LET’S TALK LASER
Laser hair removal has never been more popular with both men and women, there are new laser clinics opening every day and the internet is crowded with reviews and experiences about the process and results.
As fully qualified and trained laser specialists, we are uniquely positioned to educate people around what laser is, what it does and what it cannot do.
The three stages of hair growth
To understand how laser hair removal works you need to understand the different stages of hair growth. Hair has 3 different stages of growth and not all hairs grow at the same time. That’s why you may have found sometimes soon after a treatment there is hair starting to grow again. These are not the same hairs you had treated, nor has the treatment stimulated hair growth,
they are hairs that were at a different stage of growth.
The three different stages of hair growth are:
Anagen – the active growth phase. At this stage, the bottom of the hair follicle (the bulb) is attached to the dermis and its blood supply through the dermal papilla.
Catagen – the transition phase. The hair follicle begins to die and enters the catagen phase
Telogen – the resting phase. In this phase, the remains of the hair bulb are inactive and the attached hair easily falls out.
So How do lasers remove hair?
Laser hair removal works because the concentrated beam of light is converted to heat. The light is attracted to the chromophore (melanin) in the hair (for the fairer skin types) and blood (for the darker skin types). This Dark chromophore absorbs the light and then converts it to heat. The heat then affects the hair follicles to prevent hair growth, this is called selective photothermolysis.
In order to destroy a hair follicle, the bulb of the hair follicle where the blood supplies the hair with oxygen to grow needs to be destroyed as well as the stem cells which are responsible for hair regeneration. To be able to do this, a temperature of about 70 degrees needs to be reached.
The darker and the thicker a hair is the more pigment it will hold, and the more light it will absorb. This is why it is important that you don’t wax or pluck your hair before a treatment, because if there is no hair there, there is no way for the laser light to treat that hair follicle.
So to recap, what happens is that the light is emitted, is then absorbed by the chromophore (either melanin or blood) in the hair, travels through the hair and is converted to heat and destroys the root. That hair is destroyed and does not grow back! It’s just so simple and effective.
Is laser hair removal permanent?
There are 3 main factors that can affect whether or not we can achieve permanent hair removal.
Only hairs in the growing stage (hairs that are in the anagen phase) can be treated successfully, however not all hairs grow at the same time. For example, at any one given time on our body, only about 20-40% of hair is growing (in anagen phase) the others are either in the transition or resting phase. This is why a course of treatments is required to get the different hairs as they enter the growing stage. Treatments are 4 weeks and a course of 6-10 treatments are needed. Once your desired hair removal has been achieved, maintenance is usually 2 treatments per year (every 6 months) the first year after removal then once per year.
Secondly, only hair that has pigment can be treated. If you have white, grey, blond or red hair, it is important that you understand these will not respond, as there is no dark pigment in these hairs to hold that light. Therefore the laser cannot generate enough heat to destroy the hair. Also the finer and lighter the hair, the harder it will be to achieve permanent hair removal as there is less pigment in the hair.
The thicker and darker the hair, the more pigment it contains, which means the light will be absorbed, convert to heat and reach a temperature of about 70 degrees, and therefore destroy the root of the hair. If this temperature isn’t reached, the treatment will only damage the hair which will result in lighter finer hairs growing back. In this case the hair follicle will not be effectively destroyed.
And the third factor is skin colour. The lighter your skin the higher the fluence (intensity) you can be treated with. If your skin is darker, the therapist will need to use a lower the fluence to treat you, which is best achieved on the Candela NdYag (specifically designed for the darker skin types). This is because laser light does not know the difference between the pigments in your hair or you skin, so if you have a tan you increase the risk of burning your skin. That’s why if you have a tan, you need to stay out of the sun, wear sunblock every day and start your treatment when the tan is gone.
A safe and effective treatment
Hopefully this article has answered some of your questions about how laser hair removal works, and who the treatment can be effective for. Laser hair removal is an incredibly effective procedure that can eliminate the need to spend countless hours on shaving, waxing and plucking, and means you’ll never be caught out in an embarrassing situation because you didn’t plan ahead.
If you have any more questions about how the procedure works, our therapists are all highly trained & experienced in the use of medical grade lasers, are all laser safety certified and would be more than happy to answer any questions or concerns that you may have about the treatment.