For obvious reasons, unwanted facial hair is a source of great embarrassment for women. Not only does it affect self-esteem, but it also requires repeated visits to beauty parlours to get rid of it.
Facial skin is delicate and repeated bleaching or waxing may damage it or cause pigmentation. This is why lasers come to the rescue. They eliminate unwanted hair without harming the skin.
Although women with unwanted facial hair use it more, it is also popular among metrosexual men who want to get rid of facial or body hair as per current grooming standards. Before opting for a laser treatment, though, familiarise yourself with how it all works.
The type of lasers used
Of the many types of lasers, the Nd:YAG, IPL and diode lasers are used for laser hair reduction [LHR].
The wavelength of Nd:YAG laser is such that it is almost entirely absorbed by the melanin [pigment] of the hair, leaving the skin unharmed [melanin is capable of absorbing wavelengths ranging from 800nm – 1000nm]. Hence, it is the most preferred for this procedure.
How it is done
First, the area to be treated is shaved. This reduces the chances of heat contact with the skin and facilitates smooth movement of the laser probe. Don’t worry, shaving does not increase the thickness of the hair.
A thick layer of cooling gel is then applied on the area and sequential laser shots are given. Many people report experiencing a warm/stinging sensation during this stage. Some sensitive areas are made numb using anaesthetic creams prior to the procedure.
At the end, ice is applied on the area to ease discomfort. Lastly, a high SPF sunscreen is applied on the area and you can go home.
Immediately after the treatment, you might find redness and swelling around the hair follicle. These symptoms usually disappear in a couple of hours.
Protection against sunlight is an absolute post-care measure, not only on the day of the session but throughout the therapy. Do not indulge in beauty or cosmetic treatments or cosmetic therapy like chemical peels for at least a week before and after a session.
Hair growth occurs in a cyclical manner. There is a growing phase or anagen, resting phase or telogen and a shedding phase or catagen. Only anagen hair is most affected by laser.
What that means is that though the laser targets the entire treatment area, it affects only around 30 per cent hair. The anagen hair needs to be targeted in the next cycle by repeating the session after 4 – 6 weeks.
That’s why LHR cannot be done in a single session; one might notice nothing more than a reduction in the density of hair after the first session. On an average, 6 – 8 sessions of LHR are needed for optimum results.
At the end of the prescribed number of sessions, around 80 per cent hair is permanently removed leaving the rest as fine and thin hair. This hair can be managed by follow-up [maintenance] sessions every three months or so.
For best results, rule out any hormonal imbalance. In case there is an imbalance, combining LHR with medication gives better results.
Thicker the better
Contrary to popular belief, lasers work best on thick and coarse hair. Thick hair is better able to absorb a laser than colourless and fine hair. Fine light-coloured hair may not completely disappear, but becomes finer than what it is.
What may go wrong
If the redness and burning sensation experienced immediately after the treatment persist, contact your doctor; it could be skin burn. Burn occurs mainly due to technical errors or due to extreme sensitivity of the skin.
Hence, get the procedure done from a trained medical professional. It’s better to ask for a patch test before the first session to see how your skin responds to laser.
Further, if lower intensity energy is used than required, it may stimulate hair growth. This is known as paradoxical hair growth and happens rarely. The new hair tends to be fine and light coloured. It is treated by graded increase in the energy used for treatment.
A word of caution
- Do not undergo the laser session if you have an infection of the skin or severe acne at the site to be treated.
- Skip the treatment if you are sensitive to the sun, are pregnant or suffer from auto-immune medical conditions.
- Ensure that the dermatologist does a detailed skin examination before your first laser session.
- Do not wax before a procedure as laser cannot be done on hairless skin. Your doctor needs to see some hair growth before starting the procedure to decide the energy settings of the machine according to the hair type.
Lasers have no effect on grey/white hair or bleached hair. Hence, do not bleach the hair immediately before the procedure.
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