Ask a Dermatologist: Preparing for Laser Hair Removal
Question: How to prepare for a laser hair removal treatment?
Before undergoing laser hair removal, it is important that a patient should not pluck or tweeze or perform any type of waxing that would remove the hair from the follicle. Shaving is fine. The laser will actually target the hair while it is in the follicle, and specifically while it is in the growth phase, also known as the anagen phase. Thus, by physical removing the hair from the follicle immediately prior to laser hair removal treatment actually is counter-productive to the laser hair removal process and will negate the treatments performed because the laser will have nothing to target. When shaving, there is still hair present at the site of the hair follicle, and so this is the best method for hair removal and is actually encouraged immediately prior to a laser hair removal treatment session because it ensures there is not excessive hair present on the surface of the skin that can cause overheating and possible burning.
Laser hair removal can be performed successfully on any skin type, but the correct type of laser must be used on skin of color. Nd yag lasers are safe on any skin type. Alexandrite lasers can only be used on lighter skin types. Also broad band light can be used for hair removal as well in the lighter skin types.If a laser that should only used on lighter skin types is dialed down in an attempt to be used safely on a darker skin type, the opposite of hair removal can happen–more hair growth can occur. Ask your clinician what type of laser they are using, and if they can only tell you the manufacturer of the laser, then go to another provider. That should be your first clue that they do not really understand laser science.
During laser hair removal treatments, it is important that patients understand they should avoid sun exposures. They should wear daily sunscreen, especially to the laser treatment sites. My preference is always a physical blocker sunscreen as opposed to a chemical sunscreen. Their treatments will be spaced out depending on the area being treated based on the hair growth of that site. Again, it is important to be treating during active hair growth phase, or anagen phase for best results so some areas will be spaced 4 weeks apart while others may be 6 or even 8 weeks apart. The important thing once your clinician advises you about your frequency is to always keep that frequency. If you miss an appointment, you may be able to reschedule your next appointment in a week, but beyond that, you should wait another full laser cycle rather than push it out another 2-3 weeks because your outcomes will be diminished due to the fact that you are likely out of your anagen phase.
With each successive laser hair removal treatment, the hair will be finer and lighter until the patient will not be able to appreciate that they actually have hair. They still actually do have very very fine hair. However, it is not appreciable to the naked eye. No laser hair removal is permanent. Thus, it is important to occasionally get a touch up treatment. Touch up treatments may occur once every few years depending on multiple things such as age, hormones, pregnancies, and other health issues.
Dr. Ellen Turner is a double board-certified dermatologist with practices in Dallas and Irving, Texas. She specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology, as well as anti-aging and regenerative medicine.
To schedule an appointment, please call 214-373-7546.Written by Dallas Dermatologist Dr. Ellen Turner.