Frequently Asked Questions
- What is laser hair removal?
- Am I a candidate for laser hair removal?
- Is laser hair removal permanent?
- What are the possible risks and side effects of laser hair removal?
- What are the causes of excessive hair growth and 3 weeks after treatment?how can it effect my treatments?
- How do I determine my Fitzpatrick skin type?
- Is it true that laser hair removal can cause more hair than what I started with?
- Can I just reduce the density of hair on an area instead of removing it completely?
- What areas of the body can be treated?
- How does laser hair removal compare to other treatments?
- What are hursutism?
- What is unwanted female facial hair?
- How can I get the best value from each treatment?
- Moles, freckles, and tattoos in the area to be treated?
- What will happen on the treatment day?
- Are there any restrictions on my activity after treatment?
What is laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal is a procedure by which hair is removed from the body by utilizing a long pulse laser. Lasers are developed and designed from years of research. The laser parameters are carefully defined by studying the anatomy of the hair follicle and precisely matching the laser light and pulse duration to the follicle size, depth and location to inhibit the re-growth of the hair. Laser hair removal is performed by a specially-trained laser specialist or a doctor depending on where you go, who distributes the light of a long pulse laser onto the skin. The laser works by disabling hairs that are in their active growth cycle at the time of treatment. Since other hairs will enter their growth cycle at different times, several treatments are necessary to disable all of the follicles in a given area.
Am I a candidate for laser hair removal?
Both men and women seek laser hair removal services to have unwanted hair removed. Hair removal is commonly done on the hairline, eyebrow, top of the nose, lip, chin, ear lobe, shoulders, back, underarm, abdomen, buttocks, pubic area, bikini lines, thighs, face, neck, breast, arms, legs, hands, and toes. Laser works best on pale skin and dark coarse hair.
The closer you are to this combination (i.e. the lighter the skin and the more coarse and dark the hair), the better the results will generally be. Alexandrite long pulse and diode types of lasers work best on light-colored skin. Nd:YAG long pulse lasers are better and safer on darker skin (skin types IV and darker). Since laser works by being attracted to and targeting the dark pigment, using an alexandrite or a diode laser on darker skin can result in skin burning or loss of skin pigment (hypo-pigmentation).
The unique design of the Candela GentleYag allows treatment of people with most skin colors up to and including African American skin types and people with tanned skin. Because hair which is naturally blonde, light red or white does not have enough pigment in the roots, it cannot be reliably treated with any type of laser. Children can be treated, for example if they have a congenital nevus or other problem with excessive hair, but the children must be old enough (for example, 12 years old) to understand and cooperate with treatment. We frequently treat young, preteen girls who have develolped dark hair on the upper lips. Laser hair removal is not just for “cosmetic” problems. Patients with excess hair because of medications (i.e., organ transplant patients who are taking cyclosporine) can benefit from laser hair removal; as can patients who have problems with ingrown hair and folliculitis under prosthetic devices.
Is laser hair removal permanent?
“Permanent hair removal” means: “ALL the hair is gone, FOREVER!” There is NO hair removal method (including laser) which can guarantee “permanent hair removal”. The most realistic description of the results after laser treatment is: “long-term hair REDUCTION”. This means: “After four to six treatments the total amount of hair is greatly reduced — generally by 70% to 90% — and hair which does grow is often much finer and lighter in color.”
Most people are very pleased with this degree of improvement, as long as they know that this is what to expect before they have laser hair removal treatment. You must realize that after having between four and six treatment sessions it is VERY LIKELY that there WILL BE a very substantial reduction in both the amount of hair and also a reduction in the thickness and color of the hair in the treated areas. You should expect that this reduction in hair may last for many years.
Because lasers have been used for hair removal for only the last seven years, we cannot know if the results will continue to be felt in 10 or 20 years. However, we do know that stable, long-term hair reduction commonly lasts for at least two years, and some patients who had their last treatment six or seven years ago are still enjoying a high degree of hair reduction.
What should I expect before and after treatment?
You should shave the area to be treated 1 day before treatment. No waxing or removing hair from the root with any other way is allowed 4-6 weeks before and throughout the course of treatment as hair needs to be in place to be targeted by laser. The area should be shaved as closely as possible so that laser can target the most energy towards the hair follicle and not waste energy on the part of the hair above the skin’s surface.
If your hair is the type that you can’t see where it was right after you shave, make it a bit easier on your tech not to miss the spots you want treated by shaving 1-3 days before so the outline of where hair is growing is just VERY slightly visible. After treatment is completed (underarms take under 10 minutes, back treatment can take 1 hour or so), you should apply aloe vera to soothe the skin for a few days. Within 2-3 weeks, you should experience shedding of all treated hair.
