How Laser Hair Removal Works

Laser hair removal is a great way to remove unwanted hair in a semi-permanent fashion so as to avoid other methods such as shaving or waxing which require constant maintenance and upkeep. Laser hair removal uses a target–the pigment within the hair–in order to cause loss of the hair from the follicle.

This technique works best on hair of color—black or brown–and less so on blond or white or grey hair due to the lack of pigment present. Typically, a course of laser hair removal is between 4-6 treatments to achieve what appears to be total removal of hair. Since the hair follicle is still present, there is still the chance that, over time, one could see regrowth of hair from the follicle due to ever-changing hormonal fluctuations. There are a variety of different lasers used to treat hair removal, but all use the same scientific principle of targeting the pigment, and seeing the result of loss of the hair at the site of the follicle.

Before a treatment, we recommend that patients shave within 24 hours of getting their treatment to ensure there is not excess of target (hair) on the surface of the skin. It is recommended to avoid methods such as waxing or plucking within 2-4 weeks of the laser hair removal treatment as it is necessary for the hair to be present just beneath or at the surface of the skin in order to get the best treatment. Waxing and plucking removes the hair (albeit temporarily) from the follicle, and thus may result in “no treatment” if performed before the laser hair removal treatment.

During a treatment, patients should expect a mild degree of discomfort resulting from the heat generated at the site of the follicle when the laser hits its target. Use of topical anesthetic is not recommended in this practice due to the fact that pain is a necessary indicator of appropriate settings. Lasers for laser hair removal always utilize some method of contact cooling for the skin surrounding the follicles. This ensures that blistering will not occur, which can lead to potential scarring of the skin.

Immediately post treatment, it is normal to see a slight swelling at the site of each of the treated hair follicles. This swelling, called follicular edema, is the result of the heat generated during the treatment. If it is uncomfortable to the patient, ice is recommended during the 48 hours post treatment. There can also be a slightly reddish tone to the skin as well which also dissipates with time.

It is important for the patients undergoing laser hair removal to keep their length of time between appointments consistent. Usually, a typically time frame is 6 weeks between laser hair treatments.

If a particular laser hair treatment cannot be kept at the proper interval, it may be necessary to repeat two intervals –wait 12 weeks–in order to keep the hair cycling properly and get the best results in the least amount of time. If done correctly, laser hair removal has life-long advantages over other methods of hair removal, and is quite safe and effective.