To understand how to get rid of hair, it is important to understand how hair grows. Hair growth is cyclical and begins with the growth cycle known as anagen. Anagen may last for two to seven years (the duration of this cycle determines the maximum hair length). The following anagen is catagen, a transition cycle that lasts for about 10 to 14 days. Telogen (the resting phase) follows catagen and lasts from two to four months. The most common areas for hair reduction in women are the upper lip, chin, cheeks, legs, armpits, and bikini area. Many factors, including genetics and hormones, control hair density in these areas. Some ethnic groups have increased hair density above the lip. Diseases such as polycystic ovary disease and certain medications may also stimulate excessive hair growth.
Laser hair removal is a safe, effective way to get rid of unwanted hair. The principle underlying laser hair removal is known as selective thermolysis and it refers to light (or laser) that can target one color or tissue without affecting another. When applied to hair reduction, lasers, or strong lights target pigment at the base of the follicle to destroy the matrix stem cells. Most hair removal laser systems work well when used on light skin and dark hair. This combination allows energy from the laser to pass through the skin and get absorbed by the dark hair. When used on dark skin, the energy gets absorbed by the skin and may cause loss of pigment or scarring without affecting the hairs.
Your doctor will use a light beam about the size of a dime to treat large areas in minimal time. Treating facial areas may take 10 to 15 minutes while an average-sized back takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Eye goggles are worn whenever a laser is used to protect the eyes from light bouncing off metal objects. Typical treatment sessions require four to six visits spaced about a month apart. The sensation of laser hair removal has been compared to a rubber band snapping. Cryogen (a freezing spray) may be used to maintain comfort. Shaving the hair as close as possible right before the procedure also decreases the pain of the procedure.
Reviewed by Dr. Goldenberg