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Hair Removal

Unwanted Hair

Removal of unwanted hair has become one of the most popular cosmetic treatments in recent years for women as well as for an increasing number of men. Treatments include the more traditional and often temporary methods, ranging from depilatories, shaving, waxing, electrolysis, to medical procedures such as intense pulsed light and laser systems.

In many cases, unwanted hair is considered a cosmetic problem. In particular, women often experience additional hair growth during both pregnancy and menopause.

Some diseases also have excessive hair growth as a symptom. The following signs and symptoms suggest that specific blood tests might be appropriate to rule out underlying sources of excess androgen:

  • Irregular periods - for an extended period of time
  • Cystic acne - severe acne which usually leaves scars
  • Hirsuitism - increased body hair that doesn't normally run in your family
  • Virilization - the appearance of secondary male sex characteristics such as a deepened voice
  • Infertility - inability to become pregnant
  • Galactorrhea - breast secretions when not pregnant (this is due to prolactin which is not actually an androgen)

Hence for patients with excessive hair, a careful history and examination are required for a trained dermatologist to determine whether further evaluation is necessary.


How Does Hair Grow?

Human hairs comprise three distinct parts: the bulb at the base of the hair follicle that produces hair, the shaft, and the hair follicle itself. Both the bulb and the shaft are embedded within the skin, leaving only the hair visible to the naked eye. For long-term hair removal, the hair follicle must be destroyed along with its germinating centers that are in the bulb.

Another challenge to the hair removal process is the ability to produce long-term effects. This is due to the fact that hair is destroyed only during the active phase of the growth cycle. As a result of these staggered growth cycles, patients usually require multiple treatments over several weeks to months for long-term hair removal results.

What is Laser Hair Removal

It consists of an infrared laser that can selectively target microstructures such as hair follicles. It is effective for lighter skin types and, because of the relatively low absorption of this light by melanin, it is the best choice when treating darker skin types. Additionally, the ability to safely treat sun-tanned skin makes this the treatment of choice for active individuals.

Why Laser?

For years, the traditional solutions for removing unwanted hair ranged from tweezing and waxing, to shaving, chemical depilatories, and electrolysis - all of which were painful, messy or inconclusive. Today, laser hair removal presents an effective alternative with many advantages.

Laser hair removal is a treatment modality that uses a beam of highly concentrated light to target the hair follicle and destroy it while it is in its growth phase. In general, the laser`s light band ‘zones in’ on the dark pigment in the hair follicle, while leaving the surrounding skin unharmed. Because of this, the laser is able to treat an area comprised of many hair follicles, as opposed to electrolysis, which treats one follicle at a time. Consequently, the laser can clear a larger surface of the hairy area in a shorter period of time.

What to Expect?

Patients usually ask for the duration to treat a given area of hair. On average, it will take 5 to 8 treatment sessions at approximately 6-week intervals. Treatment sessions vary in length from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the area that is treated.  Because the laser treatment will only affect those follicles in the active or ‘anagen’ growth phase, the treatment must be repeated at regular intervals to ensure all the follicles receive treatment while they are active.

Laser hair removal is a relatively comfortable procedure. Topical anesthesia is applied 45 minutes prior to the procedure and hence laser hair removal has little pain. The area treated will appear slightly red following your treatment. You may notice small hive-like bumps or a little swelling, which will disappear in a day or so. However, patients' responses to the recovery vary.

Where can Laser Hair Removal be Done?

Underarms, Bikini Line, Legs, Face, Buttocks, Back, Shoulders, Arms, Hands, etc. and Feet, Chest, Neck, Ears, Naval, Nose, Eye Brows, Upper Lips, Chin, etc. Depending on your needs, most body areas can be treated with this method.

Can in-grown hair be treated?

The infrared energy delivered can be used to remove all types of hair. Sometimes "shaving bumps" can cover a follicle, but the penetrating light of the laser can still be safely used.

Is there a risk of complication?

Temporary pigmentation changes are possible but seldom occur. Always discuss your concerns with your dermatologist prior to your treatment.

How many treatments will I need?

You may need to be treated from 3 to 5 times at intervals of 3 to 8 weeks. There are three phases of hair growth - anagen, catagen, and telogen. Only hairs in the active growth phase, anagen, can be successfully treated.

What should I expect after treatment?

Some redness and slight swelling may be present in the area that has been treated; however, this should subside within a few hours. If any prolonged redness or swelling occurs consult your physician. Keep the treated area clean, use at least SPF 15 sunscreen when outdoors, and follow physician instructions.

How does it work?

The laser selectively targets your hair follicles and heats them with infrared energy. Unlike other processes the laser beam treats many hairs at once, making treatment of large areas practical. The technique employs a computer-guided scanning system that automates the treatment, ensuring that your skin is rapidly and evenly treated. The computer sets the parameters and places the beam in an optimum pattern for your skin to ensure a safe, fast, effective and gentle treatment.

What happens during hair removal treatment?

Your dermatologist will discuss the treatment with you and decide if you need a topical anaesthetic cream. The area of your skin that is to be treated will be scanned with laser light from the therapy. Treatment time will depend upon the area to be treated. A system for cooling your skin will be used to remove heat as it leaves the follicles and should ensure a comfortable treatment. However, since the sensation varies from individual to individual, topical anaesthesia can be provided. Let your dermatologist know if you are very sensitive to pain.

Can tanned skin be treated?

Tanned skin can be treated safely, but always inform your dermatologist if you have been tanning, using tanning products, or exposed to the sun within the last three weeks. He will adjust your treatment regimen accordingly to give you the safest, most effective experience.

Can all skin colours be treated?

Yes, all skin types I through VI can be treated. Skin Type I is very fair, always burns, never tans (e.g. skin of fair caucasian - usually blonde hair and blue eyes). Skin Type VI never burn (dark skin, dark hair, and eyes).