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Everything you need to know about laser hair removal

By Georgia Seago
28th September 2022

Laser hair removal is an incredibly popular treatment, and one that I personally can’t believe I didn’t do sooner. Providing you’re a suitable candidate (more on that below), you’re pretty much guaranteed to get results that last, making it one of the most worthwhile tweakments to invest in. But there’s still lots you need to know before being zapped. Read on for answers to the most commonly-asked questions about laser hair removal.

What’s the difference between laser hair removal and IPL?

Both laser and IPL can be used for hair removal, and both are technologies that use light to achieve their effects. The difference is that lasers use a specific wavelength to send beams of light that hit a precise depth in the skin, whereas IPL is a broad-spectrum light, a collection of different wavelengths of light. When it comes to hair removal, laser’s target – the hair’s pigment – is more specific than IPL, and so is more effective and has fewer complications.

I have Black skin. Can I have laser hair removal?

A while ago, the answer would have been ‘no’. Darker skin tones have always been much trickier to treat safely and effectively with lasers because old technologies were unable to distinguish between melanin (pigment) in the hair and that in the skin. Thankfully, the newest types of lasers are able to target the hair alone without creeping over onto the surrounding skin, making laser hair removal possible for those with Black skin. Just make sure the clinic you choose uses one of these more modern lasers and has experience treating darker skin tones.

I have blonde, grey/white or red hair. Can I have laser hair removal?

Unfortunately, laser hair removal is usually unsuitable for those with blonde, grey/white or red hair (some shades are OK). This is because there simply isn’t any (or enough) pigment for the laser to detect. Have a consultation to find out for sure if it’ll work for you.

How many sessions will I need?

Depending on the area and coarseness of the hair, most people need around 8 sessions spaced 6 weeks apart.

Is laser hair removal really permanent?

The goal is to achieve around an 80 per cent reduction in hair after the recommended course of treatments for each individual, but it’s best to think of laser hair removal as minimising and slowing hair growth over time rather than eliminating it completely forever – the hair will start to grow back thinner, lighter and sparser. Top-up maintenance treatments may be required periodically.

In which areas can I get laser hair removal?

Pretty much anywhere and everywhere. Common areas for women include the underarms, legs, bikini line, Brazilian area, upper lip, and chin. Men most commonly have laser hair removal on the chest and stomach, back, hands and fingers, and face, but any body hair can be treated.

How do I prepare for laser hair removal?

A patch test at least 48 hours before your first session is a must to make sure you don’t react badly to the laser, then before each session you should shave the area to be treated. Don’t wax, expose the area to direct sunlight or use self-tanner in the four weeks before your appointment.

Does laser hair removal hurt?

It depends on your pain threshold, but to be honest, yes. It’s not unbearable but it’s certainly not comfortable. Luckily, laser hair removal is a very quick treatment and many of the newer laser systems have built-in cooling mechanisms that make it much more tolerable by blowing a constant stream of ice-cold air onto the skin. You can always take a couple of paracetamol (NOT ibuprofen) beforehand if you’re really worried.

Is laser hair removal safe?

Yes. Provided there’s a high enough level of pigment in the hair for the laser to pick up compared to the skin’s melanin, you have a patch test and see an experienced laser practitioner who uses a good device, it’s a very safe treatment.

Is there any downtime with laser hair removal?

Not really, you just need to avoid getting the area hot and sweaty for 48 hours. You can ask for some aloe vera gel to be applied (or you can apply it yourself to more intimate areas) to instantly soothe the treated area.

Are there any side effects from laser hair removal?

Aside from redness and minor skin irritation, other side effects are very rare and only occur in inexperienced hands or with a sub-par laser. These can include temporary crusting and changes to skin colour (hyper- or hypopigmentation). Burns are even rarer but can happen.

How long will it take to see results?

Most people usually start to see some difference in hair growth – in terms of colour, coarseness and speed of regrowth – within a few sessions.

When should I start laser hair removal?

It’s best to start laser hair removal during the cooler months of autumn and winter when sun exposure is lower, and you’ll be out of the sun. Having said that, if the area you’re treating is hidden day to day – like the underarms or genital areas – it doesn’t really matter what time of year you do it. Just remember not to book a winter holiday during a course of laser treatments.

The Tweakments Guide Takeaway

Laser hair removal is a brilliant, safe and effective treatment that basically guarantees results, and modern lasers mean that even Black skin can now be treated. But you still need to make sure you're well informed before getting started.

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