GOOD CUMULATIVE Q &A on Laser Hair Removal for NEWBIES!

This is from a website for one of the nation’s laser training centers in Denver. I would recommend that all newbies read this first!

  1. 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 Certified Laser Specialist (CLS is a credential earned from graduating at the Rocky Mountain Laser College) 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, additional treatments may be necessary to disable all of the follicles in a given area. Your CLS will work with you to develop a treatment program which is appropriate for your own individual hair removal needs.

  1. Who is a candidate for laser hair removal?

Both men and women seek the above mentioned services to have superfluous or 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.

The causes of excessive hair growth pattern are many and varied, including:

Glandular and/or hormonal imbalances
Reactions to certain medications
Normal aging processes
Other causes of excessive hair growth include excessive waxing, tweezing, and other temporary methods of hair removal (creams and depilatories).

Several treatments are generally necessary to attempt to satisfy the client’s desire for hair removal. Factors that will determine the length of treatment include the particular area to be treated, the texture of hair, frequency of treatments, history of temporary measures to remove hair (waxing, tweezing, shaving, and depilatories, etc.). Faithful adherence to your treatment schedule will assist your CLS in treating your condition.

Alexandrite long pulse and diode laser hair removal systems work best on light colored skin. Nd:YAG long pulse lasers work better on darker skin (Afro-American, Asian, Hispanic, Mediterranean, European and Middle Eastern). If a traditional laser hair removal device is used on darker skin, the result is usually serious burning or loss of skin pigment (hypo-pigmentation). However, by utilizing a long pulse Nd:YAG, dark skinned patients will have no problem.

When choosing your hair removal options, select an environment whose main priorities are your safety, health, and privacy.

3. Is laser hair removal permanent?

Electrology and Thermology are permanent and for the past 125 years both of these methods have been the choice of many clients who seek permanent hair reduction. Laser methodologies have now been proven by the Food and Drug Administration to offer permanent hair reduction. The three main advantages to laser hair removal technology are comfort, speed, and accuracy.

4. How do medical lasers work?
Lasers are optical devices which produce intense coherent, collimated and mono-chromatic beams of light. A laser consists of an active medium such as a crystal, gas or liquid, that amplifies light when excited by an external energy source (a flash amp or electric discharge, for example).
When the appropriate medium is employed, the laser can be finely tuned to generate a very narrow band of light wavelengths (such as the individual colors of the visible spectrum).

These specially-tuned lasers are revolutionizing the medical industry. For example, lasers tuned to the color of blood are very effective for treating varicose veins by breaking down the dead blood cells in the affected areas. Lasers tuned to specific colors are now used for tattoo removal.

5. How does the laser hair removal treatment work?

Lasers designed for permanent hair reduction emit wavelengths of light designed to be absorbed by the pigment in the hair (melanin). If the surrounding skin is relatively light compared to the color of the hair then the entire energy of the laser will be concentrated in the hair shaft, effectively destroying it without affecting the skin or follicle.

The ability of the laser to produce a very narrow bandwidth on a consistent basis is the key to a safe efficient treatment. Many laser hair removal systems on the market do not produce a sufficiently narrow bandwidth of light or have difficulty maintaining the consistency of the bandwidth. This causes a burning of the skin, tissue and blood surrounding the treated hair follicles and results in a painful treatment and, sometimes, serious long-term skin damage.
The types of lasers used for permanent hair reduction include the ruby, Nd:YAG, diode, and alexandrite.

Lasers are safe, fast, effective and have proven to be permanent (depending on skin type and hair color). Lasers also offers practical and therapeutic advantages over electrolysis; laser light can scan broad body areas disabling the hair follicles ability to produce hair without damaging the follicles’ delicate pores.

Treatment of large areas — a woman’s legs or a man’s back, for example — that once took months to perform with electrolysis can now be performed in a few hours.

While the laser emits a beam that only heats the hair shaft, heat is transmitted from the hair shaft to the surrounding tissue for several milliseconds after the laser pulse. Several lasers possess cooling attachments which cool the surrounding skin to fully absorb any heat transmitted from the destroyed hair shafts.

Be cautious of hair removal systems that use traditional light for treatment. Most light based applications, are not true lasers. These machines use a highly concentrated beam of traditional incoherent light, often in conjunction with a cream or gel, to burn the hair shaft.

A serious flaw with these systems is that they lack the laser’s ability to produce a selective bandwidth of light that will only affect the hair shaft (selective photothermolysis). These devices produce a wide bandwidth of light that can heat up all of the surrounding tissue.

6. Which body areas can be treated by laser hair removal?

Laser hair removal procedures have been used to successfully treat thousands of patients, permanently reducing the amount of unwanted hair on large areas such as legs, arms, back, and chest. Sensitive areas such as the eyebrow, upper lip, ears, and even bikini lines can be easily and effectively treated by laser.
Laser procedures provide longer-term relief; thus putting an end to routine shaving and leaves the skin looking and feeling smoother and silkier. The most important result of all is the confidence that comes from looking your best with younger-looking, hair-free skin.

