Get rid of hair for good with laser hair removal

September 1, 2007

Laser hair removal can be a permanent option for those sick of waxing, plucking and shaving.

Key Points

Well, you may be a perfect candidate for a technique called laser hair removal. While certainly a pricier option than buying razor refills or getting a bikini wax, laser hair removal offers a more permanent solution.

DIFFERENT TYPE HAIR, ALL UNWANTED

The causes are usually genetic - women of Mediterranean and Hispanic descent are sometimes predisposed to growing darker, denser body hair. Some women of Scandinavian descent may have such fair it is barely visible, requiring less removal angst. And, for some women the issue of hair removal also includes unwanted hair on the face or chest, which may be caused by higher levels of certain hormones.

There is a lot you can do to get rid of unwanted hair. According to dermatologist Richard Fried, M.D., Ph.D., Yardley, Pa., lasers may be a great option for removing hair, but it is important to make sure you are in expert hands.

HOW IT WORKS

Laser hair removal targets the pigment in the hair with light energy from the laser, according to Joely Kaufman, M.D., assistant professor, department of dermatology & cutaneous surgery, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, Miami.

"The laser heats the hair, and the heat is transferred to the dividing cells in the hair follicle, which then undergo apoptosis (cell death) preventing the hair from regrowing. Each laser for hair removal is a different wavelength, and is absorbed differently by the skin and hair. Which laser to use for each patient is determined by both the patient's skin color and the color and texture of the hair to be removed," Dr. Kaufman explains.

KNOWING WHAT TO ASK

Dr. Fried offers this advice when seeking laser hair removal: Before letting anyone touch your skin with a laser ask to see documented proof of his or her training.

It is best to have this procedure performed by a well-trained dermatologist or supervised aesthetician, nurse or physician's assistant; otherwise you risk being burned, scarred or developing pigmentation problems.

Some additional questions you might want to bring up with your dermatologist are:

"Since fair and more darkly pigmented skin react differently to laser light, it is essential that the right laser be used on the right skin type," Dr. Fried explains.

It is also recommended that when seeking laser treatment, one should avoid sun exposure, as suntanning darkens the skin and makes it more difficult to safely remove the hair, Dr. Kaufman says.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE

A number of well-recommended laser systems are available, based on four primary laser technologies.

There is also light-based technology, called intense pulsed light. When the appropriate device is used in the hands of a well-trained physician, any of these methods can bring you closer to that smooth, hair-free skin you're after.

The ruby laser was the first laser used for hair removal. With the shortest wavelength (694 nm) and newer technologies available, it is no longer used.