Everything you need to know about laser hair removal

laser hair removal

Soft, touchable, hair free skin sounds so good! It can actually change your life. But you need to shave, wax, epilate constantly, which is really annoying. Since 1990s, laser has developed into a safe and effective way to remove hair permanently, and becomes more and more popular among girls. But before you pick up a phone and make your first laser appointment, you need to know the pros and cons fully. In this article, we outline what you need know about this permanent hair removal method to help you decide whether it is a right choice for you.

Who fits for laser hair removal?

Unlike IPL, laser can treat all types of skin tones including the darkest ones. However, if you have grey, red, or light blond hairs you want to get removed, laser is not for you. Because the light energy laser machine generates need to be absorbed by the pigment in the hair. There is simply no pigment in grey, red, or light blond hairs.

What is the working principle?

Laser equipment emits light of one particular wavelength, the light energy penetrates the hair follicle and reaches to the hair root. The melanin contained in the hair follicle absorbs the light energy, gets heated and decomposed. Hair follicle breaks down and is destroyed, thus hair regrowth is stopped permanently.

What parts of body can be treated?

The answer is simply every part including face, underarms, arms, legs, chest, back, abdomen, and bikini line. But don’t use laser to remove the hair near your eyes, which will cause serious harm to your eyes.

Three popular types of laser hair removal

1. Diode: This type is the luxury one. It performs on a longer wavelength with deeper penetration. It is very effective on both light and dark skin tones.

2. Alexandrite: This type is the fastest, it works best for large body areas. Alexandrite operates on a shorter wavelength, which makes it suitable for people who have light-to-olive skin tones.

3. Nd:YAG: This type can be used on all skin types, including tanned ones. Compared to other types, it is relatively less effective on light or fine hair and is good for treating small areas like chin and upper lip.

Is laser hair removal safe?

When done properly, laser is very safe. It can remove your unwanted hair without causing harm to your skin because the laser energy can only be absorbed by specific colors. So it only targets the melanin in hair follicles without hurting your skin.

However, Improper operation may cause harm to your skin. When you choose a laser spa, we recommend you going for a board-certified dermatologist or a reputable practitioner. This is not something you want to cut corners on only because you find a good price. Before the first session, we suggest you to ask for a consultation to discuss the procedure. During the treatment, make sure you and your practitioner have safety goggles on for the whole time.

Most people can have laser treatment, some are not the right candidate. If you have one or more of the following situations, laser is not safe for you:

1. If you are pregnant.

2. You have skin conditions.

3. You have a skin type prone to pigmentation.

Is laser hair removal painful?

Since 1990s, laser technology has developed to a mature level, there is little to no pain during laser treatment. Some people may have uncomfortable feeling similar to fiery rubber band snaps. As you do more sessions, the uncomfortable feeling will lessen. You can also request your technician to apply numbing cream before treatment to ease the pain.

How long does it take to see results?

It varies from person to person depending on your skin tone and hair type. Most people start seeing results after two or three sessions. To get permanent results, it usually takes 4 - 12 sessions.

How much does it cost?

For small areas like upper lip or chin, it costs about $100 - $200 each session. Large area like legs cost anywhere from $400 to $700 per session. The whole laser treatments may cost from $800 to $3000.

Where should I get it done?

There are at-home laser devices, but not effective enough. Most people do their laser hair removal at a laser spa. When you decide which one to go, don’t only look at the price discount. It is not something that you want to go for cheap ones. Always choose a licensed pro, someone who is well-trained and with abundant experience. Because improper operation may cause harm to your skin.

How long does each session take?

The time each treatment takes depends on the size of the treated skin area. Treating your upper lip may take less than five minutes, while treating your legs could take 30 minutes or longer.

Things you should do before each session

1. Shave the area you would like to get treated, and shaving should be the only method of hair removal between each treatment. If you’ve missed, your practitioner will shave the hair for you. Otherwise, laser light will only singe any visible hair that is above your skin.

2. Avoid sunlight and any types of tan. One reason is that you want your skin to be in a condition that is stable enough. Second, the lighter the skin tone, the more effective laser hair removal is.

