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Laser Hair Removal 101

Unwanted body hair can be annoying and difficult to manage. For some people—especially women—troublesome areas of body hair can be extremely embarrassing. These areas can cause worry and affect one’s self confidence. It’s no wonder, then, that laser hair removal procedures are as popular as they are. In the US alone, well over 1 million procedures took place in 2012. In total, over 900,000 patients underwent laser hair removal that year. That makes laser hair removal the third most popular non-surgical cosmetic procedure, behind only hyaluronic acid and BOTOX. With the continued increase of social acceptability for cosmetic procedures, it’s no wonder these industries continue to grow every year.

However, there’s another reason that contributes greatly to the increasing popularity of these procedures: safety. As technology and science advance, procedures like laser hair removal only become safer and more readily and cheaply available. Laser hair removal in particular is an extremely safe procedure, with very few common side effects. The full list of side effects ranges only from the superficial to the mildly annoying. The key thing to remember after a treatment is to keep the treated area out of the sunlight.

Laser hair removal works by exposing the hair follicle to pulses of laser light, which destroy the follicle. The destruction is permanent and results in the permanent removal of unwanted hair, unlike many conventional means of body hair management, like shaving and waxing. In general, the laser light treatment is only effective during a certain phase of hair growth, called the anagen phase.

The anagen phase is the phase when the hair is actively growing, is thicker, and is more pigmented. Because of its darker pigmentation during this phase, the hair serves as a better target for the laser light. There are two other phases of hair growth called catagen and telogen, where the hair stops growing, eventually sheds, and rests before beginning the anagen phase again. During these two phases, laser treatment is not as effective, as the hair follicle is relatively immune to the laser light.

Due in part to these phases, multiple laser hair removal treatments are required for the best possible results. You should expect to undergo more than one treatment and, depending on the degree of removal you want, many treatments may be necessary. The good news is that the procedure is relatively pain-free. Though everyone has different pain thresholds, the laser pulse is generally reported as a brief sensation of heat, the snapping of a rubber band against the skin, or the slightly more noticeable sensation of spattering hot bacon grease.

Since everyone’s hair grows at different speeds and hair from certain parts of the body grows faster than hair from other parts, each set of treatments is tailored on an individual basis. Chin and upper lip treatments may happen in quicker succession. No matter where the treated area is, though, patients usually report that hair regrows slower, is finer, and is sparser.

Laser hair removal is one of the safest cosmetic procedures and can have very effective results. Ask about all of the associated risks and side effects to make sure that the procedure is right for you.

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