If you’re itching to rid your body of excess hair, literally because you’ve been shaving your body hair and now it’s growing back, there’s a much better solution you might not be considering: It’s time to consider laser hair removal. What has become an increasingly popular cosmetic procedure in the U.S., laser hair removal works by beaming a highly concentrated light into the areas where you have unwanted hair follicles. The laser selectively targets and destroys the hair follicle by absorbing the pigment in the hair, leaving the surrounding skin in the area undamaged. In short, laser hair removal is something of a man-made miracle if you consider yourself a woolly mammoth.
Now that you’re armed with introductory knowledge, here’s the nitty gritty of what you need to know about laser hair removal before you consider it.
1. Understand that it’s permanent
After undergoing any of the following treatments, understand that even if you choose not to continue laser removal after the first session, your hair will not be the same again. Make sure you’re 100% sure before actually going through with it. On a more positive note, rest assured that it’s better to go for permanent hair removal than continuously shaving the areas where you wish to not have hair. Shaving gives you unwanted razor bumps and ingrown hairs, especially since men have thicker and coarser hair, leaving you worse for the wear than when you started.
The procedure does not guarantee permanent hair removal. Some sections or individual follicles could be resistant to the treatment and may grow back again, though if it does, the hair is finer and lighter in color.
2. What areas/types of hair it works best on
Many men gripe about the following areas: chest and stomach, back, shoulders, and genital hair. For ladies, it’s all about underarms, legs, and the bikini line. Laser hair removal works better on lighter skin with dark hair, because the laser has a harder time zapping the pigment out of blond or white hair. If you have darker skin, the Nd: YAG laser will respond best to your hair and skin color combination.
3. How to prep
It’s important to remember that laser hair removal is a medical procedure, and that it requires a significant training on the part of the professional, so make sure to check the credentials of both the doctor or technician before you have the procedure performed. Also, be aware that like any medical procedure, it carries some risks. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common side effects are skin irritation, which is more of an immediate and temporary reaction that can include redness, swelling, and temporary sensitivity or discomfort in the area that you had lasered. You could also experience pigment change, which the laser may lighten or darken the area, though this too is usually temporary. Those most at risk for a skin lightening affect are those with darker skin, especially if the technician set the laser at an incorrect level.
Very rarely can the procedure cause blistering, scarring, or other changes in the texture of the area treated. Other less common side effects are graying of the hair treated, and strangely, hair may begin to grow excessively in and around the area treated.
As for the actual skin prep, limit any plucking, waxing, and electrolysis six weeks before undergoing the treatment. It’s OK to continue shaving. The reason for this is the laser targets your roots, so if you’re using a hair removal method that rids the skin of hair follicles, the procedure will be less effective. Also make sure to avoid sun exposure for six weeks prior and after treatment. The sun can also make the laser less effective and complications or side effects more likely. If you’re interested in hair removal for the summer, you should start now or wait until after the summer to start the procedure.
4. What happens during the procedure
Depending upon the size of the area and how many areas you’re having treated, it can take up to 30 minutes or slightly longer. Most likely the technician will have you lie down depending upon the area and will rub a gel over the area enabling the laser to move around easier. You will also be asked to wear the appropriate eyewear by the technician or doctor. Just to note: When you’re researching the procedure, look for a spa or doctor that uses Pain Free, Hair Free by Alma Lasers, which is very effective and virtually pain free. Before the laser touches your skin, the equipment will be adjusted according to the color, location, and thickness of the hair being treated.
The laser can treat approximately the size of a quarter every second, and each pulse of the laser takes a fraction of a second, treating many hairs at once. Larger areas like legs or back can take up to an hour to be treated.
5. The cost of the procedure
Generally speaking, the smaller the area treated, the lower the cost, while larger areas like the back or chest cost more. When considering the procedure and cost, know that the length of treatment varies and some patients can require anywhere from four to six sessions, and maybe even more to permanently reduce hair growth. Some salons may offer special priced packages if you purchase several sessions at once, which can end up saving you a lot of money.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost for laser hair removal treatments is $235 per session, though it can range from $150 to $500 a session depending on the area treated. However, the cost for treating a larger area like the back, can average from $600 to $900 per session, with the chest running you from $350 to $600. Though the cost of treatments can be high, it may actually be more cost effective than continuously waxing for the rest of your life, especially since laser removal can take a year or so to rid your body of hair for good. There may also be financing available for laser hair removal depending upon where you go for the procedure.
6. Results and maintenance
Most importantly, make sure you’re consistent so that you see results. Most patients can see permanent results after an average of three to seven sessions. Yearly maintenance may be necessary to make sure the results remain intact, as hair can technically grow back slightly, but will not reappear as before.