Welcome to our resource on everything to do with laser hair removal. On this page you’ll find a ton on information including answers to all the questions you could possibly have. Below you’ll find pages dedicated articles to the most common questions.
- Laser Hair Removal & Pregnancy – Key information about taking the treatment during pregnancy.
- How Much Does it Cost? – The cost & other factors which can impact how much you pay.
- How Does it Work? – Some of the technical details of how the technology & hair follicles work.
- Is it Safe? – The potential dangers associated with the treatment and advice on staying safe.
- How Permanent is it? How long you can expect the treatment to last for.
- Use of Numbing Cream – How cream can substantially reduce the pain you feel during treatment.
- 5 Laser Hair Removal Myths – Commonly held opinions about the treatment which aren’t true.
1. What is Laser Hair Removal?
2. The Different Types of Treatment
2.1 The Types of Lasers
3. Its Increasing Popularity
4. Does it Work? What’s the Science Behind it?
5. How Much Does it Cost?
6. Risks and Dangers
7. How Long does it Last?
8. Does it Hurt?
9. Can everyone get it?
10. Beyond a Cosmetic Treatment
10.2 Sex Reassignment Therapy
10. Before and After Pictures
11. Extra Resources
What is Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal is the process of damaging hair follicles to permanently reduce hair growth. This is done by pressing a machine against the skin which then emits a strong pulse of light. It targets and damages the hair follicle with heat therefore reducing hair growth. Several hair follicles can be removed at once using this approach which makes it faster, and less painful, than electrolysis. Several sessions will always be needed for a successful treatment. The treatment isn’t 100% permanent but can substantially reduce hair growth.
Effectiveness : High
Typical Cost : $80-300
Sessions Needed : 3-6
Treatment Time : Low/Medium
The Different Types of Treatment
There are two main sorts of laser hair removal. The kind you can administer yourself with smaller home based devices. And the kind that you can get at a clinic. This part of the site is all about clinic based laser hair removal. If you want to learn more about the home devices click here. Generally treatment from a professional at a clinic is better because it uses more powerful equipment than the home devices and is administered by a professional.
Laser & IPL
There are two terms you may see used interchangeably – laser hair removal and IPL. Within the laser hair removal grouping there are then further sorts of laser. IPL stands for intense pulsed light and the treatments are very similar to laser based ones. From a consumers point of view the results are very similar. The difference lies in the exact wavelengths used. Laser treatment using a alexandrite laser is typically reported as reducing hair growth by 2% more than IPL. A diode laser typically reduces hair growth by a further 5%:
“Hair reduction after 6 months was reported as 68.75% for alexandrite lasers, 71.71% for diode lasers, and 66.96% for IPL”
So technically from this study diode lasers are superior.
There are other laser types too such as YAG and Ruby lasers. However we were unable to find conclusive studies on their performance. But as you can see from the above results the differences aren’t massive, and more importance should be given to the skill and reputation of the practitioner than which technology is used. Much of the time the laser used will be dictated by your skin tone. Typically a YAG laser will be used with darker tones as it reduces the risk of skin burns and blisters.
Increasing Popularity & Global Statistics
The first treatments were performed 20-25 years ago but since that time the technology has developed massively. Only within the last 15 years has the treatment become more widespread. There has been a constant demand for the procedure over the past 10+ years due to its proven results and successful clinical trials. Here you can see the current trends for people googleing laser hair removal:
Here you can see global interest for laser hair removal according to country:
This could point towards the treatment being very effective. Would people still be researching it if the treatments didn’t provide satisfactory results? This post from CBS points to it being the second most popular non surgical beauty procedure.
Does it Work? What’s the Science Behind it?
There have been loads of studies done on the procedure and all seem to point towards the treatment being both effective and safe. The wavelength of light sent out by the typical device targets only hair, and hair follicles (It doesn’t hit the skin on these wavelengths). It focuses a burst of energy on them greatly impairing their ability to produce new hair. Unlike electrolysis it can do this with many hairs in a certain area vastly reducing treatment time.
Here are a few scientific studies which have been carried out:
- Lasers in Medical Science April 2006, Volume 21, Issue 1. Found a 69% reduction after 6 months.
- This study found that “efficacy is superior to conventional treatments (shaving, wax epilation, electrolysis), (iv) evidence exists for a partial long-term hair removal efficacy beyond 6 months postoperatively after repetitive treatments”
- This article shows how even patients with darker skin are starting to benefit from the treatment.
How Much does it Cost?
