OK…I’m really sick of seeing the pettiness on this forum. From many people. I had thought when I first came here that this was a great place to get information and help from others – it’s looking very much like I was wrong on that. Too many people here seem to have their own agendas – they don’t want to help others, they just want to shove their opinions down the throat of anyone that dares to disagree with them.
I was thinking about just walking away. I probably should. But instead I’m going to do something foolish and try to start a rational discussion about LHR. Some of us have been having great results from it. Others not so great. It’s not magic, it’s science. It just happens to be science that many don’t seem to understand terribly well (I can likely be lumped in with that group, compared to some I’ve seen here).
So…let’s start with the basics and something that I think everyone can agree on:
Electrolysis works. It works by effectively burning out the base of the hair follicle (electricity is turned into heat either internally to the probe or in some other methods upon entry into the rather poor conductor that is us). It works well because it is highly targeted – the base of the follicle can be affected every time by a skilled practitioner. But it is slow, since each follicle needs to be handled individually. For small areas, this doesn’t matter too much, for large areas (or the whole body), it matters a fair bit.
LHR is actually very similar to electrolysis in what it is looking to do – burn out the base of the hair follicle. It just takes a different approach.
When light is absorbed by an object, it is converted (typically) into heat. Walk out in the sun, you get hot, that kind of thing. Lasers contain a rather large amount of energy – they can burn through things rather well. But this does very little good at first, as it’s little more effective than taking a blowtorch to your skin.
But lasers are also very tightly controlled in terms of their scatter and their wavelength. If you take a bright light and hold it against your palm, you can see the light on the other side of your hand – we are somewhat translucent by nature. Different wavelengths penetrate different amounts in our body.
In particular, our skin is a rather non-homogenous area – especially in the vicinity of hair follicles. Hairs and the base of the follicle in particular (during anagen) contain a large concentration of pigment. Much more than the surrounding skin on many of us (light skin/dark hair). This allows the possibility for a laser which is highly absorbed by the pigment in the follicle (much more so than the surrounding skin). The laser passes through a fair bit of skin, gradually dissipating and imparting relatively low levels of energy to any particular tissue (heat spread out over a large area, if you will). But when it strikes a hair follicle, it imparts a great deal of energy in a relatively small area – burning out the follicle.
That’s the idea, at least.
The key is to have a laser which will be absorbed much more strongly by the hair follicles than it will be by the surrounding skin and to then set the intensity of that laser (the fluence, or amount of energy over time) as high as possible without burning the skin (you want to burn the follicles).
As an idea, it’s pretty sound. For many individuals, that’s as far as it needs to go – we’re “common” enough that no special considerations are necessary.
Others have problems…why?
I can see several reasons:
Bad settings on the laser. Set the intensity too high, you burn the skin. The hair follicles will also burn, but you end up with burns deep in the tissue of the skin that take a long time to fade.
Set the intensity too low and you may create some trauma to the hair follicle, but not actually burn it out. Trauma is one of the few things shown to send a follicle into anagen. So, too low of an intensity and you may end up with “more” hair in an active growth phase. None of us want to get burned, but neither do you want to go through all of this for nothing – it’s a balancing act.
I’ve been using a GentleLASE at near the maximium settings (18 J/cm2, 18mm spot size) – my skin is red and inflamed for 2-3 days after a treatment before fading back to normal. But it does fade back to normal, so the trauma to the skin is minimal (what you want).
Bad laser for your skin type. If you have a dark skin type, you have a lot of pigment in your skin. Selecting the right laser is important – different lasers target different molecular structures/colors/substances. There are many things which distinguish hairs/follicles from surrounding tissue. Light skin/dark hair is an easy combination as you maximize the differences between the hair follicles and the surrounding tissue.
Deep hair follicles. This is a biggie. It is why (in my opinion) laser works well on some people (or on some areas of some people) and not so well on others. As the light from the laser passes through the skin, it loses intensity (scattered, diffracted, absorbed). If it has to pass through too much tissue before reaching the base of the follicle, it loses too much intensity to get the job done.
What do you guys think (particularly the doubters on laser)? What other reasons are there that lasers may not work on someone?
I feel that by knowing why laser does or does not work, knowing the science by which it operates, you can make the best decision as to whether or not it is right for you.