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Everything You Need to Know About Laser Hair Removal

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Does laser hair removal mean the end of waxing, shaving, tweezing and other painful hair removal methods? Advertisements for laser hair removal are all over, but does it really work? Hailey Richards, University of Utah Health Master Esthetician and laser hair removal expert, answers the basic questions everyone should know before starting laser hair removal.

How does laser hair removal work?

The primary goal of laser hair removal is to utilize a laser to target and kill hair follicles. Once the hair follicle is dead, the hair won't grow back.

Do you guarantee 100% hair removal?

I never guarantee 100% permanent removal. If businesses are promising 100% removal, I would be worried because after customers have paid thousands of dollars, they can go out of business and it's rare to get your money back.

How can I get the most effective hair removal laser treatment?

Multiple treatments are needed for the best results. I advise at least 12 treatments, but there is no set number a person can have to achieve optimal results. The key is to be consistent. Be sure to come back when you are supposed to, which is typically around 4-6 weeks depending on the body area.

Are there any areas on the body people should avoid?

I can laser just about anywhere, but I never shape eyebrows with the laser. It's not precise enough to shape brows, and it's too close to the eyes.

Is it painful?

The procedure isn't usually too painful, but certain areas of the body can be more sensitive, such as the bikini line, or upper lip areas. Pain tolerance varies, so it depends on the person. If a patient has a difficult time with the procedure, a topical numbing cream can be applied one hour before the appointment to provide relief.

What are the risks?

Risks can include burns, blisters, scabs, welts, scarring, pigment changes such as hyperpigmentation, or hypopigmentation, or the possibility that the hair cannot be removed permanently and continues to grow back.

Does it work on all hair colors?

Laser hair removal is best on dark, coarse hair. It will not respond to red, white, or blond hair because the laser light searches for the dark pigment in the hair follicle, so it will not see lighter hair.

Can all skin tones receive laser hair treatment?

With the right laser, all skin types can be treated. The lighter your skin is the safer it is, because the laser is searching for dark pigment. Darker skin types such as Asian, Hispanic, or African skin need to be treated more carefully so that the laser doesn't burn the skin or upset their pigment in any way.

Will pregnancy affect laser hair removal?

I've seen hair brow back if women become pregnant, because pregnancy changes hormone levels, which can cause hair to grow back. Once the baby is born and hormones return to normal, after a few laser treatments things usually go back to the way they were.

What is your opinion about Groupon deals?

Be careful with Groupon deals at salons and spas. There usually isn't a doctor on site to monitor the treatments.

Is it safe to receive laser hair removal at a salon or spa?

I advise that patients see someone at a doctor's office, preferably at a dermatology or plastic surgery office where there is a doctor on site who understands the complexities of skin.

What is the future of laser hair removal technology?

Laser technology hasn't changed too much over the last 18 years, except they have made faster lasers, and built in cooling systems to make the procedure more comfortable. They still are unsuccessful with treating lighter hair colors.

Whether you choose laser hair removal or not, make sure you've done your research so you can get the most out of your laser hair removal treatments and avoid wasting what could be thousands of dollars.