What to Know About Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal is a reasonable way to remove unwanted body hair. But it is not as simple as waving a magic--or laser--wand and having hair disappear. Here's what to know about laser hair removal in terms of time, money, and results. Then you can decide if laser hair removal is the best method for you to pursue.

How does it work?

Laser hair removal works by aiming an "invisible beam of light and a constant source of heat" at the hair follicles, according to HairLasers. The heat is absorbed by individual hair follicles, which are just beneath the skin's surface. The heat essentially destroys the root, preventing regrowth.

It is important to understand how laser hair removal works, because that will largely determine who will see the best results. Think about wearing a dark shirt on a hot, sunny day. Just as the dark fabric absorbs light and converts it to heat, so too, dark hair absorbs more laser light and becomes hotter. The absorbed heat destroys hair roots.

Who gets the best results?

Due to the nature of lasers, those with dark hair and light skin will see the best results from laser hair removal. Light hair (blond, red, white, or gray) does not respond as well as dark hair. Having dark skin or a suntan may also affect results.

What are the side effects?

Some discomfort may be experienced as the follicles absorb heat. And slight swelling may follow laser treatments. Some skin types may experience discoloration of the skin, which can be permanent, but no serious risks have been reported.

Is removal permanent?

Hair grows in phases, and removal "is most successful when hair is in the anagen phase," or active growth phase, which extends over several years, according to HairLasers. Depending on which phase the hair is in during laser treatment, it may not respond well, requiring repeated treatments.

Other things to know

Laser hair removal is not covered by insurance and can be quite expensive, depending on the number of treatments needed. It can also be a rather drawn-out procedure with four to six weeks between sessions, and it may take three to five sessions to achieve an 80 percent reduction in hair.

Laser hair removal can be a very effective method of removing unwanted body hair, especially from the face. Just be aware of the nature of this procedure and choose your laser technician carefully--those with the most training and experience should deliver the most satisfactory results.

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