Normally the treatment is given according to body area. So you could get your upper lip done, or your legs done, or your arms done. There are specifics in article linked at the top of the page, but as a general rule the larger the area, the more expensive treatment will be. Treatment will generally cost $60 for a small area, $200 for a medium area and $300 for a large area. However you’ll typically need at least 3-4 sessions. And large variation exists depending on the area of the country and reputation of the practitioner.
Discounts can often be found using sites like groupon, or by taking advantage of introductory offers.
Risks & Dangers
In general the procedure is seen to be safe as reported in this study, it states “Overall incidence of adverse effects after laser/light hair removal appears to be low, with very uncommon permanent sequelae.”
The main problems arise if the treatment is performed on the wrong skin type. Typically this is individuals with dark skin who may experience minor burns or skin pigmentation change. Pigmentation change is reported [Lasers in Medical Science April 2006, Volume 21, Issue 1] not to be permanent and should go after 6 months.
Laser hair removal technology is cleared for use by the FDA as long as the device itself meets safety requirements. Who can give the treatment depends on the state. In some states only physicians can perform the treatment. In others only registered nurses or assistants working directly under a physician can perform the procedure. Some states don’t require any formal training. In the UK the practitioner must have a Accredited Qualification in Laser/IPL (Level 4). The treatment can be dangerous if performed incorrectly – the salon machines are much more powerful than the home ones. So it’s important that the practitioner knows what they’re doing. This is something you should put research into. Please see our resources at the bottom of the page for more help with this.
How Long Does it Last?
Another important consideration is how long the treatment’s going to last. Some people think that laser hair removal is completely permanent. This isn’t the case. It reduces hair but doesn’t completely remove it. Only electrolysis can permanently remove hair.
It’s hard to give an exact amount of time – it will differ from person to person. But you should expect to need top up treatments as your body repairs the damaged hair follicles. If you read the article on how laser hair removal works you’ll understand that hair is always in different stages of growth. So it’s practically impossible to remove all the hair in one go, as it all won’t be in a stage of growth suitable for laser hair removal.
You should go to your local clinic and ask someone there for an assessment unique to you. These factors can all play a part in how fast your hair grows back.
- Skin type.
- Skin color.
- Laser used.
- Skill of practitioner.
Does it Hurt?
The treatment is somewhat painful. People say it hurts a much as an elastic band flicking against your skin. So it’s not unbearable. At most good clinics they’ll be able to provide you with some sort of numbing cream, or will be able to turn down the intensity of the device if needed. Much depends on your own personal pain tolerance, but recent developments have substantially reduced the pain of the treatment.
Can Everyone Get It?
There is a very small risk of skin discoloration. This is because the laser is targeting certain darker colors in your skin. However a very intensive treatment would be needed for this. A good clinic will spot the signs of this and adjust treatment accordingly.
If the treatment is too intensive there is also a risk of blistering. Again, a good clinic won’t let you take a treatment which is dangerous so this shouldn’t be a problem.
The above chart shows the range of skin colors from best to worst for laser hair removal. It still is possible, due to recent technology developments, to have hair removal on darker skin tones. However most clinics won’t offer this. You’ll need to research this in some detail. Try a google search similar to the following:
“[Your city] dark skin laser hair removal”
The chart above shows different hair colors. It goes from worst to best in terms of the best hair color for laser hair removal. Again, it still may be possible to be treated with blonde and ginger hair colors. But you’ll need to look into it in more detail. Try googleing the following:
“[Your city] [ginger/blonde] laser hair removal”
There isn’t really any danger with the above hair types. But the treatment could just be ineffective as it would be unable to locate the hairs and hair follicles.
Beyond a Cosmetic Treatment
The procedure is also used to make a tangible difference in the quality of peoples lives beyond being a simple cosmetic treatment. It can be seen as an essential treatment in both hirsutism and gender reassignment therapy.
Hirsutism is a condition, mostly in women, which results in excessive hair growth around the face, neck, chest, stomach and buttocks. This can be incredibly damaging to self confidence and in turn can lead to further issues such as depression and social anxiety. According to this NHS policy statement, individuals who had the treatment had “Regrowth is not only less dense but also less coarse”. This should then bring the levels of hair growth down to more of a manageable level for the patient. In the UK the NHS can provide the treatment free of charge if diagnosed by a doctor.
Sex reassignment therapy
Gender reassignment therapy can help transsexual people lead happier and more productive lives. The therapy includes hormone replacement therapy as well as various surgical procedures. However laser hair removal can be an important part of the treatment when transitioning from man to woman as men usually have substantially less body hair than women. Although HRT can go some way to reducing hair growth it’s not usually enough and laser treatment can permanently reduce hair growth after several treatments. This treatment is also available on the NHS in the UK.