Finding Solutions for Hair Removal

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Laser hair removal is, after Botox, the most common cosmetic procedure in America, with 14 million procedures performed in 2004. Laser hair removal solves an ordinary, yet irritating problem: unwanted hair. Cosmetic hair removal treatments offer a long-term solution to unwanted hair, with the bonus of being nearly painless. And new advances in technology means that laser hair removal is effective for more people now than it was when it was first approved by the FDA over a decade ago.
 How It Works

 Laser hair removal works by directing light and heat energy at hair follicles, which damages them so that hair doesn’t grow back. The process is simple:
 The treatment area is shaved or trimmed close to the skin. The less hair there is, the more effective the treatment since the laser can reach the bud more easily.
A small, hand-held device is moved over the treatment area. Any area that can be accessed by the device – legs, bikini area, underarms, or the face – can receive the therapy. The length of the procedure depends on the area of the body being treated. Underarms can take less than ten minutes; legs can take up to two hours.
The light energy is attracted to and absorbed by the color in the hair follicles. The heat from the laser selectively damages the follicle without damaging the skin around it.

 The laser warms the area being treated; this can feel like the snap of a rubber band or a quick pinch. Some instruments use a special cooling head or lotion to minimize discomfort from the heat of the laser.There should be several hair removal sessions to ensure that all hair is removed. Hair follicles have active and dormant cycles. Laser hair removal targets active hair follicles; the repeated will allow hairs that were dormant in the previous session, and are now active, to be targeted as well.
 “Laser” hair removal actually covers two types of hair removal which use light energy to target hair:
Laser hair removal. This procedure uses stimulated wavelengths of light to target hair follicle. The original laser was a ruby laser; this technology has progressed to a modern pulsed diode laser.
Intense pulsed light (IPL). This is the newest form of “laser” hair removal (though pulsed light isn’t a true laser). The IPL machines magnify a single wavelength of light by filtering the light. The filtered light is delivered in short bursts, which minimize exposure for the skin and surrounding tissue. Because the lasers are attracted to color, the laser is most effective when there is a big contrast between the hair color and the skin tone. In the past, this meant that people with very dark skin or light (red, gray, or blond) hair couldn’t have laser hair removal treatments; the laser treatment didn’t differentiate between the skin pigment and hair pigment, which could result in burns or in ineffective treatment.

 Newer lasers and newer procedures penetrate deeper below the skin and closer to the follicle. The pulsing light – either the pulsed diode laser or the pulsed light – hits the hair with very limited exposure to the surrounding tissue, so the potential damage to the skin is limited. Despite the advances in lasers and IPL devices, any instrument which depends solely on light energy has the potential to increase discomfort because it still depends on light to transfer heat to the hair and light can be attracted to skin pigments.
 Another promising twist for both pulsed diode lasers and IPL is combining the light energy with radio frequency (RF). Radio frequency is stronger than light energy; however, it is not attracted to color. Rather, the RF follows the heat course of the light to the follicle. RF delivers more powerful heat energy so it removes hair more effectively; but the fact that it isn’t attracted to color makes it a safer method of hair removal for people with dark skin or light hair.
 These two technologies – pulsed light and RF energy – make it easier, and safer, to improve skin’s appearance. Laser hair removal today offers more possibilities to a wider variety of people to remove unwanted hair anywhere on the body painlessly and long-term.

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