Does Laser Hair Removal Really Work?

Laser Hair RemovalIt was 75 degrees and sunny in Atlanta yesterday. Suddenly winter is over and the summer season is quickly upon us. The shorts and sundresses have already made their way out of our closets. With the loss of layers, we now need that extra time in the shower for you know what….shaving. If you are like me, you hate shaving. I mean REALLY hate shaving. Can’t there be another option to shaving that works? Wait a minute, there is. For some, laser hair removal can be an answer! Let’s review the science behind laser hair removal to see if you are a candidate to rid yourself of razors forever.

Does laser hair removal work?

The simple answer is yes, laser hair removal does work. A better term to use however for the procedure is laser hair reduction. With a full treatment protocol, roughly 80-90% of the hair is gone. The hair that remains is typically fine and colorless so causes little issues.

How does laser hair removal work?

In general, lasers work by a process known as selective photothermolysis, wherein a specific wavelength of light is directed at a target. In the case of laser hair removal, that target is melanin. The light energy emitted by the laser is selectively absorbed by the hair follicle, which subsequently heats up and dies. The surrounding skin is unaffected.

Are you a candidate for laser hair removal?

The best candidates for laser hair removal are those that have darker pigmented hair, either black or brown, and a more fair skin type. Blonde, red and grey hair will not respond to laser hair removal, as it does not have the necessary pigment to target. Vellus hair (or peach fuzz) similarly cannot be treated. There are newer lasers available now that can successfully treat black hair in dark skinned patients.

Is it a single treatment?

Hair grows in several phases and only hair that is in the active growth phase (early anagen) is affected. That is why multiple sessions are required. For the best treatment, we recommend 10 sessions. For body hair removal, these sessions are scheduled 6 weeks apart. For the face, only 4 weeks between treatments is required as the hair on the face typically grows faster.

How to prepare for laser hair removal?

You need to avoid tanning or self-tanning products for 2 weeks in advance of your treatment. The skin needs to be without pigmentation to avoid injury. We also ask you to shave the area 48 hours in advance of the treatment. The idea is to have the hair present in the follicle but short at the skin, again to avoid excess heat or cause injury. Waxing should be avoided prior to treatment to allow the hair to regrow in the follicle.

What to expect?

The pain of the treatment is tolerable even in the most sensitive areas. No numbing creams are applied as they risk the success of the treatment. After the procedure you may notice itching, redness, and swelling to the skin at the treated site. A more localized reaction can occur with swelling around each follicle follicular edema) which looks like little red bumps in the treated area. Any irritation is typically resolved in 1-2 days.

Summer is almost here in Atlanta. Make an appointment today at the Emory Aesthetic Center Spa and see if you are a candidate for laser hair removal so you can ditch the razor for good.


About Dr. Anderson

Erica Anderson, MDErica Anderson, MD, is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and currently holds an appointment as Assistant Professor in the Division of Plastic Surgery at Emory University. Dr. Anderson completed her general surgery residency and plastic surgery residency at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and associated hospitals in Denver, CO. She completed a year of advanced training in Aesthetic Surgery at Grotting Plastic Surgery in Birmingham, Alabama.

Dr. Anderson returns to Emory University after being in private practice in Arlington, Virginia. While there, she maintained a busy aesthetic and reconstructive practice and also served as Medical Director for the Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Center at Virginia Hospital Center.

Dr. Anderson’s academic and research interests are largely focused on clinical outcomes with regards to cosmetic surgery. Her areas of clinical interest are diverse including cosmetic surgery of the breast and body as well chest wall reconstruction and wound care.

Dr. Anderson is married with 3 children, Trent, Connor and Fiona, and 2 vizslas, Max and Mimi.

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