Is it safe, is it worth it and does it suit every skin tone? We investigate permanent hair removal.
By Anna Bonet
Hankering after smooth, hairless skin, but tired of daily shaving? Then you might have considered laser hair removal, an increasingly popular procedure which permanently removes body hair.
But while it’s a great option for people who suffer from hirsuteness or fans of the fuzz-free look, before you invest in the somewhat costly procedure, do you know all the facts? Timeframes, sun damage, skin tone and suitability should all be considered before you get your credit card out.
We speak to Dr Rekha Tailor, who runs Health and Aesthetics clinic in Surrey, for everything you need know about laser hair removal:
What is laser hair removal?
If you’re looking for a professional way to remove body hair, then laser hair removal might be for you. It’s a treatment that uses light technology to destroy the hair follicles, and tends to be a pretty permanent solution.
‘Laser hair removal is a medical procedure which uses concentrated beams of light to remove unwanted hair around the body,’ explains Dr Tailor. ‘The light energy is converted to heat which in turn damages the hair follicles and delays or inhibits future hair growth.’
This means that once you’ve undergone laser hair removal your hair is unlikely to grow back any time soon. However it’s not always permanent, some people require touch-ups and it doesn’t work on every type of skin tone, but more on that later.
How long does laser hair removal take?
While you might want to get laser hair removal just before you go on holiday, it’s important to know that it is not a quick fix. Laser hair removal should involve a course lasting at least six months, usually longer.
It’s important to note that laser hair removal is not a quick fix.
‘Each treatment time takes between fifteen minutes and two hours, depending the treatment area,’ says Dr Tailor. ‘For best results patients will require a course of treatments of six treatments spaced six to eight weeks apart.’ This means that if you want hair-free legs in time for summer, for example, you need to start your laser hair removal course the previous autumn or winter.
What are the benefits of laser hair removal?
Although it’s a lengthy process, in the long run laser hair removal can be a great alternative to shaving or waxing.
‘Laser hair removal can be pain-free and require no downtime or no anaesthesia,’ says Dr Tailor. Moreover, laser hair removal ‘can be carried out on all areas of the body.’
What are the risks of laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal is generally a safe procedure, and the majority of people who undergo it don’t have any problems. However, some relatively rare side effects include redness, irritation, blistering and scarring.
Some rare side effects include redness, irritation, blistering and scarring.
‘Hair removal is one of the aesthetic medical industry’s most well-known and best researched laser treatments and leading lasers like the Soprano ICE Platinum laser is safe, successful and approved by the FDA,’ says Dr Tailor. ‘But make sure that you see an experienced practitioner because laser treatments, carried out by an untrained technician, could leave burns or scars on the skin.’
⚠️ It’s also essential that you avoid sun exposure for two weeks before and two weeks after treatment, as the sun makes your skin more sensitive and sun damage can lead to hyper-pigmentation, burns and permanent scarring.
Does laser hair removal work on everyone?
Laser hair removal doesn’t work as well on some skin and hair types. ‘The ideal combination for laser hair removal is light skin and dark brown or black hair,’ explains Dr Tatiana Lapa, founder of Dr Tatiana Aesthetic Dermatology Clinic. ‘If the hair is light or the skin is dark, the treatment can still be done, but you may require adjusted settings and more treatments to achieve optimal results.
‘The laser light that is used for hair removal is attracted to black or brown pigment. Hair follicles have a high concentration of pigment, much higher than the surrounding skin. The black or brown pigment absorbs laser light well, destroying the hair follicle and hence reducing or stopping hair growth. ‘
Laser hair removal doesn’t work as well on some skin and hair types.
‘If the hair is very light, for example blonde, grey or red hair, the follicle has very little of the black or brown pigment inside it and it will not absorb laser light as well. This means that higher energy needs to be used in order to destroy the hair follicle,’ Dr Lapa continues.
‘If the skin is darker, the pigment within the skin will also absorb laser light and this can lead to complications such as burns and loss of natural skin pigment (hypopigmentation). Darker skin types can still be treated safely and effectively, but care must be taken to use the right type of laser at lower energy settings and across a larger number of sessions.’
Is laser hair removal safe?
While it’s generally a safe procedure, it’s not suitable for everyone. ‘There are a number of contraindications for this treatment,’ says Dr Tailor. If you have any of the following, she recommends you avoid laser hair removal:
- Keloid scarring
- Active herpes simplex
- Active infections
Furthermore, ‘medication that makes you photosensitive and tanned skin can lead to an adverse reaction,’ says Dr Tailor, ‘and patients can’t be treated if they’re pregnant or breastfeeding.’