7. How many laser hair removal treatments are required?

We see most clients for at least six (6) treatments. This is because the first few treatments only eliminate the active hair follicles. Everyone has hair that is in an inactive or “resting” state. These hairs will generally start growing after the initial active hair is eliminated. Approximately 4 to 6 weeks after the initial treatment, additional treatments are required to eliminate the remaining hair shafts that are in the growth state. After six (6) one(1) month treatment intervals, patients should experience a high percentage of hair loss or reduction.
Depending upon hair type and genetic factors, some clients may require additional treatments beyond these initial treatments. Almost all clients, even those with extremely persistent hair growth, will achieve permanent hair reduction within the six (6) initial treatments.

8. Is laser hair removal treatment painful?

In one pulse, the laser can remove all the hair on a patch of skin the size of a nickel. The pulse, lasting only thousandths of a second, is no more painful than tweezing a single hair. It is important to choose only the highest quality laser treatment system.
The laser hair removal system uses a precise frequency of light that is finely tuned and optimized to effect only the hair shaft and root. The tissue surrounding the follicle is not irritated by the laser because the system is manufactured to provide the highest degree of accuracy available to maintain the precise frequency of light beam to remove the entire hair root without heating the surrounding skin.

Other laser hair removal systems do not maintain the same level of precision. Even the smallest variations in frequency or duration of the pulse can cause irritation to the skin and possible complications.
As an additional design benefit, the GentleLASE™, LightSheer™ and the CoolGlide™ systems combine cooling mechanisms that dissipates the small level of heat generated by the laser. This makes these lasers the most effective and most pleasant technique available for hair removal.

You will see and feel the real benefits of our techniques after the treatment. Unlike tweezers, chemicals or needles, no irritation occurs after the treatment. The skin is left smooth and silky with minimal side effects.

9. What are the risks, side effects and possible complications of laser hair removal?

The possibility exists that some side effects or complications can occur, including:

Itching, during treatment
Swelling (around mouth of follicle)
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).

Side effects occur infrequently and, as a rule, generally are temporary.

Things to consider when finding a laser hair removal center are:

The laser technician. Make sure that the person treating you has graduated from a school or college of laser. Are they a CLS (Certified Laser Specialist) who has graduated from an accredited school for laser.

The laser. Make sure that the laser being used FDA approved for “permanent hair reduction”.

The clinic. Make sure that you go in for a “FREE” consultation to see if you are happy with the way the clinic looks and feels (clean, up to date and informative). Also, the chemistry between the CLS and yourself must be there. Did they show more interest in how the treatment will work for you or are were they more interested in how much you will be paying.

Alexandrite long pulse and diode lasers are very effective when the skin type is light (1-4) and the hair is dark enough to attract the laser within the follicle. Again, just because it is an alexandrite does not make it the best on the market. Precision cooling of the skin prior to laser application, exact delivery of an effective energy beam deep into the tissue and proper training can make all the difference between maintenance or permanence.

Nd:YAG long pulse lasers work on all skin types and are the superior laser when it comes to treating darker skin types (3-6) or patients of color such as: Afro-American, Asian, Hispanic, Mediterranean, European and Middle Eastern. If a traditional laser hair removal device is used on darker skin types, the result is usually serious burning or loss of skin pigment (hypo-pigmentation). However, by utilizing a long pulse Nd:YAG, dark skinned patients will have no problem.

One must be careful, because there is a great deal of misleading information and claims about laser hair removal, leading to unrealistic expectations by patients and, in some cases, severe skin damage.

- Hair Growth Cycle -

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.

- Fitzpatrick Skin Types I - VI -

 In 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.  Today, this classification is also used to aid your CLS in the care of their patients.  For successful removal of hair, wrinkles, veins, sun spots, and scars using LASER technology, it is necessary determine your correct skin type. 

TYPE 1: Highly sensitive, always burns, never tans.
Example: Red hair with freckles or Albino

TYPE 2: Very sun sensitive, burns easily, tans minimally.
Example: Fair skinned, fair haired Caucasians

TYPE 3: Sun sensitive skin, sometimes burns, slowly tans to light brown.
Example: Darker Caucasians, European mix

TYPE 4: Minimally sun sensitive, burns minimally, always tans to moderate brown.
Example: Mediterranian, European, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian

TYPE 5: Sun insensitive skin, rarely burns, tans well.
Example: Hispanics, Afro-American, Middle Eastern

TYPE 6: Sun insensitive, never burns, deeply pigmented.
Example: Afro-American, African, Middle Eastern

just moving this up for newbies…