At first, hair will look like it’s growing back in, but it is just coming through the skin to shed. Shedding starts at about 1.5 weeks and can last until 3.5 weeks post-treatment or so. Exfoliating and/or scrubbing gently in the shower with a loofa can help speed up the process. After shedding finishes, you might experience little black dots still “stuck” in the skin. These are commonly referred to as “pepper spots” and will shed eventually, but might take a bit longer. Exfoliate to help those out as well.
After shedding occurs, you should experience a hair free period for a few weeks, until the next set of hair that was dormant starts to come in. Once you have enough to justify one, go in for another treatment. This usually happens within 6-10 weeks post-treatment. The patient continues this process until he/she has reached diminishing returns and the remaining hairs are too fine for laser to target, or until you have reached you desired reduction.
What are the possible risks and side effects of laser hair removal?
The possibility exists that some side effects or complications can occur given various variables,
Itching, during treatment
Redness for up to 3 days
Swelling (around mouth of follicle) for up to 3 days
Pain, tingling, or feeling of numbness (cold spray)
Crusting/scab formation (on ingrown hairs)
Purpura (purple coloring of the skin) on tanned areas
Temporary pigment change (hypo-pigmentation or hyper-pigmentation)
What are the causes of excessive hair growth and 3 weeks after treatment?
Lasers destroy hair roots which are active at the time of treatment, but do not remove hair shafts instantly. Hair shafts in the treated hair follicles will fall out, or be “shed” mostly in the first week after treatment, with all of the treated hairs falling out within 2-3 weeks. It is normal that some hairs in the treated area may not fall out within 2-3 weeks. These will treated in the next session. These hairs which are being shed will come out on their own.
How can it effect my treatments?
The possibility exists that some side effects or complications can occur given various variables,
Glandular and/or hormonal imbalances (possible PCOS condition for women), including diseases causing these effects
Insulin resistance issues
Reactions to certain medications
Normal aging processes
Excessive temporary removal methods like waxing, tweezing, creams and depilatories, etc
Every laser candidate should explore a possible underlying reason of the extreme hair growth before starting laser because if there is something in the body consistently triggering hair growth, laser treatments might seem ineffective because the body will keep developing new hair. So, it will always seem like there is not reduction, when in fact it’s NEW hair your body is producing that you are seeing, not that treated by the laser growing back.
Women with PCOS hair growth patterns (upper lip, chin, cheeks, etc) should see an endocrinologist and have hormonal tests taken. Men can get tested for insulin resistance etc. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you might have an underlying medical condition causing excessive hair growth before starting laser hair removal. Once the condition is controlled through treatment/medication, laser hair removal can then be performed. Laser can affect the hair that’s currently present, but cannot prevent NEW hair from developing.
What is the hair growth cycle and how does hair growth work?
Under normal circumstances hair growth in each hair follicle occurs in a cycle. There are three main phases of the hair growth cycle: anagen, catagen and telogen. Anagen (active) is the growing phase or when the hair fiber is produced. During anagen, the hair contains an abundance of melanin, the pigment which gives your hair its color.
This is the phase during which laser hair removal treatment is most effective. Catagen (club hair) is the period of controlled regression of the hair follicle. This phase is when the lower part of the hair stops growing, but does not shed, and the follicle is reabsorbed. It will be difficult for permanence to be achieved when the hair is in the catagen growth cycle. Telogen (tired) is the last of the hair growth cycle. In this resting phase, the old hair falls out in preparation for the development of a new anagen hair.
Permanence cannot be achieved when the hair are in the telogen growth cycle. Remember, anagen is followed by catagen, a period of controlled regression of the hair follicle. Ultimately the hair follicle enters telogen, when the follicle is in a so-called resting state. Normally this cycle of hair production will continue for the duration of the individual's life. However, other factors can influence, promote and inhibit hair production. How well the laser can eliminate the hairs, depends on the skin type/color, hair type/color and what initially caused the hair to grow.
How do I determine my Fitzpatrick skin type?
n 1975, Thomas B Fitzpatrick, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, developed a classification system for skin typing. This system was based on a person's response to sun exposure in terms of the degree of burning and tanning the individual experienced. For successful removal of hair, wrinkles, veins, sun spots, and scars using LASER technology, it is necessary determine your correct skin type. TYPE I: Highly sensitive, always burns, never tans. Example: Red hair with freckles or Albino TYPE II: Very sun sensitive, burns easily, tans minimally.
