10 things you should know about laser hair removal
Laser hair removal is now one of the most popular procedures undertaken in the cosmetic treatment arena. No longer do you need to spend countless hours throughout the year plucking or waxing unwanted hairs. Instead, a number of laser hair removal treatments has the potential to alleviate hair growth in your chosen areas for good. The overarching concept of hair laser removal is that a qualified specialist will beam a highly concentrated light directly into your hair follicles. Once the light has been absorbed, it subsequently destroys the hair follicle. The treatment is also growing in popularity because it can be utilized on most areas of the body. This includes the legs, arms, face, chin, and underarms. With that being said, going through the hair removal process is not as straightforward as simply turning up on the day and allowing the specialist to do their thing. On the contrary, there are a plethora of considerations that you need to make prior to taking the plunge, not least because the treatment might not be suitable for your individual profile. As such, we have outlined 10 laser hair removal facts hat we think you should know before undergoing treatment.
The process will sit somewhere between ‘painful’ and ‘not painful’
While the above heading might sound somewhat contradictory at first glance, it is important to note that patients will have different tolerances to discomfort. This is no different to going through the process of getting a tattoo, with some individuals reporting a pain-free experience, while others note an unbearable amount of pain.
In the case of laser hair removal, it is important to note that the process is not painful per-say, rather, you are likely to feel an element of discomfort. However, the use of the latest technology in laser machines can greatly alleviate discomfort by the use of built-in cooling jets.
For example, if you are having the laser treatment undertaken on areas of the skin that are somewhat thin – such as the chin and nose areas, then this is likely to be more painful in comparison to the arms.
Similarly, specialists often note that enhanced discomfort is felt when the patient’s body temperature is higher than usual. As a result, you should ensure that you arrive at the practice in good time on the day of your appointment, ensuring that you avoid the need to rush.
Don’t expect to see the end result straight away
As the old saying goes – “the best things in life come to those that wait”. This couldn’t be more fitting in the context of laser hair removal treatment. The reason for this is two-fold. First and foremost, no two patients are the same. By this, we mean that while some demographics might start to see results in as little as 8 weeks, others might require up to 12 weeks before an improvement is noticed.
Furthermore, the success of your treatment may depend on the number of visits that you make. It is all-but-certain that you will need to repeat the laser treatment process on multiple occasions, not least because the specialist will want to ensure that the entire target area has been zapped. Failure to keep your appointments consistent could lead to undesired results.
There is no requirement to take time off work
Unlike a number of other leading cosmetic procedures, the laser hair removal process does not require you to take any time off work. On the contrary, the end-to-end process should not take more than 20 minutes of your time. This is highly beneficial, as not only can you avoid the necessity of consuming valuable annual leave, but in reality, you can get the treatment done on your lunch break.
As a side note, if you are looking to undergo the laser hair removal process between the hours of 12:00 and 14:00 – you are best advised to book your appointments well in advance. Most other patients will likely have the same idea as you, meaning that the busy lunch-time slots fill up very quickly.
Furthermore, if you are planning to target areas around the face – and you are subsequently arriving at the practice wearing makeup, it is best to factor in the time it takes to remove it. Most practices will allow you to do this on-site to speed-up the end-to-end process.
Forget going to the gym after your treatment
On the one hand, the laser hair removal process is one of the most straightforward procedures in the cosmetic treatment industry. As we noted in the above section, you will not need to take any time off work, meaning that you can undergo the treatment without needing to take annual leave. Moreover, while the specific discomfort levels will vary from patient to patient, this shouldn’t be overly painful, so you will be fine to resume most of your daily activities.
However, the reason that we say ‘most’ is that you are strongly advised to avoid the gym – and all sporting activities for that matter, at least 24 hours after you receive treatment. The reason for this is that laser hair removal has the undesired effect of heating your skin. As such, by undergoing physical activities, you stand the very real risk of creating a breeding ground for bacteria. In doing so, the bacteria is accustomed to a conducive environment to multiply – which in turn, can lead to spots.
Avoid plucking or waxing prior to treatment
If you are yet to undergo laser hair removal yourself, then you’ve likely spent your entire adult life removing hairs by plucking or waxing the affected areas. While this will remove your unwanted hairs in the short-run, as you well know – they will eventually grow back. However – whether it’s waxing or plucking that you usually engage with, it is crucial that you ditch your standard hair removal routine for at least six weeks prior to treatment.
The reason for this is that the laser hair removal process will specifically target the roots of your hair. As it is likely that you will remove these roots during your waxing/plucking endeavours, you’ll stand the chance of making the laser treatment less effective. Moreover, you also need to avoid waxing and plucking hairs for at least six weeks after treatment too.
Avoid prolonged periods in the sun
You need to view the sun as your arch-enemy in the context of laser hair removal – both before and after treatment. Regarding the former, too much exposure to the sun can weaken the effects of the hair removal treatment, so you need to plan well in advance of your first procedure date. This means avoiding trips to a sunny climate at least 6 weeks prior to your treatment date. In fact, this is why we often suggest undertaking the laser hair removal process during the autumn or winter months.
In doing so, you can reduce the risks of being exposed to the sun for long periods. Furthermore, you will also need to avoid excessive sun exposure for up to six weeks post-treatment. As is the case with a number of cosmetic procedures, exposure to the sun not only increases the time it takes for the patient to notice results, but it can lead to further complications.
Laser hair removal can only be performed by a qualified specialist
Although we have made reference to the simplicity of laser hair removal, insofar that it is a straightforward procedure that rarely requires more than 20 minutes of your time, this isn’t to say that anyone can perform the treatment. On the contrary, the procedure can only be undertaken by a highly qualified doctor or medical technician. Not only does the procedure come with a number of potential risks, but the laser itself can be hazardous to the human body if used incorrectly.
Don’t forget, the laser is used to kill hair follicles, so its strength should not be understated. While high street spas might offer you a laser hair removal treatment at a discounted price, if the person performing the treatment is not medically qualified to do so, you should proceed with extreme caution. In fact, this would be a breach of the law, not least because the untrained individual is offering cosmetic procedures that they are not licensed or qualified to undertake.
The treatment process comes with its own risks
Once again, although the laser hair removal process is an everyday treatment that can be performed by a qualified specialist with ease, this isn’t to say that side effects and risks are not present. On the contrary, laser treatment comes with a number of risks.
Although the qualified specialist will explain the risks to you during the consultation stage, here’s a breakdown of the fundamentals.
Common Side Effects
The following side effects are commonly experienced by those undertaking laser hair removal, and will typically last for 1-3 days post-treatment.
Less Common Side Effects
The following side effects are less common. However, the risks will always remain present when undertaking laser hair removal.
- Skin lightening or darkening
- An outbreak of cold sores
Prepare by ‘shaving’ the target area prior to treatment
While it is true that we previously advised against engaging in your usual waxing or plucking routines for at least six weeks before and after your laser hair removal treatment, it is recommended that you instead shave the target area a few days prior to your appointment.
The reason for this is that the laser itself can cause the surrounding skin to feel somewhat irritated. Moreover, the laser can leave the target area smelling slightly burnt. You can alleviate both of these concerns by shaving the surface area.
Most skin tones ‘should’ be suitable
Although laser hair removal is at its most effective when being performed on light skin tones that possess darker hairs, this isn’t to say that darker skin tones will not benefit from the procedure. On the contrary, most skin tone/hair colour combinations are likely to be suitable, although this is why you will need to first go through a brief consultation period with a qualified specialist.
The key point is that the laser might not be able to differentiate between dark skin and skin pigmentation – which is why the specialist will need to perform a brief examination prior to giving you the all-clear.