Laser and IPL hair removal are the most common laser and photomedicine procedures done in the United States. None of us like to be too hairy, I guess it reminds us too graphically of our hairy friends in the animal world! Especially women do not like dark excess hair on the face, legs, bikini line and under arm, especially women in the US and Asia. I assume, dark facial hair makes a young woman feel less feminine. This is a cultural phenomenon, as many cultures do not have an obsession with hair removal.
Laser and light based hair removal has improved dramatically in the past 5 years. Early hair removal lasers were not fully effective and were so powerful that burns and scars were a possibility. In addition, early lasers could not be used on dark skin and were effective at removing only very dark black hair. Newer IPL and some laser hair removal machines are a vast improvement and can be used on darker skin and can also remove lighter hair. The newer IPL machines are less painful and there is less chance of burning and skin scarring.
The best earliest laser for hair removal was the Lightshear Diode invented by Palomar Medical. Palomar subsequently developed the IPL hair removal method to be able to treat hair with less energy using the safer IPL technology which is also less expensive to build. The advantages of the new IPL method became clear when they sold their rights to the Lightshear Diode to Lumenis to pursue what they felt was a better IPL hair removal method.
These machines are sophisticated medical grade instruments that should only be used under the supervision of a physician. While the popularity of this procedure has resulted in light based laser and IPL hair removal being offered in Salons and Spas without a doctor present, new legislative action will soon limit most of these devices to a physician supervised office. I recommend that you stay ahead of the curve and receive the safest most effective hair removal treatments in a board certified plastic surgeons or dermatologists office. Your safety should be your first concern. Results of IPL hair removal can be excellent as seen in the before and after picture of IPL hair removal of the under arm to eliminate shaving below:Above: Before and After IPL hair removal of the under arm to avoid shaving.
How Does IPL or Laser Remove Hair?
All light based therapies which include laser and IPL, also called Photomedicine techniques, work on the same principle. This principle is that a specific color of light can be directed to be absorbed or taken up by one specific color of tissue on the skin. Light is energy, and energy can produce heat. When light energy, the IPL or Laser beam, is absorbed by a specific colored tissue on the skin, the tissue is heated, injured, and is removed. Hair follicles are black or brown, thus a black or brown laser or IPL light is flashed on the skin that contains the hair follicle, the follicle absorbs the light energy, is heated, damaged, and the hair follicle shrinks and loses color. The new smaller hair follicle is then able to grow only fine light colored peach fuss after treatment.
This light based technique is called target specific photothermolysis-a specifically colored target receives color matched light energy (photo), is heated (thermo) and damaged or dissolved (lysis).
The color of light used is very important because hair follicle color is different for different colors of hair. Thus the same color light will not remove all hair colors. Most commonly an 800nm laser wavelength (Lightshear Diode) has been used, however the newer IPL based systems can quickly treat in a range of 525-1200nm (Palomar LuxRed and LuxYellow) to treat a wider variety of hair colors. IPL hair removal is a very quick effective technique as seen in the results of IPL hair removal of the Bikini line below:(Palomar Medical-Khatri)
These machines do not really remove hair. Rather they damage and shrink the hair follicle so that new growth is small, thin, blond peach fuzz. The follicles can only be damaged during one of three growth phases. Only 1/3 of the follicles in any area are susceptible at any one time, so at least three treatments separated by 6 weeks are necessary to achieve the best result. After the first IPL hair removal session you will see a significant difference as in the before and after picture of hair removal of the upper lip first session below:Above: Before and after first session of IPL hair removal, already a nice reduction in lip hair is seen. One or two more sessions will remove the remaining hair.
When Will I See A Result?
Soon after your first treatment the hair falls out and your skin will be smooth and bare. However in 6 weeks 2/3 of the follicles will re-sprout new growth. It will take at least two more sessions to catch the follicles in a susceptible phase to complete the removal processes. Very heavy thick growth may require touch ups even after the first three sessions. See before and after IPL hair removal of chin below:Before and after IPL hair removal on neck and chin of female.
What Areas Can Be Treated?
Almost any body area can be treated. The most common are:
• Upper lip
• Under arm
• Bikini line
Special Treatments for Medical Conditions
There are two very painful medical conditions that can be treated with these light based techniques.
Ingrown hairs and razor bumps, called pseudofolliculitis barbae, is a painful condition affecting millions of African American men. These new light based techniques can provide dramatic effective relief for these conditions.
Pilonidal cysts, a very painful recurring infectious draining condition affecting the sacrum or tail bone area is caused by abnormal follicular and sebaceous cell growth in this area. These new light based techniques can significantly help this painful debilitating condition.
Where Should I go For hair Removal?
As I mentioned earlier laser, IPL and light based therapies are very sophisticated medical technologies. While they can achieve remarkable results, success is very dependent upon the skill with which they are used. Furthermore, protective eyewear is essential, as powerful light beams can damage the unprotected eye. In addition, these machines work by using controlled heat applied to the skin, and heat can create a burn or scarring if not applied properly.
Photomedicine is a very complex field and the doctor must understand light physics and light tissue reaction of the skin. It truly takes years of study and experience to understand how to properly use lasers and IPL.
Too often these technologies are perceived as push button devices that anyone can safely use. That could not be further from the truth.
Currently only the residency training programs in Plastic Surgery and Dermatology provide formalized training and testing for board certification in these fields which apply lasers and IPL to the skin. I recommend that you seek consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist before having any light based therapy. Not all plastic surgeons and dermatologists are experienced in these techniques, so you will have to search their websites and ask appropriate questions.
Please avoid salons and spas, in my opinion they should not be using these techniques without direct medical supervision, and many state legislatures agree with this concept and are taking action.
Who Should Do My Treatment?
A well trained and experienced Medical Aesthetician, nurse, PA or Nurse Practitioner who works with and is supervised by a board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist who is trained in Photomedicine, can safely provide these treatments.
The best practitioners agree with this concept and would not try to practice Photomedicine in any location other than a medical office where the doctor supervision is on site. If there is a problem it is very important that the doctor be present and not supervising from an office 10 miles away.
More importantly, in my opinion, is the knowledge and experience of the doctor in diagnosing your particular skin condition and deciding which of the many laser and IPL based treatments will work best for you. In addition, often prescription medications and other treatments are required for you to achieve the best result, and a doctor will be able to provide you with these added benefits.
Do your homework, start on the Internet. Read enough to become knowledgeable about lasers and IPL and how they work and what they can achieve. Then seek consultation with 2 board certified plastic surgeons or dermatologists and decide who you are most comfortable with. This is your best chance for a safe effective result.
For more information on IPL hair removal call 978-369-4499 or email me. Read our free newsletter to keep up on new techniques in non-surgical face and body rejuvenation. Read Save Your Face to learn how to prevent facial aging.