March 10, 2008

Is Laser Hair Removal The Answer To Unwanted Hair?  

There are many reasons that my patients consider laser hair removal. Whether it's a woman who doesn't want to shave her legs anymore to a man who is tired of the painful tweezing of that unattractive hair between his eyebrows. Regardless these grooming chores raise many questions with my patients.

It used to be that if you wanted to permanently remove hair, electrolysis was your only option. In the electrolysis procedure, an electric current is used to damage hair follicles so they no longer grow. Many people find it to be very painful. It provides a less painful option to get rid of unwanted hair.

In laser hair removal, a laser light is used to damage the follicles much like in electrolysis. The hair either stops growing permanently or it grows slowly and is lighter in color and texture. For most people, laser hair removal isn't painful, but it can cause some discomfort.

Determining if Laser Hair Removal is Right for You

While this is generally a safe and effective way to reduce unwanted hair, there are some drawbacks to consider.

First, laser hair removal doesn't work equally well for everyone. The laser light is calibrated to react to darker colors. People with fair skin attempting to remove dark, coarse hair tend to have the best results.

This doesn't mean that if you have darker skin, you can't take advantage of it, but you may need more treatments to get the results you want. You should discuss the possible outcomes with your dermatologist before making a decision.

Second, you cannot do laser hair removal if you have a tan. The pigmentation in your skin when you have a tan can interfere with the laser light. It can also result in dark patches appearing on your skin. So, you have to wait for the tan to fade before scheduling your treatment.

Third, no matter your skin type multiple treatments are almost always required to achieve permanent hair removal. This does add to the expense.

Finally, there is the possibility that you will experience adverse side effects from laser hair treatment. The lasers may change the pigmentation of your skin in the treated area, making it appear lighter or darker than the surrounding areas. You may also experience burning, blistering or scarring. Minor swelling after the procedure is normal.

All that being said, laser hair removal is generally safe and effective, albeit expensive. If you decide to receive a laser hair treatment make sure you find an experienced technician who works closely with a license dermatologist. This will dramatically reduce your chances of experiencing adverse effects.

Jay Brachfeld, M.D.

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