Example: Fair-skinned, fair-haired Caucasians TYPE III: Sun sensitive skin, sometimes burns, slowly tans to light brown. Example: Darker Caucasians, European mix TYPE IV: Minimally sun sensitive, burns minimally, always tans to moderate brown. Example: Mediterranian, European, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian TYPE V: Sun-insensitive skin, rarely burns, tans well. Example: Hispanics, African-American, Middle Eastern TYPE VI: Sun-insensitive, never burns, deeply pigmented. Example: African-American, African, Middle Eastern.
Is it true that laser hair removal can cause more hair than what I started with?
This occurrence HAS been reported by consumers on various forums, although it has not been medically proven or confirmed. It is a rare occurrence and usually seems to happen when treating women’s faces or men’s back/shoulders/upper arms – usually when treating SPARSE SINGLE HAIRS or FINE VILLUS hairs and at lower settings. The best way to stay on the safe side is to only treat areas with laser that have coarse dark hair and make sure the technician doesn't touch any sparse or villus hairs. Those hairs should be removed with electrolysis.
Can I just reduce the density of hair on an area instead of removing it completely?
Yes, this can be achieved with having only a few treatments instead of the complete set of 6 and by an experienced technician who is careful not to miss areas during treatments.
What areas of the body can be treated?
ALL parts of the body can be treated with the laser except the area underneath the eyebrows. In women, the most common areas for treatment are upper lip, chin, bikini line, arms and legs, and underarms. In men, the most common areas for treatment are shoulders and back, and the beard area.
How does laser hair removal compare to other treatments?
The primary benefits of laser hair removal include: Larger areas may be treated with less discomfort than with electrolysis, waxing or tweezing. Shaving, waxing and depilatory creams remove the hair but leave the hair follicles intact, so the hair regrows within one to four weeks in most cases.
Hair removal methods like tweezing, waxing or sugaring which cause irritation may actually stimulate hair growth. This happens because one way the body defends itself against having hair yanked out is to produce thicker, stronger hairs which are harder to pull out next time. Laser hair removal offers long lasting results, and even if hair does eventually grow back it is usually finer in texture and lighter in color than the original hair, and much less of a cosmetic problem.
What are hursutism?
Hirsutism is excessive growth of hair in androgen (testosterone) -dependent areas of a woman’s body where terminal hair is not normally found, including the face, neck, chest or medial thighs.
What is unwanted female facial hair?
Growth of hair on the face which is coarser, longer or more profuse than is “normal” for the age and race of the woman. Unwanted Facial Hair is a chronic problem for about 22 million American women who remove facial hair at least once a week.
How can I get the best value from each treatment?
To get the best results with the smallest number of treatment sessions, please pay attention to the following guidelines as you work with us:
A. Avoid waxing / sugaring / plucking / EpiLady and electrolysis Because the laser beam seeks out and destroys ACTIVELY GROWING hair roots, it is important (if you want to get the best value from your treatment) NOT to wax / pluck / sugar / use EpiLady-type pluckers or have electrolysis for at least two weeks before laser treatment. These things temporarily remove the pigmented part of the hair follicle which the laser needs to use as a target when it destroys the hair follicle.<>
B. Please avoid tanning! The Candela GentleYag is safe and effective laser for most types of skin. Many Italian, Greek, and East Asian have been successfully treated with the Candela GentleYag laser. BUT: the lighter your skin color at the time of treatment, the better the laser beam can get through the skin to the hair roots, where it is needed. If you avoid tanning and stop using artificial “tanning” creams for six weeks before treatment, you will get the maximum possible benefit from each treatment session. People with very darker skin should also take precautions in the sun and wear a sunscreen between sessions.
It is also a good idea to minimize tanning for a few weeks after laser treatment, to reduce the chance that your tan will be somewhat uneven. Protect yourself by using a sunscreen on all treated areas before, during and after treatments.
C. Shaving or clipping the hair? Good idea! Shaving or clipping the area to be treated is not a problem. In fact, we like the areas to be shaved the day of treatment or the day before. Some people find that the skin is less sensitive if it is shaved at least a few hours before treatment. Another advantage of shaving the area to be treated BEFORE you come in is that YOU can shape the area to be treated exactly the way YOU want it to be. This is of particular importance in areas like the sideburns, temples, and bikini line / bikini area. Excess hair must be removed from the treatment area before treatment, because hair ABOVE the surface of the skin will simply absorb and waste laser energy and keep it from getting to the hair roots, where it is needed. If you do not wish to shave the area, our technicians will do it for you. Contrary to popular belief, shaving DOES NOT make hair grow back thicker, faster, darker or more profusely! So go ahead and shave before treatment, and between treatments!
