Monday, September 20, 2010

Research on Laser Hair Removal...Who Knew?!?

A SHE friend asked me to post about laser hair removal.  I've had it done, it worked for me, I would do it again so I thought, sure.  Out of curiosity, I did a little research using the National Institutes of Health literature database and low and behold, there's a lot of Dr. Dorks publishing papers on laser hair removal!  Here's what I found out:

  • Laser-assisted hair removal is the most efficient method of long-term hair removal.  
  • Lasers work by damaging the hair follicle.  The laser is set to target melanin, which is the pigment or color of hair.  Melanin is also in skin, so these lasers are set to just target the hair melanin and leave the skin melanin alone.
  • Because the lasers are selectively trying to only destroy the hair melanin, they work best when there is an easy target:  light skin and black hair.  If you're dark skinned or have really light hair color, then this might not work very well on you.
  • There are a number of different lasers available now.  Based on one paper I found that reviewed a bunch of studies on hair removal, the diode laser is the most effective for light skin/dark hair folks and the alexandrite is better for darker skin.  Both of these lasers reduced the amount of hair by 50% after 3 sessions. 
  • Side effects of laser hair removal include skin pigmentation (brown spots), scarring (rare), and swelling. Not surprisingly, these side effects are more common when procedures are carried out by untrained personnel.
I had laser hair removal several years ago in the region that is south of the equator but north of the Tropic of Capricorn.  It took about 10 sessions to be bikini ready.  The first 3 sessions were AGONIZING!  It was just as painful as waxing, except unlike the quick-rip-and-exhale with waxing, it took about 30 minutes.  I've talked to other SHE friends and they didn't think it was quite as bad as I did.  Obviously, they were drunk either when they told me this or when they had the laser.  

It's getting so cheap these days (and Groupon almost always has a special on laser hair removal).  Seems to be low risk and quite effective, so long as you go to a reputable place where qualified people are using the lasers.  Anyone feel differently?  Any really bad experiences out there?  Anyone want to chip in to a scholarship fund to support the removal of carpet-like back hair in middle-aged men across the U.S.?