For many men and women, unwanted hair can be an embarrassing nightmare. Traditional hair reduction techniques such as shaving, plucking, and waxing provide only temporary relief and may actually stimulate hair growth. Electrolysis can be effective, but often requires years of painful, continuous treatment. Many people are now seeking laser treatment for the reduction of unwanted hair.
About the Procedure
Hair experiences three phases of growth: anagen, catagen, and telogen. The goal in hair reduction is for the laser light to penetrate to the depth of the hair follicle during the anagen phase (when it reacts to laser light) to achieve long-term results. This is why, depending on the area, you will need to be treated anywhere from 2-7 times.
Light energy is absorbed by the pigment melanin, and transformed into heat energy disabling the hair follicle. Those with coarse, dark hair, and light color skin respond best to the laser. In those with darker skin, (more melanin) the skin competes with the hair for light energy – which may result in damaging the skin, not the hair follicle. (Why tanning should be avoided prior to treatment). Skin types can be classified into 6 categories, as each reacts differently to sunlight. Skin types are evaluated before treatment to determine safe, effective levels of laser energy.
What to Expect
Prior to treatment, it is recommended that patients:
>Stay out of the sun for 2-3 weeks. Treatment should not be performed on a suntan or sunburn.
>Do not tweeze, wax, or use a depilatory agent for one month.
>Shave area to be treated 12-14 hours before treatment. (If hair growth is heavy, shave just before coming to the office.)
>Do not wear makeup, deodorant, perfumes, lotion, or powder on areas to be treated.
Patients will be asked to wear protective goggles to avoid exposure to direct or scattered laser light. The area to be treated may be shaved if it hasn’t already. A yellow or light colored marker may be used to outline the treatment area to serve as a guide for the laser handpiece. A clear aloe gel, sometimes frozen or chilled, may be applied to the area to ease the sensation of the pulse from the laser.
The laser handpiece and cooling device are then positioned on the area to be treated. Laser pulses, described as a wave of heat with the sensation of a pin prick, are delivered to the area with a 10% overlap between pulses. The aloe gel and cooling device should cut down on any discomfort, but a topical anesthetic can be applied if necessary.
The area treated will resemble a moderate sunburn. Loose, natural fiber clothing is recommended, and a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher should be applied whenever exposed to the sun. Try not to rub, scratch, or pick the area treated – ointment may be applied to prevent drying and create a soothing effect (Antibiotic ointment should be used if there is any blistering or breakage in the skin). Swimming, sports, and/or strenuous exercise should be avoided for the first 2-3 days. Patients should contact the office if there is any indication of infection (redness, tenderness or pus).
History of previous treatment methods, current medications, allergies and pigmentary problems should be discussed with your physician prior to treatment, as well as any questions regarding your condition or medications. The following medical conditions are contraindications to the use of a laser for hair reduction: Epilepsy, Herpes, Lupus, Pregnancy, Melanoma, Keloids and Psoriasis. The following medications are photo sensitizers and may make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and laser light, and may lead to greater chance of adverse reactions from the laser: Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Tetracyclines, Griseofulvin, Phenothiazines, Thiazide Diuretics, Sulfanomides, DTIC, Chloroquine, Methotrexate, Sulfonylureas, Fluorouracil, Vinblastine, Aspirin (daily use) and Vitamins (daily use).
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