The “Gold Standard” in Laser Hair Removal
So you have decided to take the plunge and look into laser hair removal but there are many claims out there that one provider or another makes regarding their lasers being the best. There are several elements to laser selection to be considered. Among them are your skin type, the color and coarseness of your hair, and perhaps most importantly your individual response to the laser.
Skin type refers to the amount of melanin pigment in your skin and it is graded from I to VI with I being the lightest skin color and VI being the darkest ethnic skin color. For the majority of people, skin types I-IV, the 810 nm diode laser is the "Gold Standard" for hair reduction. Historically, this laser has had a little more discomfort associated with the treatments but with newer cooling technologies, this has been largely overcome. For darker skin colors, the 1064 nm Yag laser or the 810 nm diode laser with radio-frequency energy are the best lasers. Darker ethnic skin is more difficult and riskier to have treated than less pigmented skin. As a result, it often takes many more treatments to see effective laser hair reduction in types V and VI.
Lasers target the melanin in the hair follicle to absorb the energy to destroy the hair follicle. The peak absorption of energy for melanin occurs at 810 nm, meaning the hair follicle absorbs more energy from a laser designed to emit that wavelength of energy than any other laser. Since the follicle is absorbing more energy with this wavelength than any other, their tends to be more discomfort. Recent advances in cooling technology used during the treatment process have largely overcome the discomfort of the procedure.
The next important feature is the color and texture of the hair follicles. Darker, coarser follicles respond best to laser reduction treatments while fine, poorly pigmented follicles will not respond adequately. Blonde, white, grey and red hair as well as very fine vellus hair follicles will not absorb sufficient energy to be destroyed by the lasers. In these cases, waxing, shaving and plucking unwanted hair follicles are your only options.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, how you individually respond to laser hair therapy will determine how successful your treatments are. In a very small number of people, laser hair therapy can actually stimulate the growth of new follicles. If you notice more follicles to be present after one or two treatments you should stop laser hair removal treatments immediately and pursue other options. There is also a very small percentage of people who simply will not respond to laser hair reduction therapy. For this reason, I recommend purchasing individual treatments initially. Then as your response to the therapy is observed you can decide to purchase a larger number of treatments if there are associated savings. I would avoid purchasing a large number of treatments upfront. For many people, occasional maintenance treatments may be necessary as the fine vellus hair can become coarser under hormonal stimulation.
To summarize, it is important to select a laser hair removal center that is experienced, with lasers that most effectively target hair based on skin type, and most importantly the center should offer a program that allows you to evaluate your individual response. It is also important to note that while you may appear to be a good candidate for laser hair reduction treatments, a small number of people may see no response or even see a paradoxical response that makes their problem worse.