Hair removal

Hair removal

Types of hair removal

Laser hair removal risks

Before laser hair removal

During laser hair removal

Home lasers

Laser hair removal advantages

After laser hair removal

 

 

Many people have unwanted hair. It's common on the upper lip, chin, cheeks, back, legs, fingers, feet, and toes.

It can have many causes, including genetics, certain medications such as steroids, higher levels of certain hormones, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

There are several ways to remove unwanted hair. With most methods, at least some of the hair will eventually grow back.

Types of hair removal

Shaving

Shaving is best for leg, arm, and facial hair. It can, though, cause ingrown hairs, especially in the pubic region.

Best for: Legs, underarms, and possibly the bikini line (if you’re not prone to irritation, razor bumps, and ingrown hairs).

Plucking

Plucking or tweezing can be painful, but it may be a good option if you only have a few hairs you want to remove. Times when you might want to pluck include when you're reshaping your eyebrows or pulling out a few stray hairs that appear on your face. You should not, however, use this hair removal method for large areas. It can cause ingrown hairs or scarring.

Depilatory Creams

Hair removal creams, also known as depilatory creams, are available without a prescription.

They're not all the same, so be sure to read the label. For instance, you shouldn't use a hair removal cream made for pubic hairs to remove hair on your face.

The chemicals in these products dissolve the hair shaft. Using a cream improperly -- for instance, leaving it on too long -- can burn your skin. If you have a history of allergic reactions, you should first test a little bit of the cream on a small area on your arm to make sure you don’t have a bad reaction to it. Be sure to follow the directions on the cream.

Best for: Legs, bikini area, upper lip, and chin. Look for creams formulated just for the face, which are gentler than those formulated to use on coarser leg hair.

Hot Waxing

You can do this at home or you can have it done by a professional in a salon. Hot waxing can be messy and painful and may leave some hairs behind because they can break off. Infection is one side effect to watch for. If the wax is too hot, you may get a burn. You should not use this method if you also use certain types of prescription acne creams (such as Retin-A) or take isotretinoin. If you do, the wax will pull your skin off. Many women use this hair removal method in the bikini area and to remove hair on the upper lip.

Best for: Small areas such as the upper lips, eyebrows, and bikini area.

Threading

Threading is a traditional Indian method of hair removal that some salons offer. The professionals who do threading use strings they twist in a pattern and use to pull unwanted hair out.

Best for: Small areas like the eyebrows and upper lip.

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Laser Hair Removal

This is one of the longest-lasting methods, but it generally requires four or more treatments 4-6 weeks apart. It can only be effective on dark hair.

The laser beam or a light pulse works to destroy the hair bulb. The treatment can be expensive and sometimes painful, but it can be used on many parts of the body where unwanted hair appears. Be sure you select a doctor or technician who is highly trained and knowledgeable.

Best for: Laser hair removal can be used anywhere on the body. But since it requires multiple treatments over the course of several months to see a dramatic reduction in hair growth, laser is best suited for smaller areas, like the bikini line and the face.

Electrolysis

Electrolysis is done by a professional who places a tiny needle with an electric current in the hair follicle. There are two primary hair removal methods with electrolysis: galvanic and thermolytic.

  •  Galvanic hair removal chemically destroys the hair follicle.
  •  Thermolytic removal uses heat to destroy the follicle.

In either case, be sure to find a professional who is highly trained and knowledgeable.

You can get electrolysis on any part of the body.

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Medications and Unwanted Hair

If none of these hair removal methods help, you may want to ask your doctor's advice. There are drugs that inhibit hair growth.

Spironolactone is a pill that may slow or reduce hair growth in areas that you don’t want hair. It will not get rid of the hair on your scalp and may actually stimulate growth there.

There is a prescription cream called Vaniqa that's approved by the FDA for slowing facial hair growth in women. This cream slows growth, but it will not remove the hair. You apply it to the area twice a day. Once you stop using the cream, the hair will regrow.

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Laser hair removal risks

Risks of side effects vary with skin type, hair color, treatment plan and adherence to pre-treatment and post-treatment care. The most common side effects of laser hair removal include:

  • Skin irritation.Temporary discomfort, redness and swelling are possible after laser hair removal. Any signs and symptoms typically disappear within several hours.
  • Pigment changes.Laser hair removal might darken or lighten the affected skin. These changes might be temporary or permanent. Skin lightening primarily affects those who don't avoid sun exposure before or after treatment and those who have darker skin.

Rarely, laser hair removal can cause blistering, crusting, scarring or other changes in skin texture. Other rare side effects include graying of treated hair or excessive hair growth around treated areas, particularly on darker skin.

