Does Laser Hair Removal Really Work?

May 6, 2014
beauty, skincare, laser, laser hair removal

We ladies love long luxurious hair on our heads however we are not so much of a fan of having it on the rest of our bodies, right? Anyone remember bleaching the hair on the upper lip?  Or the chemical wonder in a tube that sent hair, and several layers of skin, swirling down the drain and not to mention the smell of it was enough for you to pass out in the bathroom?  If not, look it up or ask your mum about it.  She’ll tell you she doesn’t wear short shorts anymore for a reason having nothing to do with age.  Since the desire for hairlessness on certain body parts has stood the test of time, many have turned to laser hair removal.  

Dr Glenn Murray from Absolute Cosmetic Medicine was sceptical over 20 years ago when he tried this procedure on his wife: “We tried it on her bikini line only to find that it didn’t come back and that we may have taken off more than we should have.” So let’s go deeper into the world of laser and you can decide whether this treatment is for you.

The basics

What is it exactly?  Laser hair removal is done with a machine emitting an intense pulse light or IPL.  It’s a fairly pure light used to heat up the pigment   and follicle of hair which kills the follicle.  New hair cannot grow from a damaged or dead follicle. Here’s where it gets tricky sometimes other factors such as fluctuating hormone levels in the future may trigger off dormant hair follicles that had not grown previously. It’s not the old hair coming back but new hair that has grown from follicles, which have not been previously damaged. This is why sometimes laser is often though not to be permanent. With another trip to your local IPL specialist and BAM hairless again.

Who can use IPL machines?  In some areas, only licensed physicians can use IPL machines but other places allow the use in a clinical setting where there may not be a licensed physician on site.  To further confuse matters, hair removal machines are sold on TV and in drug stores as “medical grade” giving credence to the idea that they are actual medical devices.  In fact, many are extremely weak and unlikely to work well at all.  Others are stronger and may work to a degree but could cause permanent skin damage if used incorrectly.

Clinic, doctor or DIY?

The answer here is clinic or doctor.  You don’t cut your own hair and rarely paint your own nails!  DO NOT do your own laser hair removal.  First, you may get carried away and take off too much or do serious damage to your skin.  Secondly, removing unwanted hair requires more than picking up a device at the discount store and aiming it your face or bikini line.  The ads on TV make it look as simple as waving a wand-like object over unwanted hair and magically, hair is gone.

Proper laser hair removal is a process.  The process works but takes time and more than one treatment.  Cost per treatment at a clinic is usually less expensive than a doctor’s office.  However, clinic treatments are usually higher in number to achieve the same results as a doctor’s office so the cost can add up to about the same or higher. With saying all of this the questions still remains, does it really work

Before your treatment

Avoid the sun before your treatment.  The treatment works better when there is a difference in tone between skin and hair.  Tonal difference is why grey hairs, with less pigment, are more difficult but not impossible, to remove. 

Plan timing around your period.  Due to hormonal fluctuations and extra sensitivity in skin, avoid coming in 1-2 days prior to your period starting. 

Don’t wax prior to treatment.   Obviously, to remove hairs by damaging pigment and follicle, the laser needs to lock on to hair.  Shaving is OK, and even recommended, as long as it isn’t a super close shave.  Treatment works best when hair is about 1 mm in length, which is slight stubble. 

Be prepared to pamper yourself.  Bring an ice pack for sensitive or hot areas after treatment and use a bland (no dyes or perfumes) moisturiser and follow instructions carefully. 

The permanence of laser hair removal is appealing.  Constant waxing and shaving is tiresome and time consuming. Honestly, we have much better things to do than to be constantly defuzzing ourselves.  Our mothers always told us to wear nice clean underwear in case we were in an accident.  Well, wouldn’t it be great to also have smooth hairless skin all the time too?  

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