Hair Removal

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What are the side effects of laser hair removal?

Laser hair reduction works by targeting the pigment (melanin) in the hair follicle. Melanin then absorbs the heat delivered by the laser and transfers it to the nearby growth control center of the hair follicle (stem cells). Heating of the stem cell area causes the hair to become lighter and finer until it is small and fine enough not to be seen above the skin surface. The hair is not actually destroyed, nor is the hair follicle scarred.

Under certain conditions, like hormonal changes during menopause or in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, the treated hair follicles can get activated again and start producing dark terminal hairs that again grow above the skin surface.

Because the laser actually preferentially targets the darker areas, the major potential side effect is burning the epidermis (surface layer of the skin), since it also contains melanin. That can result in darkening or lightening of the skin. If the burn goes beyond the epidermis into the lower layers of the skin, actual scarring and skin texture change can result.

It is extremely important to make sure that laser hair removal is not performed on anyone who has had sun exposure to the area to be treated within at least a month before laser hair removal. When the skin tans, the melanin darkens and the difference between the skin and hair color is significantly reduced. That makes it more likely that the laser will hit the pigment in the epidermis and cause a burn.

It is also important to carefully and accurately determine the person's skin type prior to the procedure. That is done by means of a detailed questionnaire, and not by just glancing at the skin and making a judgment. Skin type determines the proper settings on the laser that will also minimize the potential for side effects.

Finally, you are absolutely right. Body hair is there for a number of evolutionarily important reasons. Ultimately the desire to keep or remove hair is determined by the individual. The great thing about laser hair reduction is that, should a person choose to remove the hair, it can give excellent, long lasting results. All the other available hair removal methods, like shaving, waxing or using depilatories, are temporary and may have their own side effects.

To decrease the risk of side effects, it is best to have the procedure done by a board-certified, trained and experienced physician, to do careful skin typing and to avoid sun exposure for at least a month prior to treatment.


Is there a link between cancer and laser hair removal?

Rest assured, laser hair removal treatment does not cause any form of cancer. The type of laser used in the hair removal procedure utilizes non-ionizing radiation. Ionization is a process by which electrons are stripped from atoms and molecules, producing molecular changes that can lead to significant genetic damage in biological tissue. Less energetic forms of electromagnetic radiation, such as microwave radiation, the laser used in hair reduction procedure lack the ability to ionize atoms and molecules and are classified as "non ionizing" radiation.

The non-ionizing radiation can produce very intense heat in a very local area but does not break DNA bonds and not cause cell mutation. In fact, non-ionizing radiation surrounds us every day. It includes the spectrum of ultraviolet (UV), visible light, infrared (IR), microwave (MW), radio frequency (RF), and extremely low frequency (ELF).

However, This past May in 2013 at the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery's annual meeting, Dr. Gary S. Chuang, dermatologic surgeon at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, reported the preliminary results of a study he conducted that laser plumes emitted during the laser hair removal procedure contain "a cocktail of volatile organic compounds," at least 13 of which are known to be hazardous to human health.

The findings further highlight the potential for harm that have already been demonstrated in association with laser procedures in the absence of safeguards such as adequate ventilation, smoke evacuators, and adequate personal protection.

Dr. Chuang and his colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard School of Public Health, and Boston University subjected donor hair samples to a single pulse from a diode or Alexandrite laser, captured the plumes produced, and examined them with gas chromatography. They detected the presence of approximately 300 distinct chemical compounds, 40 of which occurred in higher concentrations and 13 of which have been shown to be harmful in human and animal studies.


Is there any permanent hair removal treatment other than Laser treatments?

Electrolysis. It takes a lot longer, because each individual hair follicle has to be zapped. But if you can't do laser, electrolysis is your option.


Are there any salons in the San Francisco Bay area that do hair removal services using hair removal creams?

In my experience, there is no cream that removes hair well enough to bother with. It doesn't matter who applies it. It just doesn't work well at all. And no cream can complete with laser treatments in terms of permanent hair removal.


What would happen if someone forgot to shave prior to laser hair removal?

The place I went to for getting my pits lasered, were categorical that I shouldn't shave atleast 7 days before the treatment. They would evaluate the thickness and density of the hair, make some markings with a white pencil and then shave me themselves before proceeding to zap the pits.


