I am sure that some of you have heard about the latest home laser (or IPL) hair removal technology, but do you know how it works and what effects and risks can have on your body and health, in the end?! Understanding the mechanism behind this technology is necessary to find out if you are the right candidate for this procedure and at what risks you expose yourself. So, let's find out together!
1. How the home laser hair removal machine works
Both methods, laser and Intense Pulse Light (IPL) use light: the first method uses focused beams, while IPL uses interspersed flashes. But the process is the same. The highly concentrated beam of light is directed to the skin, targeting the hair follicle, which absorbs heat from the laser. Thus the follicle is damaged and it is stopped from growing back. The laser aims only the active hair and because the hair grows in different stages, you should repeat the procedure to get rid of all unwanted hair. Even more in detail, the laser targets melanin, the pigment that gives color to the hair, therefore, people with darker hair and lighter skin are more successful with this method.
There are some women who suffer from PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) - it is a hormone problem, which results in a male pattern of hair growth, especially on their faces. The laser hair removal treatment works very well for them, getting a hair reduction up to 60-80%.
Some things can go wrong during the treatment
- First, the laser light doesn't reach the hair follicle. Darker skin can stop some energy to reach the hair follicles and this heat is distributed into the skin cells. The immediate effects are skin burns or redness and worse, your hair follicle isn't destroyed. People with olive tone skin or darker skin can avoid this problem and go to a beauty salon to have this treatment made by a dermatologist. Because the machine can be used for different wavelength and energy, only a professional will know how to adjust its settings to work properly on your body.
- The second thing is that different color hairs, like white, red or blonde, don't absorb enough heat from the laser, thus the hair follicle isn't destroyed. This is also a reason why these people aren't a good candidate for a home hair removal method, but they could try a laser procedure at a beauty salon because the esthetician will know how much laser light to apply. If the treatment doesn't work, you should think to do electrolysis.The specialists recommend to do a test spot, in an inconspicuous place, to find out if you respond properly to the treatment.
- You might wonder if you can dye your body hair darker in order to make the laser treatment more efficient. Well, there isn't enough data to support this practice. Some laser clinics consider to include a hair dyeing before treating it with laser, but we don't know the results. Personally, I wouldn't recommend it, if we don't have enough facts about this procedure.
- The third thing is that some people have the hair follicles inserted deeper into the skin, especially men and the laser light can not reach them.
Some of these problems can be overcome by using the latest laser technology, which has a different laser wavelength setting or the non-light energy called RF. In these cases, the treatment should be done in a clinic, not at home.
2. Pain factor. Side effects. Risks
The laser destroys the hair without harming the surrounding skin. Depending on the type of laser, a person may feel some discomfort during the treatment, like a stinging sensation. After the treatment, she may also experience skin swelling, skin discoloration - known as hyper pigmentation or hypo pigmentation-, redness, itching, burns, acne, small blisters or tiny scabs over the follicles. Although some side effects are gone by the end of the treatment, some effects can last from hours to days.
To cope with the pain, if you plan to treat large areas or sensitive areas like the face, you can apply an anesthetic cream or a numbing cream on the area and left on for around 30 minutes before the treatment.
More severe side effects can be bruises, especially if you have varices or many dilated veins. An uncommon result is a reverse effect, meaning that the hair grows back either denser or coarser after the laser treatment and for these patients should be applied more energy into the skin. The infection of the hair follicle is rare, but not impossible. Scarring is also possible, but this depends on the medical history of the person.
Many medications during the treatment can increase the person's sensibility, so it is recommended to stop, if possible, taking the pills for a few days before the laser treatment.
Also, if you have medical problems, especially skin problems (for instance, active or chronic herpes simplex viral infections or serious acne), you should think twice before you decide to use a laser removal method. The laser light can activate the problem and infect the area. Some anti-viral medication is recommended to be taken prior to the treatment and continue taking these pills for at least a week before the treatment.
If you want to find out more about contraindications for a laser hair removal treatment, you should read the UK Health Centre's article.
The laser hair removal treatments are not without risks. There can be many complications from a laser treatment, like those described above, but worse, some disfiguring injuries may occur if the treatment is done improperly. Although home hair removal machines are approved by the FDA and they are safe to use at home, you should take all precautionary measures to perform this procedure properly. Some steps to take are:
- get informed before you start your home laser treatment,
- know your skin type and hair color,
- first make a test spot on your skin, in an area that is not noticeable
- schedule your treatments with caution, at least 4 or 6 weeks between them.
The laser uses a non-ionizing radiation, meaning that this type of energy doesn't affect the DNA strings or causing any type of cell mutation. The conclusion is that the procedure does not cause cancer.
Don't forget about your eyes. If you don't protect them during the treatment, you can seriously injure your eyes. So, at each treatment, you should wear an appropriate eye protection. The QQ-Tech Goggles Laser Eye Protection is only an example.
Furthermore... Do you have tattoos? The laser machine will not work directly over a because it can alter its appearance.
After the treatment is finished, you should put on the skin ice packs or cold water to ease any discomfort. Some persons use anti-inflammatory creams or lotions, but these cost money. Also, to avoid these side effects, you should protect your skin from the sun.
If you experience pain or any other side effects after a procedure, call your physician immediately.
3. When you will see the results
The initial results will be seen after approximately three weeks from the first treatment. But some hairs are vaporized during the treatment by the laser heat, causing small plumes of smoke.
You can use a mild scrub during your shower to exfoliate the skin and to remove the dead hair, but only after two weeks, to not damage the skin. Also, because the hair doesn't grow back, you won't have problems with ingrown hair, like you have when you epilate or wax. The skin will be hair free and smooth for a long period of time.
Although, there isn't an age limit to use a laser machine, toddlers should never be treated or any children under the age of 13 years. From my point of view, it is insane to treat a child because he develop new hair as he grows, but we are living in a crazy world. Teenagers can be subjects of laser hair removal treatment, but only with a parent or legal guardianâs consent. Good to know, right?!
6. Pregnancy, breastfeeding and laser hair removal
Currently, there are not enough studies that show the safety of laser hair removal during pregnancy. The experts in this field recommend to stop the laser treatment or not to start one if you are pregnant because there isn't enough information about the effects on the unborn baby. Also, they advise restarting the treatment after 8 weeks postpartum and only if you don't breastfeed. Postponing the laser won't affect the current progress of the treatment.
The pregnant woman's hormones cause changes in hair growth and to skin color. Therefore, a laser treatment can be less efficient during the pregnancy. Also, some anesthetics or numbing creams penetrate the skin and enter into the blood stream and may cause complications.
The same problem occurs if you are breastfeeding because your body is still full of hormones, which basically change the growth cycle a little bit and the laser treatment may not be so efficient.
Now that you know some facts about laser hair removal method, are you tempted to do this procedure at home or do you prefer a specialized clinic?