Why long term hair removal?
For most of us, removing unwanted hair is a laborious, time consuming and repetitive process. But things can be different. Numerous epilation devices, laser or pulsed light have been used for more than 20 years. We find them in medical clinics and spas, beauty salons; many of them are even presented as home-based. Laser epilation is an extremely popular procedure, both in Europe and the US, effective and with excellent long-term results.
Growth cycle of the hair follicle
In order to understand how the hair removal is done with light energy, it is important to review some aspects of the hair follicle growth. The cycle consists of three phases: the actual growth (anagenous phase), with a variable duration of up to 6 years, the regression period (catagenous) of about 3 weeks, and the resting phase (telogenous) of about 3 months. Although there are anatomical variations, they are generally minor, so usually most of the hair follicles (80-85%) are in the growth phase, a small proportion (2%) in the regression phase and the rest (13- 18%) in the rest. For laser epilation to be effective, the light beam must touch the hair growth centers in the root. Specialists agree that treatment should take place in the anagenous phase of the growth cycle for optimum results.
Causes of excessive pilosity
Excessive pilosity is classified into two categories: hypertrichosis and hirsutism. Hypertrichosis is defined as the presence of more hair than gender, age and race norm and is usually genetic. Hirsutism represents the presence of excess male-patterned hair in women (beard, mustache, lower abdomen or back) and may have medical causes – drug treatments, hormonal disorders, tumors, etc.
There are many ways to remove unwanted hair from your body: razor blade, wax epilation, epilation creams, electronic tweezers, radiofrequency or electrolysis – inserting a needle at each hair level followed by a minimal electric shock to burn its root. All of these have temporary results. The only method that produces permanent hair loss is the use of laser or intense pulse light.
Types of lasers and mode of action
Lasers used for long-lasting epilation function on the principle of selective photo-thermolysis. Lasers emit a low energy beam through the skin; this is absorbed by the pigment present in the hair follicle (melanin) and is turned into intense heat. The hair follicle is destroyed; its entire structure deteriorates and its regeneration capacity is reduced. More than one session is needed to modify over 80% of the follicles, but their appearance changes over time, their density decreases and finally they become unnoticeable.
The first lasers used for definitive epilation were ruby, alexandrite and diode laser. Intense pulse light is also very effective. Because the laser beam targets melanin, they give excellent results in Caucasian patients with dark hair. Lasers that work with longer wavelengths, such as Nd-YAG, are very safe for patients with darker skin or in very sunny climates. As a general rule, blond or gray-haired patients have little or no benefit from this procedure.
Patients interested in long-term hair removal are advised to consult a specialist who will make a complex assessment by analyzing the type of skin and the color, density and location of the unwanted hair. Individual medical history will also be discussed – any drug therapy, thyroid or ovarian disease, abnormal scarring, recent herpes simplex episodes or use of Retin-A. Tanned or tattooed skin can react differently. It is essential for the patient to understand the procedure, the need for a number of treatment sessions and some maintenance, as well as the fact that the results are individually variable.
Preparation for Laser / IPL Hair Removal
In order to increase the effectiveness of the procedure, it is important that for 4 weeks prior to laser epilation and during treatment, only razor blades and epilating creams to be used for hair removal.
Sunbeds and sun exposure are also forbidden because bronze will increase the amount of melanin in the skin and will seriously affect treatment results. An antiviral drug can be administered the day before the procedure, as prophylaxis for a herpetic eruption.
The targeted areas must be clean and it is recommended not to use cosmetics. An anesthetic cream can be applied locally, but most lasers have a cooling piece (gel, spray or a cold contact piece) that significantly reduces patient discomfort and protects the skin from both excessive heating and color changes. Both the patient and the medical staff present in the room should wear protective goggles during the laser procedure. In general, at least 3 sessions are required on each target area to achieve a permanent hair reduction. Darker hair responds best to treatment, while the white, gray or blond shows less satisfying results. In order to increase the responsiveness to treatment of light-colored patients, certain drug substances may be given locally. The patient experiences the laser pulse as a short hot sting. Because of the greater amount of skin melanin, patients with darker skin could be less comfortable, but the general comparison is with an elastic band pulled on the skin. The ideal result is immediate vaporization of the hair. In a few minutes the area becomes red and mild edema can occur, but symptoms usually disappear on the same day. If necessary, ice and a steroid cream can be applied locally and mild analgesics can be prescribed. Patients are trained to avoid sun exposure and to use SPF 30 sunscreen after laser treatment. Cosmetics are not contraindicated.
The side effects of laser epilation include pain, swelling and erythema, inflammation of the area around hair yarns lasting 1-3 days. There have also been reports of vesicles, acute episodes of herpes and bacterial infections, but these are quite rare. The skin may undergo temporary changes in color, especially in darker skin patients. Disappearance of freckles, discoloration of pigmented nevi and alterations of tattoos are also possible. Permanent discomforts or scarring occur very rarely.
Frequently Asked Questions
How effective is the treatment?
The percentage of hair follicles removed in each session varies depending on the anatomical area; areas with thin skin generally respond better – inguinal, axillary – comparative with some areas with thicker skin, harder to treat – back, chin. Each session generally brings a 10-25% reduction in hair growth in the treated area.
At what interval are the sessions scheduled?
The treatment is repeated 3-8 weeks. Each patient benefits from a personalized regimen, but 3 weeks is the minimum pause interval between sessions to allow sufficient hair growth and make the procedure as effective as possible.
Can this treatment be covered by health insurance?
Laser epilation is an aesthetic procedure, even in patients with associated pathologies that cause hirsutism, so it is not covered by your medical insurance. You are responsible for the full payment of the procedure. The costs and payment methods will be discussed in detail during the first consultation in our clinic.