Laser Hair Removal
Unwanted hair can be a problem for both males and females causing
embarrassment, especially facial hair for women. Most other techniques
for hair removal are short lived and may be expensive.
TechniqueThe hair growth cycle involves 3 stages, the active
growth phase, the resting phase and the shedding phase. The laser only
works on the active phase of growth and as this may vary from individual
hair follicles the treatment may have to be repeated several times.
The laser emits energy of a particular wave length which is absorbed
by the pigment found in hair. The thermal energy is then transmitted
via the hair follicle down the hair shaft and causes irreversible damage
to the growth centre or hair follicle. The root of the hair therefore
stops growing and the hair may come out immediately or within the first
21 days. Various laser systems may be used, the commonest being ruby
lasers, large Nd- YAG laser and Alexandrite lasers.
Length of OperationInitially a test patch is carried out to
determine the amount of stinging effect felt during a procedure as the
hair evaporates when exposed to laser energy. This is left for 6-8 weeks
to see if there are any unwanted side effects. Some discomfort may
persist and if this is a particular problem a local anaesthetic gel can
be applied. The length of treatment depends on the area covered.
Treatment is normally carried out at intervals of 4-8 weeks depending on
the area treated.
Time in HospitalIt is normally done as an out-patient and therefore no time off work is necessary.
Risks and ComplicationsTreatment does not normally work on very
blond, white or grey hair due to the lack of pigment. It should not be
used in the ears or the nose due to potential damage of surrounding
tissues. The area to be treated should have recently been shaved so only
a small amount of hair is visible. It is important not to have
undergone any other form of hair removal 6 weeks prior to the treatment.
Occasionally blistering or skin depigmentation (lightening may
occur). This is normally short lived but occasionally can be long term.
This is due to underlying damage to the melanin in the skin.
Any moles in the treated area or freckles may become darker as a
result of the treatment and therefore these are normally covered during
One should avoid any form of sun exposure or tanning treatment prior
to laser removal by using a total sun block for UVA and UVB.
Photosensitisation (skin irritation) may occur when the laser is
used on patients taking certain medications. It is advisable to check
whether the medication you are on can result in photosensitisation prior
to treatment. Special care should be taken in pigmented skin.
Outcome and PrognosisAt least 3 treatments are normally
recommended. The treatment is rarely permanent as hair follicles can
remain dormant and then enter an active growth pattern. A significant
reduction in hair growth is seen by the majority of patients. If
regrowth occurs the hair is finer and less dense. Repeat treatments may
be required several times a year.