Cosmetics and the beauty industry have a market share in excess of US $500 billion, pointing out the importance of the sector. This is not a new global trend or a sudden interest among citizens worldwide, but is a continuation of man’s pursuit to appear better. It is a matter of history that royalty all over the world sought and tried out treatments to enhance beauty. Recent advances in dermatology and trichology continue to help individuals deal with hair and skin problems. Popular procedures presently include treatments to remove skin blemishes, control hair loss, and removal of unwanted hair. Modern, technology driven treatments include laser hair removal, offering benefits of longer no-hair durations through quick procedures. Subsequent sections will highlight possible laser hair removal side effects along with detailed information about the procedure.


Difference between dermatologist and trichologist?


It is necessary to set the context here, by explaining the difference between a trichologist and a dermatologist. A trichologist specializes in treatment of hair and scalp, and this makes the specialist the right person for dealing with hair on the head. A dermatologist specializes in treatments related to the skin, including hair on the skin, apart from other derma related issues such as nails. This gives clarification about the most suitable specialist for dealing with hair on the skin – the dermatologist.


What is laser hair removal?


An advanced procedure performed with a concentrated light emitted from a machine, laser hair removal is performed to remove unwanted or excessive hair. This procedure helps in targeted removal of hair on the skin, that begins with a marking of the section or area where hair is to be removed. This is a contact procedure, wherein the hair in the targeted area is removed, in addition to prevention of hair growth. This prevention is not permanent in nature, but works by delaying hair regrowth.


The light emitted from the laser machine is absorbed by the pigment in the hair follicles, and this delivers the outcomes of the procedure. The emitted light and the energy in the light work inside the skin, to give the desired results. This is unlike other contact procedures, wherein the action occurs on the exposed portion of the skin.


The procedure is typically performed over multiple sessions, and this entirely depends on the density of the hair, and the pattern of hair growth in the targeted area. Additionally, fine hair also poses challenge in hair removal, as it is highly likely that very fine hair may be missed in the first sessions, warranting additional sessions for a perfect hair free appearance.


Is laser hair removal suitable for all?


Laser hair removal works best only for individuals with skin and hair color combinations. While laser hair removal will work for all skin types and hair color, the actual effects or results may differ depending on the skin and hair color combination.  For instance, persons with combinations such as light complexion/dark hair will enjoy maximum benefits from the procedure. The reasons for better results are the relatively increased melanin levels in dark colored hair. Light colored hair has lesser melanin and as a result, lesser laser energy is absorbed; and as a consequence, hair removal is not as effective. When combined with light skin, dark hair offers specialists increased opportunities to focus on the targeted area and remove unwanted hair. Similar results in different hair color and skin complexion combinations may require additional sessions.


The need for equipment to be handled by specialists 


Popularity of procedures may sometimes lower standards, as more and more centers attempt to ride the popularity wave. Additionally, procedures that are performed in short sessions without too much of preparation are wrongly regarded as simple. Laser hair removal is an advanced procedure that is simple for the recipient, but of a specialist nature for the dermatologist. When handled incorrectly, there is the possibility of laser hair removal side effects. Competent and skilled dermatologists perform the procedure with full knowledge about the skin and the effect of the laser on the skin. Individuals with basic training are likely to use excessive pressure or focus the light for durations that are excessive. This may result in scarring and possible damage to the skin, that may be long term in nature.


Painless procedure


Laser hair removal is relatively painless; any discomfort experienced by individuals are generally similar to that of sunburn. The mild burning sensation is mostly similar to that of the sensation experienced during a tan. Such discomfort is not experienced by all persons undergoing the procedure, but by a small percentage of individuals with sensitive skin. Specialists typically carry out a patch test before carrying out the procedure, and depending on the results of the patch test, a decision on the procedure is taken.


Pros and cons of laser hair removal


The pros of laser hair removal outweigh the cons of the procedure. For instance, hair removal through advanced lasers presents less side effects and till date there are no reports or documented instances of long-term unwanted effects. As mentioned above, the cons of the procedure are mainly the need for multiple sessions and the varying effectiveness of the procedure, on people with different skin and hair color combinations. In addition to the above, individuals and sections of society hold wrong perceptions about the procedure.


For instance, claims that are not supported by any scientific facts, wrongly in still fear in the minds of people about infertility due to laser hair removal. The laser light, energy and action are all limited to the hair follicles and do not have any impact on reproductive organs or fertility of individuals. All those desirous of opting for laser hair removal, but apprehensive of this rumor may confidently go ahead with the procedure.


Is there a risk of radiation and cancer from laser hair removal?


Radiation from CT scans, nuclear power plants are classified as ionizing radiation, while radiation from laser hair removal is classified as non-ionizing radiation. The category that poses a health hazard is ionizing radiation, while non-ionizing does not pose risks of cancer. Radiation from laser hair removal is only superficial in nature and does not have any impact on the organs of the body, other than the effect on the hair follicles. The negligible amounts of radiation from laser hair removal are not cancer causing and individuals apprehensive of the same may safely go ahead with the procedure.


Possible laser hair removal side effects and measures to lessen the effects


Most effects, if experienced at all, are short term in nature and belong to the category of mild effects.

Medical attention or specialized treatment is generally not necessary for these mild effects. The most common of the effects include discoloration of the skin, that may turn reddish in appearance, mostly in the area of hair removal. In some instances, irritation could also be experienced in the targeted area. In addition to the visible effects, people may also experience some kind of a tingling feeling, or tenderness and mild inflammation.


Simple measures to lessen the effects include the use of cold milk compress, ice, Aleve or ibuprofen. This will help to bring down the inflammation and the reddish appearance on the skin.


Appearance post procedure


The appearance post procedure is similar to waxing/shaving unwanted hair. There will be little or no difference in the way the skin appears, when compared with other contact procedures. The main difference is the relatively longer hair free period when removed with lasers. Individuals undergoing the procedure are advised to use topical applications to bring down the effects experienced post- surgery. Other options include an ice bath or the application of ice packs.


Scabbing may occur as a result of laser hair removal. The formation of crusts on the skin occurs due to one of many reasons, and scabbing from laser hair removal is generally moderate and not extensive. Scabbing impacts the complexion and the supple nature of skin. The use of moisturizers is known to help lessen the crusting effect attributed to the laser heat.


Impact on skin color


It is true that hair removal through this method may result in a temporary darkening of skin color. However, this will revert to its natural skin color, naturally, in a very short span of time. This has an effect only on a small percentage of individuals, and is attributed to a combination of reasons.  For instance, people with sensitive skin types, and exposure to sunlight immediately after the procedure are possible reasons for skin darkening. This also has an unexpected, yet temporary impact on individuals with darker skin color. The same effect, with opposite results are noted – a temporary lightening of skin color, that returns to natural color after a short span of time.


Risks from improper handling of laser


As mentioned above, the procedure is performed by individuals with a clear understanding of the skin, and the settings of the equipment to deliver the desired results. Possible risks due to improper handling include damage to the eye and infections. This needs to be treated after evaluation by a competent dermatologist, and people are advised to avoid self-medications or OTC products. Scarring is another possible effect due to wrong handling of the equipment. Laser procedures for hair removal are absolutely safe, and eliminate the possibility of scarring. In other words, procedures carried out be specialists are free from possible risks, but procedures carried out by untrained individuals or the wrong equipment can result in consequences that are different to fix. It is therefore of paramount importance to choose a reputed clinic and use the services of a specialist with the right equipment.




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