Skin Procedures Laser Hair Removal

Laser Hair Removal

  • Best Candidates:
    People who want to improve their appearance by removing unwanted hair
  • Length of Procedure:
    Varies up to 2 hours
  • Inpatient/Outpatient:
    Outpatient
  • Anesthesia:
    Local anesthetic cream
  • Results:
    Long-lasting
  • Procedures in 2015:
    1,116,708 (source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons)

Laser Hair Removal

Millions of women and men have unwanted hair on their face or body. Laser hair removal is a safe and long-lasting solution for people who are tired of shaving, waxing, plucking and other painful, time-consuming and temporary hair removal techniques. The majority of laser hair removal patients successfully achieve an improved appearance and an increase in self-confidence.

The procedure information contained in this article will give you a good introduction to laser hair removal. Schedule a consultation with a qualified laser professional to receive an examination and discuss your laser hair removal options.

Laser Hair Removal Overview

Advances in laser technology have led to a number of breakthroughs in medical science. Today, lasers are used by cosmetic surgeons for an increasing number of procedures, including laser hair removal, laser vein therapy, laser skin resurfacing, LASIK eye surgery and tooth whitening. The use of cutting-edge lasers allows many cosmetic procedures to be performed faster and more precisely with less discomfort and downtime for the patient.

Laser hair removal is a minimally-invasive cosmetic procedure chosen by hundreds of thousands of men and women each year to safely remove unwanted hair from different parts of the body. The presence of excess hair can be an inherited trait or can be caused by hormones, medications or other medical reasons. Temporary hair removal methods such as shaving, waxing, hair removal creams (depilatory creams) and plucking can be time-consuming and painful, while laser hair removal offers long-lasting results with as few as three treatments. Laser hair removal is much faster than electrolysis, the other method of long-term hair removal, allowing larger areas such as the legs, arms or back to be treated at once.

During laser hair removal, the laser beam passes through the skin and generates heat which damages the hair follicles and inhibits their ability to produce hair. Laser hair removal can be used to successfully remove excess hair from almost any part of the body or face, including the legs, bikini line, chin, upper lip, armpits, ears, back, chest, arms, fingers and toes.

How Laser Hair Removal is Performed

The area of the face or body where laser hair removal will be performed should be shaved a day or two in advance and allowed to grow to a stubble. On the day of treatment, your skin should be clean and free of any make-up.

The laser hair removal procedure begins with an application of anesthetic cream to reduce discomfort. Goggles are used to protect your eyes from accidental exposure to the laser beam. The laser is then used to damage hair follicles and inhibit hair growth by emitting short, concentrated pulses of light that generate heat in the hair follicles and vaporize the hair above the skin. You will probably feel a stinging or burning sensation as the laser is passed over the skin. Most lasers are fitted with a cooling device at the tip to protect the skin and ease discomfort during the procedure.

Laser hair removal can take from a few minutes to 2 hours, depending on the area of the body and the size of the area to be treated, and is usually performed in your doctor's office. Long-term hair growth reduction may require three or more treatments spaced 1 to 2 months apart. Repeat treatments are necessary because laser hair removal is only effective on hairs that are in the growing phase. Hairs that are in the resting or transitional phases of the hair growth cycle will later enter the growing phase and can be effectively treated. Following the initial regimen, periodic maintenance treatments may be necessary for best results.

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Best Candidates

The best candidates for laser hair removal are in good health and want to enhance their appearance by removing unwanted hair from virtually any part of the face or body.

Generally, the best candidates for laser hair removal:

  • Are in good physical and psychological health.
  • Are well-informed about treatment options and have realistic expectations.
  • Want to improve their appearance by eliminating excess hair from the legs, bikini line, upper lip, chin, armpits and other areas of the body with long-lasting results.
  • Are weary of temporary hair removal methods such as shaving, waxing, hair removal creams and tweezing.

Laser hair removal is most effective for people with light skin and dark hair due to the contrast in color between the hair and the skin. However, patients with darker skin can still be treated using lasers with longer wavelengths and may be pretreated with a bleaching cream. Patients should avoid tanning prior to treatment to keep their skin as light as possible.

If you believe that you may be a good candidate for laser hair removal, a qualified plastic surgeon can evaluate your circumstances, explain anything about the procedure you don't understand, answer all of your questions and help you decide if the procedure is right for you.

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Laser Hair Removal Risks

Complications are rare when laser hair removal is performed by a qualified plastic surgeon. To reduce your risk, carefully follow all of your surgeon's instructions, both before and after the procedure. Contact your surgeon's office immediately if you have any symptoms you believe may indicate a complication.

The most common risks associated with laser hair removal include:

  • Changes in skin tone
  • Blistering
  • Scarring (rare)
  • Infection (rare)

Laser hair removal can cause the treated skin to become lighter (hypopigmented) or darker (hyperpigmented) after the procedure. Patients with a darker complexion are more likely to experience a noticeable lightening of the skin. These conditions are almost always temporary.

Any localized blistering can be treated with an antibiotic ointment until it heals. Scarring is unusual, but can occur in rare cases.

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Laser Hair Removal Costs

The national average surgeon/physician fee for laser hair removal in 2013 was $301, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This figure does not include other costs, such as a facilities charge. You should be provided with complete information on costs and financing options at the initial consultation with your doctor.

The total fee for laser hair removal can vary depending on the region of the country, the extent of the procedure and your specific needs as a patient. As it is considered to be a cosmetic procedure, the cost of laser hair removal is usually not covered by health insurance.

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Laser Hair Removal Consultation

If you decide that you might benefit from laser hair removal, the first step is to locate a qualified plastic surgeon and schedule a consultation. At the consultation, the doctor will perform a physical examination to evaluate your skin type, the location of the hair, its thickness and color, and the presence of moles or tattoos. He or she will also take a complete medical history, including existing health conditions, allergies and medications (both prescription and non-prescription). Photos of the area of unwanted hair may be taken for before-and-after purposes.

The surgeon should carefully listen to your goals for hair removal, fully answer all of your questions and explain the different options that are available. He or she should give you the full details of the recommended procedure, including the benefits, risks, costs and recovery time. Be sure to ask for before and after photos of the surgeon's recent laser hair removal patients.

As the consultation concludes, you may wish to schedule your procedure, take some time to think or seek a second opinion. If you decide to proceed with the procedure, your plastic surgeon will provide you with specific instructions on how to prepare for laser hair removal. Patients should avoid sun exposure and tanning for a month or more before treatment to keep the skin as light as possible and provide better contrast between hair and skin color. Waxing, plucking or electrolysis should be avoided for at least 6 week prior to laser hair removal.

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Laser Hair Removal Recovery

Normal symptoms experienced after laser hair removal include some redness, discomfort, stinging, swelling and crusting of the skin. Any pain should subside quickly and may feel similar to a mild sunburn. Cold packs or a topical cream prescribed by your doctor may be used to reduce swelling and redness. Any minor crusting of the skin that may occur should fade after a few days.

To help ensure a smooth recovery, always follow your doctor's instructions on caring for your skin and resuming normal activities. Both men and women should take special care to keep the skin moisturized and protected from the sun after laser hair removal. The skin can be cleaned with soap and water and moistened using an ointment such as petroleum jelly. Avoid exposing the treated skin to the sun for several weeks and use sunscreen daily. Patients should avoid exercise for the first 24 hours to prevent perspiration from irritating the skin.

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