10 Things You Should Know About Laser Hair Removal
Wednesday 25th July 2018
So, you're looking into getting laser hair removal?
Hair removal can be a pain - in both a boring, time consuming and literally painful sense. Once you've made the life-changing decision to start removing your unwanted body hair though, there's really no going back.
For most people, shaving is the first method of hair removal to look towards - it's quick, painful and relatively inexpensive. However, with shaving you have the added hassle of having to keep up with removing your hairs every time they start to grow back as an attempt to avoid post-shave stubble. For some, this can turn into an every day job just to maintain silky smooth skin - nobody has the time for that on a daily basis.
Waxing sounds like a better alternative to this, right? Simply head to a salon or buy at-home wax strips and get straight down to ripping out those unwanted hairs. This seems like the perfect idea for those few weeks that you're completely hair-free and don't have to wake up 10 minutes earlier in a morning to spend that extra time in the shower with a razor. However, what about when the hair starts growing back? If you're planning on waxing again, you can't touch it. You'll have to wait it out until all of the hair fully grows back in order to be able to wax again, which leaves you in hairy leg territory for a few days. If you happen to have an event that falls in this time frame, chances are you'll pick up a razor to shave for a quick fix, undo all of your hard work and be back in the vicious cycle of shaving once again.
If you've had enough of wasting time with temporary hair removal to only be left dissatisfied with the results soon after, it makes sense that you've been weighing up your more permanent options and have been looking into laser hair removal as a solution. Before you dive straight into booking a laser hair removal appointment though, there's a few things that you need to know. Firstly, though, let's take a look at what laser hair removal actually is...
What is laser hair removal?
Think of laser hair removal as the answer to all of your unwanted bodily hair prayers. The method is tried and tested by millions of people who have seen a permanent reduction in the growth of their unwanted hair.
Unlike more traditional methods of hair removal which either simply trim the hair to the surface of the skin, or pull the hair out from the root, laser hair removal destroys the hair follicle. Using a cosmetic laser which adjusts to your skin and hair type, it basically zaps away at each hair follicle, killing it in the process and preventing it from growing back.
The process is relatively pain free, and sounds simple enough, but it may not actually be suitable for everyone, and there's a few precautions that need to be taken before undergoing laser hair removal...
1. Don't ditch the razor just yet
Before you go head and ditch all of your razors in favour of hair-free laser treated skin, it's important to know that you will actually need to shave prior to your appointment. There's quite a simple reason to it really: the laser needs to target the hair follicle at the root, and having long hairs sticking out above the skin, will only get in the way. The hair can absorb the laser energy itself, as opposed to it directly hitting the hair follicle, meaning it's a waste of time and will have no effect whatsoever.
Having said that, it's important to note that only shaving is allowed prior to laser hair removal appointments. Think again before waxing or tweezing, as by doing this you'd be pulling out the hair root, which is what the laser needs to target. Without the hair root being visible to the laser, the treatment would be deemed useless. So, remember: shave, don't wax or tweeze!
2. Steer clear of tanning beds
The ideal time for undergoing laser hair removal is when your skin is at its natural colour. This means staying away from the sun beds for a prolonged period (at least four weeks) prior to your appointment until you're no longer sun tanned (or even worse, sun burnt). The same goes for tanning in natural sunlight, so you won't be able to undergo the treatment directly after a sunny holiday if you've been exposed to UV rays.
The reason that the skin can't be treated by laser if it's tanned, is that it puts the skin at risk of discolouration - and that's not what we want. It makes sense that the majority of people tend to opt for laser hair removal during the winter months when they're less likely to be tanned, in order to prepare for a hair-free summer months in advance.
3. Put down the fake tan too
If having a tan is super important to you, and you just can't bare to go without using the sun beds, then applying self tan might seem like the next best option. Unfortunately, you won't be able to undergo the treatment if when wearing self tan. As spray tans/tanning lotions or anything similar are used to darken the skin, there's a chance that more of the laser energy will be absorbed in the skin as opposed to the hair follicle. This will not only reduce the effectiveness of the treatment, but the excessive light energy absorption in the skin can lead to a risk of blisters or burns.
Following any laser hair removal treatment, it should also be advised that self tanners should not be used for the next 4 weeks.
4. Lay off the skincare products
If you're used to layering on oils, moisturisers and lotions every morning, you'll have to skip this step on the day of your laser hair removal appointment. To avoid any complications and the risk of discolouration, it's important that the skin is completely clean and free from any product.
Regarding prescribed facial creams such as Retin-A for acne, it's important to avoid use of these for at least two to four weeks before the treatment, to ensure the skin is in its normal state and isn't overly sensitive to the procedure.
5. Check with your doctor
If you're taking any sort of prescribed medication, it's a good idea to check with your doctor if this will affect your ability to have the treatment. Certain medications such as Accutane can increase the skin's sensitivity to the laser's UV light, and could cause unwanted reactions. It might be the case that you'll have to stop taking the medication for a certain period of time prior to the procedure, so it's always worth checking with your doctor.
6. Appointment times vary
Depending on the size of the area you're getting treated, the procedure could take anywhere from a few minutes (treating the upper lip, for example) to as much as an hour (treating the legs, for example). So, you might even be able to squeeze in a quick laser hair removal treatment in your lunch break for convenience.
With that being said, it should be noted that there's a limit to the amount of body hair you can laser in one session. Any good practitioner will tell you that there's only so much laser light and energy that your body can safely absorb in one session, and won't let you exceed that.
7. Expect to have multiple appointments
Although laser hair removal might sound like a miracle solution to unwanted hair, it doesn't work miracles in just one session. For the best results, you need to be consistent. This means attending multiple appointments, and sticking to the correct before and after procedures. Hair grows in cycles, and in order to be able to catch all hairs at the optimum stage of the growth cycle, multiple sessions will be required to treat each target area.
8. But you should see instant results
After just one session, you'll start to see changes in your hair growth, usually resulting in a reduction in the amount of hair that grows back, and the rate at which it does. It goes without saying, that this will only get better and more visible after each session, so it's definitely worth persisting with. Patience doesn't always come naturally to everyone, but by sticking with laser hair removal, you should start to see prominent results after three months of having the treatment.
It's important to remember that laser hair removal is a method of permanently reducing hair growth, not permanent removal. It's easy to get the two confused, but be sure that you're aware of the expected outcome before being left disappointed.
9. Pain is kept to a minimum
Laser hair removal isn't as painful as you might think, and is usually a far more tolerable method of hair removal than waxing or depilating. Many people compare the sensation to that of a rubber band snapping against the skin. Fair enough, that might sound pretty uncomfortable - but the laser targets large areas at once and it's over fairly quickly, meaning you can barely notice it.
In terms of side effects, laser hair removal is an extremely safe treatment, and not many side effects should be present. Some people may experience itchiness, redness and a warm sensation on the skin - but that will usually subside after around 20 minutes to 2 hours post-treatment.
10. Finally, do your research
You don't need us to tell you how important it is to do your research before undergoing any cosmetic procedure. Laser hair removal is no exception to that, and it's crucial that you know the treatment is being carried out by a trained professional.