What is it like to have laser hair removal?

Seriously though, it's not that bad if done properly and considering ones pain tolerance is relatively normal. For example, I have tattoos and I don't mind the needle sensation the slightest (I have them on my chest, shoulder/neck, arm, leg, etc.), however other people just absolutely hate it! That being said, I might be able to tolerate tattoo needles, but possibly wouldn't hold up to something else that is very common - it's a case by case situation.

So, back to laser hair removal. I worked with a Gentleman years ago who wanted to demonstrate the power of his hair removal machine to a group of investors. I said, "Why don't you show them on yourself?" and he replied by pulling his sleeves up, "I can't. I've already demonstrated too much on myself." to reveal his bare arms. So, I offered my arm as a substitute. I kid you not he just planted that thing on my forearm and went to town leaving me with a solid patch of hairless skin for weeks. For me, it didn't hurt at all.

Your Practitioner will do one of a couple things. They will either apply a topical gel to assist with protecting the skin from the heat of the laser or the laser's tip, when engaged, will actually mist a small amount of cooling agent. While this isn't mandatory, almost all Spas will perform with it for safety measures. Aside from that there is just a period of time with the Technician running the wand over your treated area. Bright flashes of light occur, maybe a small 'snapping' sensation and eventually the absence of your unwanted hair.

The biggest thing to remember is that this procedure is not 100% permanent, but after several sessions you will see a lack of hair in the treatment area. This is because for all the hair follicles the laser encounters, it targets the pigment and follicle. While that specific hair will be removed for some time, the surrounding hairs might not have been removed or were too short. So, future visits (approx. six in one month) will be needed to get all of the region's hair.


What is the future of hair removal?

I always loved those science fiction stories where the [people from the future] [or alien or other welcoming people] give the male protagonist a lotion to rub on his face, after which his beard no longer grows. In the stories this is usually reversible or not mentioned again. I have no idea how feasible such a hair removal solution might be now or in our future, but I can tell you from personal experience that the best thing we have now that I know of - laser hair removal - is expensive, painful, requires multiple applications and is far from an ideal solution.


What are the precautions of undergoing laser hair removal?

In addition to Stephanie Vardavas's advice: shave beforehand. No waxing / plucking for at least a few weeks before, but right before the session, shave as close to the skin as possible. Depending on the area and how quickly your hair grows, shaving the morning of may be fine, but the closer to the skin you've shaved before getting zapped, the better.


How painful is electrolysis versus laser hair removal?

By most accounts, electrolysis is more painful. Laser is compared to getting snapped with a rubber band. Electrolysis is more like getting a tattoo.

Electrolysis also takes a lot longer to treat the same sized area, prolonging the agony. Both procedures involve damaging the hair follicles so they can't grow more hair. However, with electrolysis, you have to insert a probe into each hair follicle individually. Laser is more efficient at blanketing a larger area at one time, so the sessions are over quicker.

There are reasons you might still choose electrolysis over laser hair removal - cost being one (electrolysis is cheaper). If you only have a small area to treat, electrolysis could work out OK and save you some money. Also, if you've done any research on laser, you probably know that some hair/skin combinations get better results than others. But laser technology seems to be getting better and better, and that's what most people choose (or would choose, if not for cost and other factors).


What is better for hair removal on the legs, waxing or laser treatments?

LHR is a good opt, it is fairly expensive, but is on the surface!

In fact, we estimated the price for 35 years using the per treatment cost and figuring out how often most people would have to use each method, assuming they start about age 15 and slow down at about age 50, laser hair removal is actually one of the most inexpensive methods along with shaving.

Every week, millions of women shave their legs and this can take a lot of time and it adds up to a lot of money as well. However, the disadvantage of shaving is that it can cause the growth hair to be coarser and thicker. And what's more? You have to do the shaving every three days just to get back those smooth-skinned legs. Maybe you are thinking that razor will not give you a satisfactory result and your next choice would be depilatories or waxing.

Though waxing is better than shaving, you have to be ready with the pain it would cause. The difficult thing with waxing is that you need to find the most suitable chemical agent that will suit your skin as allergic reaction may occur. Of course, you wouldn't want to have a blemished or reddened skin on your legs after waxing, right?