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Laser Hair Removal, What To Know Before Going Under The Sun

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Laser Hair Removal, What To Know Before Going Under The Sun
September 02
20:28 2016

Article Highlights

  • Summer may not be the best time for laser hair removal, especially if women are considering any sun exposure
  • Pigment in the hair follicle absorbs the laser energy to stunt the growth of hair
  • Darker skin absorbs the laser energy, meaning it can burn and the hair does not receive enough energy

With the warm weather, you may be considering putting the shaving gel and hot wax aside in favour of a more long-lasting option. Whether it’s getting rid of those pesky armpit hairs or being bikini ready, more women are seeking a way to shed body hair permanently.

One of the options available is laser hair removal. But as the sun gets hotter, more caution needs to be taken when deciding to undergo this procedure. In the summer, unexpected side effects are more likely to occur, and some of them can severely damage the skin.

“Summer may not be the best time for laser hair removal, especially if women are considering any sun exposure,” said Dr. Martie Gidon, cosmetic dermatologist and director of Gidon Aesthetics & MediSpa in Toronto.

Exposing the skin to the sun soon after the treatment can result in hyperpigmentation of the treated area. According to Dr. Gidon, the skin should not be exposed to the sun for at least three weeks after the treatment, as pigment cells in the treated skin area get activated by the sun, causing a darkening of the skin.

A few precautionary steps must be followed before undergoing laser hair removal treatment. Before the appointment, the hair must be shaved, however not waxed or plucked, as a laser works by targeting the pigmented hair in the follicles. Staying away from the sun, tanning beds and spray tanning before going in for the appointment is advised, as tanned skin can also react negatively to laser treatment. “If tanned skin is treated, it can burn and blister,” said Dr. Gidon.

Prior to undergoing the treatment, the skin and hair is analyzed to ensure positive results. The laser machine settings are adjusted according to hair and skin colour. With this treatment, each laser pulse is placed on the skin, and lasts a fraction of a second. According to Dr. Gidon, an anesthetic cream may be applied to numb the skin and the procedure is relatively painless.

“Some pulses may cause a small stinging sensation, but there are lasers that can provide a more comfortable treatment by using a vacuum,” Dr. Gidon explained. Five to ten sessions will be required, spaced out six to eight weeks between one another, to effectively remove the hair.

Both small and large areas can be treated in each session, with varying times. While treatment in the armpit or bikini area will take about 10 minutes, according to Dr. Gidon, treatment of the legs and thighs will take 30 minutes.

Dr. Gidon noted the best candidates for laser hair removal are those with fair skin and dark hair. Women with grey, white or blond hair will not experience successful hair loss. Women with darker skin tones can also have insufficient hair loss, and are also more susceptible to hyperpigmentation, burning and scarring. This occurs because of the way the laser works to remove hair.

“Pigment in the hair follicle absorbs the laser energy to stunt the growth of hair. Lighter skin does not absorb the laser energy, so it can all go to the hair,” said Dr. Gidon. “Darker skin absorbs the laser energy, meaning it can burn and the hair does not receive enough energy.”

Possible side effects for people with darker skin tones vary. “Darker skin turns darker if there is inflammation from a burn of any kind,” noted Dr. Gidon. “If the burn is deep enough and destroys the pigment cells, there will be permanent lighter or white areas. Depending on the area treated and the depth of the burn, the scars can be raised and red.”

However, some clinics may offer lasers suitable for darker skin tones, Dr. Gidon mentioned. “These lasers have a longer wavelength and lower energy, so they do not burn the skin,” she stated. Before the appointment, the patient should inquire about the clinic’s lasers and if they’re appropriate for use on darker skin, since not all clinics have these lasers, suggested Dr. Gidon.

Choosing a clinic with a certified cosmetic dermatologist is the best option to protecting your skin. Performing laser hair removal requires extensive training, and Dr. Gidon suggested that patients be treated by experienced technicians who use lasers that get regularly checked for functionality.

A dermatologist can analyze the skin and decide if you are a good candidate for laser hair removal, as they are capable of treating complications and know to avoid treating skin that is either tanned or will be exposed to sun afterwards. If performed correctly, laser hair removal gives permanent hair reduction, according to Dr. Gidon, leaving you hair-free for many summers to come.

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