3. Change your skincare routine if you want to do laser treatments on your face. Face is one of the most sensitive parts of your body, make sure you protect it well. You should avoid scrubs, glycolic acid, and retinol creams two days before and after each treatment. Also avoid chemical peels and tanning two weeks before and after each treatment.

Things you should not do before each session

1. Don’t wax, epilate or pluck your hair. These methods remove hair from its roots. The reason laser works is that light can be absorbed by the pigment in the hair underneath the skin. If there is no hair, there is nothing the laser light can grip.

2. Don’t use a moisturizer or deodorant on the treatment area before each session. Laser works best on dry skin.

3. Don’t apply any makeup before treatment if you want to do facial laser hair removal. Your technician has to wipe it off.

Things you should do after each session

1. Avoid sun exposure for a while after treatment. Always always apply sunscreen with SPF 30+ or higher, or cover up the treated area with your cloth. After treatments, skin becomes more sensitive than usual to UV rays. Exposure to sunlight may cause hyperpigmentation.

applying sunscreen

2. Exfoliate the treated area gently 24 hours after each treatment. It will prevent ingrown hairs and make your skin less bumpy and shadowy. Remember to wait for 24 hours, because skin is sensitive right after laser treatment, you want to give it some time to recover.

3. If you have done laser treatment to your face, you also need to change your skincare routine. Avoid scrubs, glycolic acid, and retinol creams two days before and after each treatment, avoid chemical peels and tanning two weeks before and after each treatment. Besides, since your skin becomes drier after laser session, add extra moisturizers to your regime.

4. If your skin is slightly red or swollen after treatment, don’t be panic. It usually disappears in a few hours, maximum a few days. We recommend you using a cool compress to soothe your skin.

Things you should not do after each session

1. Don’t go to a gym, sauna, or taking a hot shower within 24 hours after your treatment. The heat from the laser light stays in your skin for 24 hours. If you want to warm it up further, it actually creates a lovely environment for bacteria to multiply.

2. Don’t apply heavy make-up on the treated areas for 24 hours after each session. You don’t want to give your skin more burden.

3. Don’t apply retinoids or alpha hydroxy acids. That makes your skin more sensitive.

Why do you need several sessions for optimal results?

It is all because of the way hair grows. Each hair follicle has a three-phase growth cycle. In the first phase, hair grows in hair follicle. Then it goes through a short transitional phase. The final one is the resting phase when hair falls out. Then after a few months, a new hair starts to grow and the growth circle repeats.

Laser can only destroy the hair follicle when it is in the first phase. As each hair is on its own timing, they are always in different phases. Therefore, you need several laser sessions to catch all hair follicles.

What are the possible side effects of laser hair removal?

The side effects can be divided into expected ones and unwanted ones. A little redness, swelling, and tiny goose-bump-like bumps are normal, as they are from the swelling of the injured hair follicles. Sometimes you may also see little black specks, they are dead hair shedding, indicating the hair removal works.

The unwanted side effects include hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, blister, and scabbing. If you have pigmentation issues, tell your doctor immediately. Apply a cool compress and keep it from sun as sunlight can kickstart the hyperpigmentation. 

You can do laser treatment even when you’re on your period.

Unlike a bikini wax, you should not cancel your laser session due to your period. You need to stay consistent with your treatment plan. Just use a tampon on that day if you want to do a bikini session.

Laser hair removal removes ingrown hair

Surprisingly, laser hair removal can reduce ingrown hairs and reduce irritation of the skin. Experts say that laser treatment encourages hair to grow straight up to the surface instead of growing sideways.

Don’t do a full-body laser treatment at one time.

A full-body laser hair removal treatment may sound appealing: you can solve all your problems at one time and get your hair free results much quicker. However, it is not good since your body can only absorb a certain amount of laser light and heat in each session. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light including laser can cause short and long-term hurt to your skin that is similar to a sunburn!

If a laser salon tells you they can do full-body treatment, run! Because they are not responsible at all. Some experts recommend only targeting one particular area at a time during each session.

You may need to go back for top-up treatments

We know it doesn’t sound convenient. But it is possible that the hair will grow back when your hormones fluctuate, especially if you have a high level of androgen in your body. So it is better to take time to do top-up treatments, making sure the hair that has dropped off doesn’t grow back.