Laser Hair Removal - everything you need to know

Laser Hair Removal - everything you need to know

If you are fed up shaving, tweezing, threading or waxing to remove unwanted hair, laser hair removal may be an option for you.

It is a fairly simple procedure and one of the most commonly done cosmetic procedures in the US and UK. It works by beaming highly concentrated light into the hair follicles, the pigment in the follicles absorbs the light and that destroys the hair. Lasers are useful for removing unwanted hair from the face, legs, arms, underarms, bikini line, and other areas.

The benefits include:

Precision. Lasers selectively target dark, coarse hairs while leaving the surrounding skin undamaged.

Speed. Each pulse of the laser takes a fraction of a second and can treat many hairs at the same time. The laser can treat an area approximately the size of a dirham every second. Small areas such as the upper lip can be treated in less than a minute. Though large areas, such as the back or legs, may take up to an hour. “Depending on the area, there will be a duration of time that needs to be planned for, it may be possible to pass time by reading or listening to music,” says, Dr Mohamed Salah Zaki, Managing Director of IMC Medical Centres.

“Alternative hair removal methods are repetitive, painful and never ending, says Smita Sonavane, laser technician at Cocoona Centre for Aesthetic Transformation. “With Laser Hair Removal, you can slow down the growth of hair drastically, to the point that you can stop shaving altogether. It’s safe, its effective and a true solution. Average of 20% hair reduction is noticed with each progressive session. One may require 6 to 8 sessions on average for optimum benefits” adds Smita.

Predictability. Most patients have permanent hair loss after an average of three to seven sessions.
There is also “no need to grow hair in between sessions,” says Dr Zaki.

How to prepare

Six weeks before the treatments you should limit plucking, waxing, and electrolysis. This is because the laser targets the hairs’ roots, which are temporarily removed by these methods. “It is recommended to shave one or two days prior to the laser session as it reduces the discomfort caused by dry shaving when you are in the centre. It is advised to arrive for the treatment with clean skin, no make-up, lotion, and/or perfume present on the treatment areas,” says Smita .

“You must shave the area you want to treat 1 to 2 days prior to the treatment. We must be able to see the stubble to be able to do an effective treatment, so no same day shaving,” says Dr Zaki.

You should also avoid sun exposure for six weeks before and after treatment. As sun exposure makes laser hair removal less effective and can make complications after treatment more likely.

Dr Zaki says “in order to avoid skin discolouration, avoid deep tanning (tanning beds, sunbathing, tanning creams) for 2 to 3 weeks prior to the treatment”. “If you must be in the sun, use a sunscreen SPF 30 or greater,” he adds.

In addition, Dr Zaki says, you should “avoid using or applying retinoids and any alpha-hydroxy acids that are higher than 10% to the areas that will be treated”.

What to expect

Just before the procedure, your hair that will be undergoing treatment will be trimmed to a few millimetres above the skin surface. The therapist will adjust the laser according to the colour, thickness, and location of your hair being treated as well as your skin colour.

Depending on the laser or light source used, you and the technician will need to wear appropriate eye protection. It will also be necessary to protect the outer layers of your skin with a cold gel or special cooling device, which some lasers have already integrated. “At Cocoona, our lasers have a dynamic cooling device, which cools the skin on contact making the treatment almost painless. One can compare the feeling to an elastic band being snapped against the skin but everyone’s individual pain thresholds differs. You can apply a topical anaesthetic to the area prior treatment if needed,” says Smita. The discomforts gets less progressive in the consecutive sessions as the hair becomes finer and lighter adds Smita.

When the procedure is completed, you may be given ice packs, anti-inflammatory creams or lotions, or cold water to ease any discomfort. You can schedule your next treatment four to six weeks later and then continue treatments until hair stops growing.

“Some areas of the body are more sensitive than others so there may be slight temporary stinging, throbbing or burning sensations,” says Dr Zaki.

Recovery and risks

For a day or two afterwards, the treated area of your skin may look and feel like it’s sunburned. Cool compresses and moisturisers may help. If your face was treated, you can wear make-up the next day.

Then over the next month, the treated hair will fall out. You will need to wear sunscreen for the following month to help prevent temporary changes in the colour of the treated skin.

Most patients return to their daily activities right after laser hair removal says Dr Zaki. “You might see a little redness of the areas but the redness should go away after a few hours.”

“The most common risks associated with laser hair removal are minor skin irritations and minor pigment changes. Minor swelling and irritation that occur in the treated areas after the procedure are normal. You may apply cool compresses on the treated area to reduce swelling, tenderness, and bruising for a short period if it is excessive,” says Dr Zaki.

Otherwise states Dr Zaki there are no other real risks to the individual’s body or health from the treatment.

IMC Medical Centre use the Candela - Pro Max and Cynosure Elite lasers says Dr Zaki. Both of them are very effective and give great results, they both work on all skin types and colours.  

“The Candela maintains the same power throughout treatment, even when you increase the spot size. And it has an internal cooling mechanism which provides a more instant cooling effect for comfort, while some patients also prefer the external cooling effect from Cynosure,” says Dr Zaki from IMC. While the Candela uses 24 mm spots which are larger and allow for faster treatment time he adds.

The Alexandrite laser is considered by many in the field of laser hair removal to be the gold standard laser says Smita. “This is true if you have a lighter skin type. The Alexandrite laser uses a longer wavelength for penetration to the hair follicle and energy that is particularly attracted to melanin - the target for hair removal. However, if your skin is darkly pigmented you will get the best results with a laser specifically designed for your skin type - the YAG laser. Cocoona employs both of these lasers in every one of our laser hair removal centres,” adds Smita.

“There are currently there are several types of lasers that have been approved by the FDA. As everyone is unique and will react differently to the laser,” says Smita.

“Cocoona use a combination of different Laser Systems including: The long pulse Nd:YAG laser can be safely used in all skin types, including tanned patients. Large coverage areas and fast repetition rates allow large areas to be treated quickly. The Alexandrite Laser is the fastest of the laser types and is good for treating large body areas in patients with light-to-olive complexion. This is one of the most widely used lasers for hair reduction. The Diode Laser is most effective for light skin types with dark hair and is less effective on lighter, finer hair. It covers large areas and has fast repetition rates, allowing brisk treatment of large body areas,” says Smita.

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