What to look for in laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal has come a long way since the first laser for hair removal received FDA clearance in the mid 1990’s. Older generation lasers were slow, very painful and worked only on individuals with very dark hair and very light skin. Today, lasers can work on all skin colors and some lasers are even safe for treating tanned skinned. Lasers for hair removal can be performed on any (yes, any) area of the body.
When considering a hair removal laser treatment, people should consider the following questions:
1) Is this laser Health Canada approved for hair removal on my skin type and hair colour?
There are several lasers for hair removal available. No one laser is ideal for every individual. Depending on your skin color and hair color, some lasers will be more effective than others.
The Ruby Laser: This is the “original ” hair removal laser. Its deep red color at 694nm is very well absorbed by the melanin pigment in hair, making it an excellent choice for fine and light hair. However, because melanin is present in the skin as well, the Ruby laser cannot be used on patients with skin that is not very light, including tanned skin. Because of this limitation, slow repetition rate, and relatively small spot size, Ruby lasers have become less popular for laser hair removal in recent years. We do not use the ruby for hair removal at BC LASER. We use it for tattoo removal.
The Alexandrite Laser: This laser produces reddish light. With its large (up to 18mm) spot size and high repetition rate, the Alexandrite laser is the fastest hair removal laser, and is suitable for rapid treatment of large body areas in patient with light to olive complexion. An entire back can be treated in less than 30 minutes. We tend to use this at BC LASER for light skinned people.
The Diode Laser: This laser, consists of a high power laser diode emitting infrared (invisible) light at ~800-808nm. The longer wavelength allows deep penetration into the skin and safety for darker skin types, but with less efficacy for lighter and finer hair. A smaller spot size means a longer treatment. That may mean a more expensive treatment. A longer treatment may also increase discomfort and a need for topical numbing
The long pulse Nd:YAG: This laser can be used on all skin types, including tanned skin. Large spot sizes and fast repetition rates allow large areas to be treated quickly. Then disadvantage is less effective clearance for fine and light hairs than some other hair removal lasers.
IPL devices are not lasers, because they emit non-coherent light of many different wavelengths. However, because most of the light energy is in the shorter wavelengths, treatment of darker skin types is less effective than with the appropriate laser. The disadvantage here is that these IPL treatments require many more treatments and can cause darkening of the skin.
2) What is the spot size of the laser? A larger spot size offers not only the advantage of faster treatment, but also additional safety and efficacy. As spot size increases, a lower percentage of the delivered light energy scatters outside of the treatment area, increasing the depth of pentration, and allowing a lower energy setting to be used for treatment.
3) What type of cooling system is the laser equipped with? It is important that a laser have consistent cooling in order to ensure patient safety and comfort.
4) Is there a physician on site? Although complications with new lasers for hair removal are rare, in the event of a complication, you need to know who will provide medical attention.
5) Are treatments sold in a package or one at a time? Because every person will respond at a slightly different rate, and some individuals will require more treatments than others for complete clearance, most laser centers will offer individual sessions.
6) Are complimentary consultations and spot tests available? You should be able to meet the technician and experience a pulse or two before committing to a treatment.