwanted bodily hair every so often? Perhaps it’s time you considered another way – have you heard of laser hair removal?

Laser hair removal is one of the most commonly performed cosmetic procedures in this generation. It involves the use of a laser — an intense pulsating beam of light —that destroys unwanted bodily hair follicles.

How does laser destroy hair and not the surrounding skin? Are the effects permanent? Is it safe?

The "Laser" Knows

You may have already known that laser can destroy the hair follicles while still attached to surrounding skin. But have you ever wondered how it does that? It’s actually one of the first questions one would ask about laser hair removal.

The answer is pretty simple – it targets the pigment or natural coloring matter in hair follicles called “melanin”. Once the melanin absorbs the intense light and heat given out by the laser, hair is incinerated. That’s how the laser “knows” its target.

Digging out the weeds

If you want to get rid of unwanted hair in your underarms, legs, chin, upper lip and bikini line, you try almost all painful and tedious methods like tweezing and waxing…and you do it regularly like clockwork, because like garden weeds in a flower pot, they just keep growing back!

But you can’t “dig out” the roots that cause human hair growth. You’ll need another way to reach them from the outside without hurting surrounding healthy tissue. That’s what makes laser hair removal one of the most requested cosmetic procedures today.

As a side effect to incinerating hair, multiple sessions of laser treatment also damages the hair follicle itself and affects how future hair grows back. For some patients, laser hair removal sessions can effectively slow down the rate of regrowth (from several months, to even a few years!) so you don’t have to worry about it for an extended period of time. You’ll just have to come back for periodic maintenance treatments.

Not for all

Since the laser recognizes pigment, you can say that the treatment works more effectively on patients with light skin and dark hair color.

Most Asians are perfect candidates for laser hair removal treatments because of their naturally dark-colored hair and medium to light skin tone. However, for those who have darker skin tone, many clinics have advised against the treatment as it will be difficult for the laser to  distinguishing hair from the skin. It also isn’t as effective for those with gray, white, red or blonde hair.

Another factor to consider is cost. Laser hair removal procedures are quite expensive. Back in the day, each session would cost about P10,000, but thanks to many online deals and marketing promotions by dermatology clinics, you can get a session at only a fraction of the real cost. Best to hunt for these limited time only deals on the internet.

The preparation

Before your first ever laser hair removal treatment, you’ll need to have a consultation first with your dermatologist. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, any drugs you’re taking or any medical conditions that may prevent you from recuperating after the procedure.

Your doctor may ask you to temporarily stop plucking or waxing for six weeks before treatment to allow all your hair to grow out. Remember, if you pluck or wax, you’re temporarily removing the hair follicles that the laser needs to do its job. 

Your doctor will also ask you to avoid sun exposure to the target areas for six weeks before and after your scheduled treatment. Sun exposure increases your risk of complications after treatment. It also lessens the efficacy of the laser treatments.

During the procedure

The doctor will use a hand held instrument to shoot the laser beam into the  targeted area. Once activated, the laser will apply intense heat to incinerate the hair follicles, which can also heat up and burn the surrounding skin. Depending on the type of laser that is used on you, doctor may apply a cool gel or place a cooling device at the tip of the instrument to help protect the skin.

What to expect after

10 to 25 percent hair reduction should be expected after every treatment, but the results vary depending on the darkness and thickness of hair, and skin color.

Expect some swelling and redness for several hours after the treatment, as if you spent an afternoon in the beach and your skin was sunburned. This is normal. To help address this, your doctor may either ask you to apply ice on the affected area or apply an anti-inflammatory cream.

Zero downtime

Apart from these warnings, you should be able to go about your normal activities right after the treatment. For as long as you follow the post treatment instructions of your dermatologist and complete the treatments, you should be able to enjoy hairless smooth skin in just a couple of months!

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