What is Hair Removal?
Hair removal (a.k.a. epilation or depilation) refers to the intentional removal of body hair. Hair removal is mostly done for aesthetic purposes. There are several methods of hair removal.
Temporary Hair Removal
Shaving and trimming are often used to temporarily remove hair for several hours to several days. These methods remove only the part of the hair exposed outside of the skin. Other methods, such as waxing, threading, and the use of certain drugs remove the entire hair from the hair follicle. All these methods give only temporary results and need to be repeated very often. Some methods may irritate the skin or the hair follicles, possibly causing ingrown hair (hair growing in the opposite direction) and inflammation.
Permanent Hair Removal
Currently, electrolysis is the only method of permanent hair removal recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the USA. The method comes in several varieties. In general, it removes hair by permanently damaging hair follicles with electricity.
Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal (and other light treatments) is likely today’s most common medical method of hair removal. Laser hair removal comes in many varieties. In general, an intense, pulsed beam of light is used to target the hair follicles. The beam passes through the skin and damages the follicles, effectively hindering/slowing hair growth. Special goggles for eyes protection, topical anesthetic, and cooling cream (or cool air) may be used.
The results of laser hair removal vary from person to person, and can often be affected by skin and hair color. Because laser hair removal works by targeting the melanin (color pigment) of the hair, it is more effective for people with light skin and dark hair. People with darker skin or lighter-colored hair may not benefit as much from laser hair removal. Treatments that may overcome these problems are under development.
Laser hair removal does not guarantee permanent hair removal. While multiple treatments can prolong the effects (up to possibly years), periodic maintenance treatments are usually needed to maintain the results.
Risks & Side Effects
- The skin at the treated areas may darken or lighten. This is usually temporary and is more common among people with darker skin.
- Laser hair removal may cause severe eye injury if done to the eyelid or surrounding area. It is therefore not recommended for treating areas around the eyes.
- Some hair may be resistant to the treatment and regrow. The new hair is, however, usually finer and lighter in color.
- In some rare cases, the treatment can result in skin blistering, crusting, and scarring. Other changes in skin texture may also be caused.
- In some uncommon cases, hair may grow excessively in or around the treated areas.
If you are preparing to go for a laser hair removal treatment, here are what you should take note of:
- Avoid sunlight exposure. If you have a tan, wait for it to fade away completely before accepting a treatment.
- Avoid waxing, plucking, electrolysis and any hair removal method that may affects the hair follicles.
- Shaving or trimming before the treatment is recommended.
- Note: Make sure to check that your doctor is certified to perform the treatment.
After the Treatment
- You may experience hair shedding at the treated area (dead hair leaving the skin). This can be mistaken for hair regrowth.
- Treated areas may appear red and swelled for a few hours after the treatment. Ice (or steroid cream) can be applied to reduce discomfort.
- Avoid sunlight exposure (including tanning beds). Once your skin has healed, use sunscreen when you cannot avoid sunlight.
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