Back Hair, Upper Arm Hair, and Ear Dust

I’m new to this site, but read a lot of good testimonials and occasional excellent experienced advice (eg. LAGirl or Andrea). I am 34 y/o WM physician(not in the cosmetic field) with Fitzpatrick type III skin and medium brown hair. I noticed since age 27 to 30 y/o that I now have mild light brown scattered back and upper arm hair that I remove monthly with an electric razor. I also have nose hairs I have to trim monthly and mild light vellus ear hair that I pluck monthly. Oh, the interesting changes I’ve developed while getting older chronologically! I’m going for a hair removal evaluation in two weeks for possible GentleLASE hair removal (long-pulse Alexandrite laser)on the back and arms. Any suggestions for the ear hair removal (eg. electrolysis) or just pluck it for now until something better comes along. Looking for recommendations/advice. I’ve done a fair amount of research and recently read this wonderful site, which hopefully will reassure me that I’m not wasting time and money for some vain, narcissistic eutopia.

You have to be careful when doing laser on your back. When I first started my treatments on the back, I had some scattered fine hairs, and my practitioner wasn’t that good, she used the laser on all of my back, instead of using only where there was hair, so what happened was that after 3 treatments I had much more hair then when I started. So I went to another practitioner and now I’ve had some good results. Just be careful because the back is a very difficult place to treat, and if the practitioner doesn’t use a very high energy, it could actually stimulate hair growth.

laser is not a very good option for scattered hairs. electrolysis is a better way to go for those. treating single scattered hairs with laser, especially on a hard to treat areas like the back and upper arms on a man, can stimulate more growth. i don’t believe there is a good method for hair removal in the ears or nose for now. laser might be ok for the nose, some just treat from the outside. once again, laser is not good for any vellus hairs. electrolysis is the way to go on those. but electrolysis can’t be done inside the nose due to possibly infections. same with ears, but not positive on this one.

Thanks for the advice. Also, let me more specifically address the back hair: scattered means focal light brown vellus-terminal hair patches (eg. upper center and lower center of back).

how many hairs per each patch? also, if the hair is light brown, it might not have enough pigment for laser to work. electrolysis seems like the best option here

How many hairs per patch? ~300

300 should be fine for laser. you need a diode or alexandrite. LightSheer diode laser in good hands would probably be your best option and make sure they use settings of 30 joules and up.

I just got back from my initial free consultation in the Palm Beach Area of Florida and was told that I was a good candidate for GentLASE Plus laser hair removal on my back and upper arm/shoulder areas. As she seems to know that am a corneal and refractive surgeon in town, she seems to have given me a good deal: $250/treatment. I had 2 test patches done on my upper chest, but the CME would only treat at 18 Joules. I asked for 30 Joules. Her rebuttal was that her laser didn’t go that high and that 20 Joules is the highest she would go. She mentioned that since they use a 18 mm spot size, her laser couldn’t go up to 30 Joules. LAGIRL any responses/recommendations? Interestingly, the medical moniter of the facility is a medical doctor in antiaging. I’ll ask next time what is his medical specialty. I’m scheduled to go back in 2 weeks for a few more test patches–one on my upper arm and one on my back–and some electrolysis work on my ear dust and two vellus unibrow hairs. Looking forward to feedback. I feel like I’m working for Consumer Reports <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />.

GentleLASE Plus has adjustable spot sizes. So yes, for 18mm, 20 joules is max. But if she takes a different head for the laser, the 15mm, and put that on, that she can go to 30 joules etc. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> I was treated with this laser at 16 joules the first 2 times and now getting treated at 30 joules with no issues on type II skin. I would ask her to do test spots at 25 and 30 joules, so she can see that your skin can handle it without burning it. Then she would feel more comfortable I’m sure to go higher.

From “Comparative Monte Carlo Exam of Energy Penetration for Different Hair Removal Lasers”. Main point-talking about fluence/spot size relationship to energy delivered at depth of skin. “While the 12mm spot size only delivers 78% of the energy of the 18mm spot at a depth of 4.5mm, at 40j/cm with the 12mm spot, the total energy delivered to the hair bulb is 50% more than the 20j/cm delivered with the 18mm spot.” Lower joules are used for patient safety/pain, skin color, or to increase revenues. Also they want to get through the treatment fast so large spot size helps them do this. Just my opinion.

I agree that most techs use larger spot size for speed. You’re technically paying them per certain amount of time. LightSheer models only come in 9mm and 12mm spot sizes. There is no downside to using GentleLASE on 12mm or 15mm instead of 18mm. That’s still even larger than LightSheer and LightSheer is a great laser.

OK, I’m back from my 2nd patch tests and to check on my 1st tests. I don’t think the 18 Joule or the 20 Joules 18 mm spot sizes did much, but the CME pulled some hairs out from the treated sights (chest area) easily and painlessly. So maybe it did work a little. Anyway we tried the 20 Joule 18 mm spot size again and the 35 Joule 12 mm spot size. I also had the eletrolysis work on my vellus ear hairs (~15/ear) and a few (~3) vellus monobrow hairs. Electrolysis hurts a little bit, but I went away happy <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />since I know electrolysis works effectively in permanently removing unwanted hairs and it only cost $25. I go back in 2 weeks for my 1st partial back and upper arm treatment.

