Q. Is there any cream that works to remove hair?
- There is a product called Vaniqa® which is marketed for hair removal. I have prescribed it, on occasion, to patients that request it. Tellingly, no one has asked for a renewal of the prescription. It appears to have minimal effectiveness.
Q. Are there any restrictions after the laser treatment?
- Avoidance of ultraviolet light (i.e. sun exposure) for several days (in some cases, longer) after treatment is strongly advised in order to avoid hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) due to temporary melanocyte hypersenstitivity.
- Avoid sun and tanning before treatments to reduce the amount of melanin in the skin that would otherwise absorb the laser energy, causing more discomfort and making it necessary to reduce the energy setting on the laser.
Q. Is the hair removal permanent?
- Studies show that the hair follicles that are damaged by the laser treatment do not tend to recover, so that the effect is permanent. But, of course, not all hairs are removed with each treatment. Each treatment reduces the hair count ("density).
Q. What should I expect after my first treatment?
- I use the analogy of cutting trees in a forest. If an enthusiastic woodsman were to cut down every fifth tree in a forest, the forest would still look pretty much like a forest. It may take three or more such tree-cutting sessions, cutting down 20% each time, before the forest starts to look thinned out. Once about half the trees are eliminated, the results are noticeable. So you should not expect too much from just one or two treatments. Be patient and after your third or fourth treatment you should be noticing a difference. For my more mathematically-inclined patients, an exponential curve is a useful reference. In the mid-portion of the curve, there is a rapid decline, but then the curve flattens out, approaching but never actually reaching zero hairs.
Q. Is it painful?
- Yes, there is some discomfort, similar to a rubber band snapping on the skin. After awhile, it does not seem to hurt as much. However, there are areas of the face and body, such as the upper lip and flanks that seem to be more sensitive. The cooling unit helps to make the procedure more comfortable. The energy setting is adjusted to strike the right balance of comfort and effectiveness. Excessive redness of the skin may be an indication that the power setting is a little too high but a little redness is a good thing – it means energy is being delivered.
Q. How many treatments will I need?
- This depends on your skin type, hair color and density, area of the body, and your expectation level. If you have dark hair and light skin, you have the ideal combination and should have a good result. If your hair is very dense, you are going to need more treatments. Most patients are satisfied with a hair reduction of 80% enough to reduce the need for shaving from a daily ritual to perhaps weekly or less often. A select few of my patients wish to eliminate the hairs completely and may have ten treatments or more to achieve their optimal results using a safe, effective treatment that has helped them tremendously with a problem that causes them social embarrassment.
Q. I have a big problem with ingrown hairs. Will this help?
- Yes, by reducing hair density under the skin, laser hair removal can effectively treat buried hair follicles that tend to become painfully inflamed.
Q. Should I let the hair grow out before my laser treatment?
- It can be helpful to have just the slightest amount of hair growth at the time of treatment, just enough to show the affected area. Accordingly, you should stop shaving the day before your treatment or perhaps the morning of your treatment if your hair comes in quickly.
Q. I heard that shaving is to be avoided because this makes the hair come in worse. Is this true?
- This is an old wives' tale. Shaving is to be encouraged. Women can shave too; it is much faster and less painful than plucking or tweezing. If anything, shaving can be healthy for skin because it provides a little exfoliation. The new hairs that erupt from the surface of the skin do seem to be coarser but this is simply because they are short and have not grown out enough to be flexible. Women should not regard it as unfeminine and, with laser hair removal treatments, they find they do not need to shave as often.
Q. Do the hairs just fall out?
- Yes. You may see hair fragments that get pushed out of the hair follicles during the week or two after treatment.