D. Timing It takes 4 to 8 weeks for the next crop of hair roots to become active and develop pigment which is the target for the laser. So, to get the best value from your treatments, you treatments will be scheduled at 4-8 weeks intervals. There is no harm in having treatments MORE FREQUENTLY than every 4-8 weeks, or having treatments less than 4 weeks after waxing, plucking, etc. — but this is less efficient, and could increase the total number of treatments needed to get a good result. Also, while there is no harm in waiting MORE THAN 4-8 weeks between treatments (for example, if there has not been much regrowth after your last treatment), there is usually no extra BENEFIT to waiting longer than 6-12 weeks between treatments.
E. Medications? There are a few medications which should not be taken while you are getting laser treatment. Anabolic steroids should certainly NOT be taken unless medically necessary, because these can increase male-pattern hair growth in some cases. We cannot treat you if you are presently or have recently used Accutane or Bactrim. Women who take injections of Climacteron (testosterone & estradiol) as part of therapy for menopause and to increase libido often experience unwanted hair growth, which can be treated with laser hair removal.
Medicines which inhibit hair growth (for example, spironolactone, Diane-35 birth control pills, Euflex, Androcur and Vaniqa cream) might slightly reduce the pigment in hair roots and make laser treatment less efficient, but this seldom interferes with the effectiveness of laser treatment. Laser hair removal can certainly be done WHILE you are on those medicines, if you wish.
These “anti-androgenic” medicines produce gradual but temporary effects, and will not remove unwanted hair from areas that are independent of androgen regulation. Pre-treatment with medicines like Acyclovir, Valtrex or Famvir may be necessary if you tend to get cold sores in the area to be treated
Moles, freckles, and tattoos in the area to be treated?
Small moles and freckles do not require special precautions. Large, dark moles and freckles which are to be treated will require a reduction in the intensity of the laser light, the same way that the intensity would be reduced when treating a dark-skinned or tanned person. We do not treat tattoos, but this is seldom a problem because quite often there is not much hair growth in tattoos. Be sure to tell us if you have permanent lip liner or permanent eyebrows, because these are tattoos and special precautions are needed if there will be laser treatment near those areas.
What will happen on the treatment day?
HELLO LASER, GOOD-BYE RAZOR!
Lasting hair removal has never been this easy! Other than your regular skin care routine, there is no standard “prep” for this procedure. Please do not wear makeup on the areas to be treated, because some kinds of makeup can absorb and waste laser energy, or even heat up to the point where your skin would be irritated. Makeup will need to be removed before treatment, and may be reapplied after two hours. Do not apply vaseline, lip balm or other heavy petroleum based products on the area to be treated. There are no restrictions on what you may eat or drink prior to your appointment.
Please do not shave the area to be treated on the day of your treatment. We like to see a small amount of hair to determine regrowth patterns.
After all of your last minute questions have been answered and paperwork handled, the areas you wish to have treated will be cleansed and pretreatment photos may be taken. Everyone in the treatment room must wear protective goggles when the laser is turned on. The Candela GentleYag is a high powered laser system, and can cause eye injury if proper eye wear is not worn.
The length of the procedure itself can range from a few minutes for the upper lip to an hour or more (for example, a man’s chest or back). If you decide before coming in that you would like to have additional areas treated, please call ahead so that we can schedule enough time to accommodate your needs.
Are there any restrictions on my activity after treatment?
Since the laser does not burn or cut the skin in any way, no bandages are necessary. You can return to work the same day and resume all your regular activities. Please do not tan the skin or use tanning creams between treatments. Tanning between treatments can increase the risk of hyperpigmentation and uneven skin coloration. It is OK to resume shaving or clipping hair in the treated area after 3-4 days. Do not tweeze, wax or sugar the hair between treatments. In the bikini area, it is best not to shave at all between treatments to avoid ingrown hair problems.
Shaving really is the BEST temporary way to remove unwanted hair before and between laser treatments. Shaving leaves the hair SHAFT in the hair follicle, so the hair shaft can be a target for laser energy, heat up and KILL the hair follicle. You can shave as often as you want. It has been shown in scientific studies that:
Shaving does NOT make hair grow faster.
Shaving does NOT make hair grow thicker.
Shaving does NOT make hair grow darker.
Shaving does NOT make hair grow more profusely.