When laser hair removal first became available, the laser technologies were rather rudimentary and was mainly successful on lighter skin tones with darker hair due to the contrast in pigmentation. Unfortunately, in the past this severely limited who could effectively safely and effectively receive hair removal. In these older machines, you could turn down the energy to treat patients with olive skin tones, but it meant sacrificing effectiveness – meaning those with the palest skin and darkest hair saw much better results in far fewer treatments than did those with less contrast between skin and hair colors.
Thankfully, technology has advanced greatly in this area. We now have several laser systems to choose from; and at Reflections, we have carefully selected the laser treatments we offer to ensure that patients of all complexions and hair colors can have the care-free routine that they desire.
How has laser hair removal changed since it was first popularized?
“Laser hair and was originally done using IPL (intense pulsed light) many years ago. Some practices continue to use IPL as the “go to” Hair removal method even with today’s advanced technology” explains Dr. Ellern. If you’re familiar with IPL treatments, you may know that they are only good for Fitzpatrick skin types III and below. Patients with African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Hispanic, or Indian heritage, would not be able to have hair removed with an IPL device.
Luckily, the expansion of technology into ND: YAG 1064 lasers, patients of all skin colors were able to get hair removal done with a laser. However, it’s important to remember that not all machines are created equal.
At Reflections, Dr. Ellern looks to the following laser systems to treat a variety of skin types:
- GentleYAG® – The GentleYAG laser is the type of new technology that Dr. Ellern was referring to when talking about the new developments catering to a wider range of skin types, called an Nd:Yag. The GentleYAG laser is especially good for treating patients with a naturally darker tone.
- LightSheer™ – The Lighsheer Duet laser is a diode laser, which is an older technology than the Nd:Yag, but it’s stood the test of time, because this laser offers the deepest penetration depth in a very selective wavelength, making it safe and effective, and able to used to quickly cover large areas of the body. Its built-in cooling system makes it one of the fastest and most comfortable hair removal treatments on the market today.
- GentleLASE® – Gentle enough for sensitive skin, the GentleLASE, is recommended for lighter skin types, ranging from highly sun-sensitive skin that easily burns to slightly sun-sensitive skin that tans easily. The GentleLASE offers two lasers in one: an Alexandrite laser and an Nd:Yag. The Alexandrite laser energy is easily picked up by melanin, the dark pigment in skin and hair. Since we want the hair, and not the skin, to pick up and absorb the laser energy, this laser is not ideal for those with darker skin tones. Because it’s energy is well-absorbed by even small amounts of melanin, this laser works well for fair skin types, even when the hair they want to remove isn’t very dark. However, the Nd:Yag setting makes this laser well-suited to treating dark skin tones.
Fact or Fiction: laser hair removal just for fair skin tones with dark hair
“Laser hair removal is not just for patients with light skin and dark hair. With the use of the correct device, it can be done on any skin tone,” says Dr. Ellern. Even with this great improvement, there is still one type of hair that can’t be removed “we are still not able to use laser hair removal to remove true blonde white silver or gray hairs” adds Dr. Ellern.
The ND: Yag 1064 has made it possible for laser hair removal to be done on even the darkest skin tones. These lasers are the best devices for removal on any patient darker than a Fitzpatrick skin type IV.
Have treatment cycles changed with improvements in laser technology?
Despite the different types of devices that have come about, all hair removal with laser operates with the same concept. According to Dr. Ellern, the wavelength of light targets the pigment in heats the hair down to the follicle and kills it. All patients will require at least 6-8 treatments spaced apart at regular intervals. Facial treatments are done every 4 to 6 weeks, Body is done every 6 to 8 weeks, and for the legs every 8 to 10 weeks. She states, “the reason being, is that hair has different growth cycles on different parts of the body and the hair needs to be actively growing in order to be killed during the treatment.”
How can a patient prepare for treatment for the best possible outcome?
For long-lasting results, Dr. Ellern recommends following these four simple rules for the most effective treatment:
- Do not rip out the hair. No waxing, threading, or plucking prior to treatment. Only shaving or using a trimmer.
- Limit your sun exposure. It is recommended to avoid the sun during the course of the treatment and to wait a month afterward if significant exposure. Always wear sunscreen and stay in the shade on the areas of the body that are being treated. You’re free to tan other areas of your body just not the ones where lasers are being applied.
- Shave the night before. Any hair that is above the surface of the skin will burn and transfer that heat to your skin surface, increasing risk complications such as a burn or changes in skin color.
- Be consistent with your treatment cycles. Sessions are spaced apart at regular intervals to try to hit different hairs each treatment and it’s important to stay on that cycle as much as possible.
Laser hair removal is a great way to streamline your grooming routine, giving you one less thing to worry about. If you are interested in learning more about laser hair removal and which laser system is best for your skin type, contact Reflections today to schedule your consultation with one of our physicians.