Laser hair removal isn't recommended for eyelids, eyebrows or surrounding areas, due to the possibility of severe eye injury.

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Before laser hair removal

If you're interested in laser hair removal, choose a doctor who's board certified in a specialty such as dermatology or cosmetic surgery and has experience with laser hair removal on your skin type. If a physician assistant or licensed nurse will do the procedure, make sure a doctor supervises and is available on-site during the treatments. Be cautious about spas, salons or other facilities that allow nonmedical personnel to do laser hair removal.

Before laser hair removal, schedule a consultation with the doctor to determine if this is an appropriate treatment option for you. Your doctor will likely do the following:

  • Review your medical history, including medication use, history of skin disorders or scarring, and past hair removal procedures
  • Discuss risks, benefits and expectations, including what laser hair removal can and can't do for you
  • Take photos to be used for before-and-after assessments and long-term reviews

At the consultation, discuss a treatment plan and related costs. Laser hair removal is usually an out-of-pocket expense.

The doctor will also offer specific instructions to prepare for laser hair removal. These might include:

  • Staying out of the sun. Follow your doctor's advice for avoiding sun exposure before and after treatment. Whenever you go out, apply a broad-spectrum, SPF30 sunscreen.
  • Lightening your skin. Avoid any sunless skin creams that darken your skin. Your doctor might also prescribe a skin bleaching cream if you have a recent tan or darker skin.
  • Avoiding other hair removal methods. Plucking, waxing and electrolysis can disturb the hair follicle and should be avoided at least four weeks before treatment.
  • Avoiding blood-thinning medications. Ask your doctor about what medications, such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs, to avoid before the procedure.
  • Shaving treatment area. Trimming and shaving is recommended the day before laser treatment. It removes hair above the skin that can result in surface skin damage from burnt hairs, but it leaves the hair shaft intact below the surface.

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During laser hair removal

Just before the procedure, your hair that will be undergoing treatment will be trimmed to a few millimeters above the skin surface. Usually topical numbing medicine is applied 20- 30 minutes before the laser procedure, to help with the sting of the laser pulses. The laser equipment will be adjusted according to the color, thickness, and location of your hair being treated as well as your skin color.

Depending on the laser or light source used, you and the technician will need to wear appropriate eye protection. It will also be necessary to protect the outer layers of your skin with a cold gel or special cooling device. This will help the laser light penetrate the skin.

Next, the technician will give a pulse of light to the treatment area and watch the area for several minutes to make sure the best settings were used and to check for bad reactions.

When the procedure is completed, you may be given ice packs, anti-inflammatory creams or lotions, or cold water to ease any discomfort. You may schedule your next treatment four to six weeks later. You'll get treatments until hair stops growing.

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Home lasers

Lasers that can be used at home for hair removal are available. These devices might cause modest hair reduction. But there are no large studies comparing how effective these devices are compared with laser hair removal done at a doctor's office.

Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers these home laser hair removal devices to be cosmetic, not medical, which means they don't get the same level of scrutiny as other medical devices. Currently, there haven't been large, long-term studies on how safe and effective the home machines are.

If you choose to use a home laser hair removal device, follow the instructions that come with the device to help reduce the risk of injury, especially eye injuries.

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Laser hair removal advantages

Benefits of laser hair removal include:

Precision. Lasers can selectively target dark, coarse hairs while leaving the surrounding skin undamaged.

Speed. Each pulse of the laser takes a fraction of a second and can treat many hairs at the same time. The laser can treat an area approximately the size of a quarter every second. Small areas such as the upper lip can be treated in less than a minute, and large areas, such as the back or legs, may take up to an hour.

Predictability. Most patients have permanent hair loss after an average of three to seven sessions.

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After laser hair removal

Typically, the recovery period after having hair removed by laser is not as complicated as one might think. As a matter of fact, the clinician does everything possible to reduce the time that the area being treated is exposed to laser beams.

Before the treatment commences, hair is trimmed so that it extends only a few millimeters above the surface of the skin. The patient is instructed to refrain from plucking or tweezing hair in the areas to be treated and to stay out of the sun in the weeks before treatment. These precautions are recommended to avoid complications that will impact the treatment and recovery time.

The recovery after the laser removal process is surprisingly short if the patient follows the pre-treatment recommendations. Immediately after treatment, the patient may notice some puffiness and redness in the treated area around the hair follicles. However, unlike recovery for some procedures, a patient may return to normal activities with few restrictions. Usually, a patient may return to work and other activities without problems.

If a patient experiences discomfort, the clinician may recommend placing cold compresses over the painful areas, and may also prescribe moisturizers. He or she may also tell the patient to stay out of the sunlight, and refrain from activities that could irritate the area where the hair was treated.

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