What is laser hair removal and how does it work?
Lauren Isaacs from Bay Laser in Rose Bay, Sydney, has been keeping the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney hair-free for over 13 years. She says “Laser is an intense beam of light energy … that is absorbed by the melanin (which gives our hair and skin its colour). The laser energy is converted into heat, destroying the hair follicle and leaving the surrounding skin unaffected.”
Is laser hair removal safe?
When it comes to the machines used in hair removal, the laser beam can’t penetrate past the dermis and is therefore extremely safe if used correctly.
How many treatments should I have?
“Each individual differs according to skin and hair colour and the density of their hair,” says Lauren. “The lighter the skin and darker the hair, the better the results will be. On average 10-15 treatments are required.”
Does laser hair removal actually work?
Laser hair devices will produce great results in the short term but there are no guarantees you’ll be left with 100% permanent hair removal. It’s best to think of it as permanent hair reduction, as even if new hairs arrive or some of the old ones return, there will be less of them to deal with.
The best advice is to have a course of treatments and one or two maintenance visits per year to maintain the smoothness you’re after.
What are the side effects?
Like any laser you can experience temporary skin irritation, redness or swelling. Occasionally it can affect pigment but this is also usually temporary.
Does laser hair removal hurt?
Everyone’s pain threshold is different and can vary depending on things like where you are in your menstrual cycle or medications that can make the skin more sensitive. “Some clients describe the sensation as warm and tingling likened to the feeling one has after a day on the beach” explains Lauren. “Others compare the feeling to a rubber band flicking the skin.”
You might notice it on more tender areas (like a Brazilian) but most machines have an in-built cooling system and some clinics will use additional cooling which helps to desensitise the area.
Which body parts does laser work best on?
The most popular places are the face, underarms, bikini line, back and chest (for men) and legs but laser removal can be applied anywhere that has hair. What’s more important for results is the contrast in colour between the skin and hair. Larger areas take time so it’s wise to plan your sessions in stages.
Can men and women be treated?
Laser is extremely popular for both men and women and many clinics, such as Face of Man in Sydney, offer specific packages just for blokes.
What does it cost?
Deals can be found on places like Groupon for as little as $129 for 3 areas. Bear in mind you’ll need about 10-15 sessions to see results. Approximate prices are $20 for chin, $45 for underarms and $200 for full leg, underarm and Brazilian.
Can you do laser yourself at home?
The machines used in medical laser hair removal fall under strict government requirements but there are some DIY options. The Remington I-Light Pro + Face & Body IPL Permanent Hair Removal is a long-term hair removal system and retails for $799.95. It might sound expensive but if you add up the cost of a salon treatment plus maintenance, you could save a fortune.
The do’s and dont's of laser hair removal
- Do it in winter. Laser hair removal works best when the hair colour is in stark contrast to the skin tone: i.e. pale skin, dark hair. The science behind this is that the laser picks up on the dark bits – be that hair colour, pigment or blood vessels. So, remove and fake tan and stay out of the sun for two weeks before your treatment
- Do see it as a long-term project. Removing or reducing hair takes time. You’ll see results immediately and it’s tempting to think that’s it, job done. But hair grows in a (roughly) 30-day cycle and before you know it, it’s back. This is normal! Scheduling sessions 4-6 weeks apart for at least a 6-month period will produce great results.
- Like, a really long-term project … Even after your hair has been removed and you’re happy with the results, you may find that 1-2 years later, some of the hair has returned. Again, this is totally normal and doesn’t mean the laser didn’t work. The hairs that return will be softer, finer and definitely less than when you started. It just means it’s time for round two. Or three.
- Don’t wax. You need to shave when you’re having laser otherwise the laser beams won’t have anything to burn. If you have an area such as your bikini line or snail trail where the hairs can extend beyond the bigger area, make sure you ask the technician to apply the laser to those areas too.
- Don’t use deodorant or moisturiser. If you’re having laser on your underarms, lay off the deodorant. For other areas, stay sans-moisturiser, even after the treatment. Laser burns the follicles so putting skin products (particularly scented ones) on afterwards may cause redness and irritation.
- Don’t go when you’ve got your period. Well, more like the week before when your body can be more sensitive to pain. Not everyone finds laser painful, but some do. Be warned!
- Do ask questions. Before starting any cosmetic or skincare treatment its best to know exactly what you’re getting and who from. Does the technician have the relevant qualifications? Ask them if you’re a good candidate for treatment. What do you need to know from them in order to achieve the best results. Do they have any before and after pics or testimonials from satisfied customers.
- Do be clear on the price. Many laser clinics offer bulk discounts or seasonal offers when business is traditionally slower. Find out how many sessions they think you’ll need and what that will cost.