Laser Hair Removal

By: Nikki Brueggemann

2/9/2024

Laser hair removal is a cosmetic procedure that uses a concentrated beam of light (IPL or laser) to remove unwanted hair. The process involves targeting the hair follicles with the laser, which damages them and inhibits future hair growth. Here's a step-by-step explanation of how laser hair removal works:

1. Melanin absorption: The primary target for the laser is melanin, the pigment responsible for hair and skin color. The laser emits a specific wavelength of light that is absorbed by the melanin in the hair follicles. This absorption generates heat.

2. Heat transfer: The absorbed light energy is converted into heat, which damages the hair follicle. The goal is to heat the follicle enough to disrupt its growth without causing harm to the surrounding skin.

3. Follicle destruction: The heat damages the hair follicle, inhibiting or delaying future hair growth. It can also make existing hair finer and lighter.

4. Selective photothermolysis: Laser hair removal relies on the principle of selective photothermolysis, where the laser targets specific structures without damaging surrounding tissues. Melanin is the target in this case, and the laser is designed to be absorbed more by dark hair than by the lighter surrounding skin.

5. Multiple sessions: Hair grows in cycles, and not all hair follicles are in the active growth phase (anagen) at the same time. To effectively target all hair follicles, multiple sessions are required. The sessions are typically spaced five to eight weeks apart to capture different hair growth cycles.

It's important to note that laser hair removal is most effective on individuals with darker hair and lighter skin because the contrast between the melanin in the hair and the skin enhances the targeting of the laser. People with lighter hair may find the treatment less effective, and those with very dark skin may be at a higher risk of side effects, as the laser could also be absorbed by the melanin in the skin. Additionally, laser hair removal should be performed by trained professionals to minimize the risk of complications.

Here at Washington Skin Solutions we use the newest technology from Alma Lasers. The Soprano Ice Titanium utilizes three different wavelengths of light and laser to damage the hair follicles. Combining diode, IPL, and Yag laser together gives a much more effective treatment while lessening the side effects and increasing the safety profile. This makes us able to treat tanned and darker skin types safely. 

Soprano Ice Titanium SHR™ by Alma works differently. Practitioners employ the Soprano laser applicator “In-Motion™”. This technique heats up the dermis to a temperature level that effectively damages the hair follicles and prevents hair re-growth. All of this while avoiding damage to the surrounding skin tissue. The device delivers short laser pulses deep into the dermis at a high repetition rate, achieving high average power and a more therapeutically effective heat build-up. This is achieved by using a handpiece that actually emits 3 different laser and light beams simultaneously through a large, cooled spot size to revolutionize “laser hair removal” and make it quick and comfortable. 

You will want to shave within 24 hours of your appointment (with a new razor) to ensure the hair is as close to the skin's surface as possible. Hair that exceeds the skin surface by a great deal with scatter the energy and reduce the effectiveness of treatments. 

The hair follicles cycle approximately every 5-8 weeks. In order to effectively treat all active hair follicles, we recommend treatments approximately every 6 weeks. The hair follicles can only be killed during the anagen phase of growth (the active growth part of the cycle). Approximately 15-20% of hair follicles are in the anagen phase at any given time. By treating every 6 weeks for 6 treatments, you can effectively eliminate approximately 95% of the dark coarse hair follicles and approximately 60% of the lighter/finer follicles 

The human body is never 100% compliant with textbooks. While the follicles that are killed during treatment are gone forever, you may grow new follicles down the road. Especially during times of hormone shifts (pregnancy/lactation/menopause). Some medications can cause hair growth (thyroid issues, steroids). However, typically the regrowth of follicles is minimal. 

Contraindications for any type of light based treatment is sun/UV exposure. You can not have any unprotected sun or UV exposure on the treatment areas for 2 weeks prior to treatment. We recommend a physical (zinc oxide/titanium dioxide), broad spectrum sunblock with a SPF rating of 30-50. Occasionally medications can increase our light sensitivity, in which case treatment would need to be postponed.  

The most important part of treatment is protecting your skin and staying within your 5-8 week time frames. This will ensure a good outcome. We recommend having a consultation prior to beginning treatment so we can go over all the information in detail and make sure you are an appropriate candidate. 

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.