Thinking About Laser Hair Removal? Know the Facts

9 Things You Need to Know Before You Sign Up

Laser hair removal.
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The promise of ditching the razor and avoiding annoying stubble just days after shaving is tempting. That's why a process like laser hair removal is so popular. Is it a good choice for you and what can you expect?

These are good questions to have answered before you commit to the treatment. While many people love the fact that they went through with it, it's not the best choice for everyone. Plus, you have to make a commitment to see it through a few sessions in order to experience the best results and it is not cheap.

Even then, you're not going to be 100 percent hair-free, but you can enjoy a lot of freedom from razors and stubble.

The Best Candidates

Lasers and pulsed lights work best on people with dark hair and light skin. There are other devices, such as the Diode and Nd-Yag, which were created to work on people with light hair or dark skin.

As for dark or tanned skin, lasers can cause discoloration unless you use a machine created for dark skin. If your skin is dark, you should never subject yourself to an Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment.

Lasers have come a long way and the technology is continually improving. When you book your appointment, describe your skin tone and hair color and ask if the lasers at that salon or clinic will work on you. Some of these businesses also specialize in darker skin, so be sure to ask around in your area.

How It Works

Lasers use pulsed light to target, break down, and destroy the melanin (dark pigment) in hair.

This is why it works so well on dark hair. The lasers will also target the melanin in dark skin, which can cause discoloration and why only certain devices should be used.

Hair grows in three phases: growing, resting, and shedding. The lasers and pulsed lights target hair in the growth phase.

After treatment, the hairs fall out within 10 to 14 days.

Use a mild sugar scrub in the shower on the tenth day to help exfoliate the skin and remove hair. It's also a good idea to use any products your aesthetician recommends and follow their after-treatment suggestions carefully.

Areas That Can Be Treated

Lasers and pulsed light target several follicles at once, so you can treat large areas of skin. While it would take years to perform electrolysis on the back or legs, a typical laser hair removal session on both legs usually takes under two hours. Lasers are great for treating the back, shoulders, arms, and chest.

For the upper lip and chin, lasers work but only on dark hair. If you want to ensure the blonde hairs are zapped in these areas, your better bet is electrolysis for permanent hair removal.

The Time Involved

The office visit itself typically does not take long. It does depend on what area you're getting treated, though. For instance, your back or legs may take an hour or two while the upper lip may only take minutes.

You will notice results after your first laser treatment, but you're not done. It takes four to six sessions spaced four weeks apart to see 70 to 80 percent reduction in hair growth. For best results, get maintenance treatments done once a year for at least a couple years.

No Guaranteed Results

There's never a guarantee that you'll enjoy a hair-free life after treatment. It's important to remember that laser hair removal works better for some people than others. 

No one knows for sure what the regrowth rates are. Some people notice regrowth after several months or years, while others find they never have to shave again. However, for people who have had success, it is often seen as a life-changer and they're really happy they went had it done.

How to Prepare

Once it's determined what type of laser machine will be used, you'll likely be told to either shave a day or two before your sessions. You'll also want to avoid tanning and self-tanners before and after treatment. It is possible that you will need to stop taking certain medications to avoid adverse effects, so be honest about everything you take.

The day of your appointment, you'll want to avoid using any products on your skin. That includes lotions, deodorant, or anything else. Just walk out of the shower, dry off, and get dressed. Be sure to check with your aesthetician about any other things you should and should not do before and after your sessions.

Reduce the Pain

The pulsed light in laser hair removal feels like a rubber band popping against your skin, although some machines perform differently. Not every zap will hurt and some areas, like the lower legs, hurt more than others (the thighs).

It's often advised to take a couple ibuprofen an hour before your session. Some people recommend numbing the skin 20 minutes before your session with a spray or cream that contains four percent lidocaine. InStyle magazine recommends Gigi's Anesthetic Numbing Spray.

Pick the Right Expert

Many salons advertise cheap and discounted procedures, but the best places don't have to resort to discounts. Do your homework before signing up for services. Protect yourself and your skin by booking an appointment with a dermatologist or licensed technician only.

What It'll Cost You

Laser hair removal is not cheap. Depending on what body part you treat, it can run from $200 to $2,000 per session. That is not including tax and tip.