Millions of women and men use multiple methods to rid their bodies of unwanted hair.
With varying degrees of success, they shave, pluck, wax, use depilatory creams, and undergo electrolysis or laser hair removal, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly or monthly, sometimes in the privacy of their own homes, or even in regular visits to professionals.
According to Angie Seelal, RPA-C of Advanced Dermatology, PC: “All these methods have advantages and disadvantages. Those that remove hair at the root provide longer-lasting results than those that remove hair above the skin’s surface. Some are less irritating to the skin than others, some work better on particular parts of the body, and can cause the new growth to be thinner and sparser. Seeking the best solution for permanent removal, many have turned to lasers, making laser hair removal one of the most popular aesthetic treatments for women.”
Surface removal methods include shaving (electric and wet) and depilatory creams. Shaving, particularly of legs and underarms, is easy and convenient as part of a regular grooming routine. The downside is that it has to be done daily or several times a week, to keep skin smooth and hair-free. Depilatory creams chemically dissolve the hair but can cause irritation or even allergic reactions and should be patch tested on a small area.
Removing hair at the root can be done by tweezing in small areas like the brows; and waxing, which can last weeks but which may be painful and for which it’s necessary to let hairs grow longer than they would have to be for shaving. Methods that promise long-lasting, even permanent hair removal are electrolysis and laser hair removal.
In electrolysis a trained professional inserts a very thin electrified needle into the hair follicle and destroys the root with electric current, preventing regrowth. Electrolysis treats each hair individually, making it time-consuming and impractical for large areas. It can also be painful, causing redness and swelling. “Laser treatment is the most effective method for permanent removal,” says Ms. Seelal. “Unlike electrolysis, it treats many hairs at once and can be used on areas of any size on any part of the body. While the number of treatments depends on the area to be treated, results are often seen after just one or two treatments.”
Laser treatments work by concentrating an intense beam of light on a small area of skin. The light is absorbed by the pigment in the hair follicle underneath the skin surface, destroying the follicle with heat and preventing growth. Laser hair removal is safe and has been refined over the years so that the procedure causes little to no discomfort.
Permanent hair removal may take several rounds of treatment to ensure coverage of all hair follicles in varying stages of their growth cycle. While some hair may grow back, it is likely to be lighter and sparser than before. The exact number of treatments required varies from person to person, depending on skin tone and the nature of the hair.
Laser treatments work best when there is the greatest contrast between skin and hair color, as with dark hair and fair skin. “While different lasers have been designed to work effectively on different skin tones,” says Ms. Seelal, “people with very fair or white hair and fair skin may not achieve the best results with laser removal.”
Laser hair removal has become popular for its convenience, comfort, and long-lasting results. It is a non-invasive method of removing hair no matter where or how large the treated area. With the warm weather approaching, many people will find that laser treatments will boost their confidence as they wear shorts and bathing suits that reveal smooth, hairless skin.