Laser hair removal is used for people who want to remove unwanted body hair. Common treatment locations include legs, armpits, upper lip, chin and bikini line. However, it is possible to treat unwanted hair in almost any area of the body.
Although laser hair removal doesn't guarantee permanent hair removal, it does extend the hair-free period, which can vary from several months to many years. With multiple treatments, long-term hair removal is possible. Hair colour and skin type are the key factors that influence the success of laser hair removal. It's most successful on people with dark hair (brown or black) and light skin. However, it can also be used safely on people with darker skin types. Laser hair removal does not work for white, blonde, light brown or light red hair.
Side effects from laser hair removal include, but are not limited to:
Incomplete hair removal or re-growth.
Some hair may be resistant to the laser treatment or may re-grow after treatment.
Darkening of the skin (hyper-pigmentation).
This is usually a temporary condition, but in rare instances, is long lasting or permanent.
Lightening of the skin (hypo-pigmentation).
This is of special concern with people who have darker skin. Laser hair treatment is more successful on fair skin, but darker skin also can be treated.
Blistering and scarring: These rarely occur.
Changes in the skin texture: These rarely occur.
Crusting or scabbing: If this occurs, it's temporary.
Hair changes: New hair growth may be finer and lighter in colour. In some cases, new hair may grow in areas adjacent to the treated areas. This can be successfully treated with additional laser treatments.
Planning your Hair removal: Before scheduling laser hair removal, you meet with your doctor to discuss the factors that determine whether the procedure is likely to work well for you. This meeting generally includes:
Your medical history: Dr Sumita Shankar will ask questions about conditions you have or have had, as well as any medications you're taking.
Photographs: Photographs are taken from different angles of the area to be treated.
If you have a tan from sun exposure or sunless tanning products, you must wait until the tan fades completely before undergoing laser hair removal. A tan increases your risk of side effects such as blistering and discoloration. Avoid sun exposure four to six weeks before treatment. Laser hair removal is most effective if hairs are visible but shaved short. You can shave the day of the procedure. Avoid waxing or plucking the hair and electrolysis three weeks before treatment.
During the procedure
You wear goggles to prevent accidental exposure of your eyes to laser light. When the laser is activated, you feel a stinging sensation. Oftentimes a topical local anaesthetic is applied before the procedure to reduce discomfort. The procedure causes a slight charring of stubble. You may notice a strong odour of singed hair, which is normal.
How long the procedure takes depends on the area of the body involved. A small area such as the upper lip may take several minutes. A larger area such as the back may require several hours
After the procedure
After laser hair removal, no medications or bandages are necessary. You may notice some redness and swelling for the first few hours. Also, stinging may occur for the first 24 to 48 hours. Some people experience a slight crusting of the skin. If crusting occurs, keep the area moist with petroleum jelly (Vaseline).
After treatment:Avoid exercise and exertion for the first 24 hours. Perspiration from exertion may increase irritation caused by the laser.
Avoid exposure to the sun for several weeks after treatment. After this period, make certain you apply sunscreen whenever you're in the sun. Avoid tanning booths - the ultraviolet light damages the skin. Don't wax or pluck hairs for three weeks before treatments. Don't pick at or manipulate the skin in treated areas. Don't rub or scrub the treated area. You may gently wash the area with soap and water.
Results: Studies show that for suitable candidates, hair removal lasers can reduce hair counts by 20 percent to 90 percent. Results vary from person to person, and some people respond better to treatment than others do. Multiple treatments can prolong the duration of hair loss, but hair re-growth is possible. Expect to undergo six to eight treatments spaced six to eight weeks apart to achieve good reduction of hair and slowing of hair re-growth. Then, you will likely undergo periodic maintenance treatments.
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