Since you’re a physician, do you think, after having undergone laser, that it should be under closer medical supervision? A lot of the places I’ve been to don’t even have a doctor present, you just fill out a form that the medical director “reviews” and you’re good to go. Considering how dangerous lasers can be in the wrong hands, I worry about that a little. I’m also looking in to laser myself, and wonder if I should go to a dermatologist or if I should risk going to one of the chain clinics.

having a medical degree has nothing to do with knowing about hair removal. they don’t teach is at med school. actually, quite the opposite, the chain clinics you’re talking about usually have a high underpaid employee turnover with employees with minimal laser-specific training and no specific understanding of hair removal. you need to look for someone who knows about how hair works/grows, and how to best kill it in addition to having experience in operating a laser. it’s actually not hard to operate a laser, the slight dangers of burning only result from someone who uses too high of settings on a certain skin type for example, and that takes experience in knowing how high or low to set it. so, expeirence here is most important and a lot of chain clinic employees don’t have it.

Responding to the questions on should hair removal laser centers be under physician supervision. First, yes, I’m an medical doctor. I’m am a university employed ophthalmologist who does refractive eye surgery and other laser procedures including UV excimer laser for LASIK or anterior surface ablation (PRK, LASEK, Epi-LASIK); femtosecond laser for cutting LASIK flaps, corneal transplants, lamellar corneal grafts, Intac segment channels; neodium:YAG laser for lens capsulotomies, and, occasionally, diode or argon lasers for photocoagulation of retinas or to make laser peripheral iridotomies. Based on my limited experience, I think that a medical doctor should at least be supervising these hair removal centers (similar to how an anesthesiologist runs anesthesia centers with nurse anesthetists). The main thing I’m concern about is making sure the CMEs are properly trained to practice evidence-based medicine (i.e. treats patients using clinical experience along with prospective, randomized clinical trial data). After seeing the pressure, mass advertizing, and hype that pharmaceutical or laser companies can proclaim–even when minimal to no prospective, randomized trial data has been obtained, I just hope that each hair removal clinic tries to collect data on new devices so that patients don’t get deceived until years later. Thus, I’m being somewhat conservative and am getting more electrolysis work done for now (since I know this has a 70-80% long-term success as I have done it for abberant or misdirected eyelashes on patients with trichiasis, or eyelashes that rub against the eye, and have gotten good long-term results). Also realize that the study I used to make my decisions just came out in a peer-reviewed dermatology journal: Haedersdal M, Wulf HC. Evidence-based review of hair removal using lasers and light sources. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 2006;20:9-20. You can obtain it from and type in the authors names.

Ok, back to hair removal experiences. I just got back from my 3rd and 4th hair removal sessions. Yesterday, I had electrolysis on a few (~30) scattered dark single terminal back hairs. It hurt a little and left a few transient red spots that lasted about half a day, but overall not bad. Today I had a little more electolysis on a few dark single terminal back hair that I found were missed yesterday (same experience as 3rd treatment) and then had my first GentLASE treatment using a 15 mm spot size at 30 Joules. I had my lower and upper central back treated, my upper arms, and the superior region of my chest (only regions where definite patches of light brown terminal hair were present). I requested that I did not want a full back treatment and only wanted treatment where patches of hair were present (remembering early comments on stimulating hair growth in areas where no hair existed previously). Scattered single or small groups of hair were treated with electrolysis before the laser treatment. In my experience, the alexandrite laser treatment hurt almost the same as the eletrolysis and now I have a red follicular reaction where the laser treatment occurred, which the CME told me was a good sign for successful hair removal. I go back in 3 weeks for a free touch up session. Total costs to date = $350: 1st session (2 laser patch tests)–free, 2nd session (electrolysis of unibrow and ear dust, 2 more laser patch tests)–$25, 3rd session (electrolysis of partial back)–$25, and 4th session (electrolysis of partial back, alexandrite laser treatment of partial back, partial upper arms, and partial upper chest)–$300. Overall, I’m still quite happy, content, and looking forward to the results <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />. My plan is to check everything at 7 weeks out from the end of the 4th session (i.e. touch up treatment) and decide then what is needed for my 5th session, which will be done 8 weeks out. If further laser work is needed, I’ll ask for the 12 mm spot size at 40 Joules. Anyone have comments on my experience to date and future plans? LAGirl?

everything sounds good. please report back on the shedding 3 weeks post this treatment.

I hope they are not overlapping electrolysis and laser treatment areas. In other words, they should not treat the same area with both at the same time.

Sounds like you have a good plan of attack. You are taking advantage of each method and that is the best way to do it.


There is no overlapping of treatment–electrolysis to scattered hairs and laser to discrete patches of hairs. Thanks for the advice. Is there advice on the shedding? What should I expect?

shedding happens within 2-3 weeks. you can help it by gently scrubbing with a loofa and exfoliating.