Is Laser Hair Removal Safe?
Yes, when contra-indications have been eliminated. The laser beam is made of light particles, photons, emitted in just one wavelength. That wavelength is target specific, for example, an Alexandrite Laser emits in 755nm and is targeting melanin. These photons penetrate the skin down to about a millimeter reaching the hair. Contrary to Xrays, Laser doesn’t leave any residue in the body.
The skin will seem red or pink after a laser session. This redness goes away within minutes or up to 3 or 4 days. Unlike UV rays, laser light has not been associated with skin cancer. After a session, your operator will spread a soothing cream on your treated area and may in some cases apply an ice pack if necessary.
Is it painful?
It varies from one individual to the next. It depends on our own sensitivity threshold. Basically, it’s unpleasant, it seems that a little hot needle or a pinch or a rubber band shot. Generally, it’s good practice to invite clients to apply an anesthetic cream such as EmlaÒ before a treatment on areas where hairs are thick and hard.
PLEASE NOTE: the higher the laser settings (to reach maximum efficacy thus permanent hair removal) the worse are the sensations. EmlaÒ cream will relieve up to 80% of the sensation. One of the best ways to reduce an uncomfortable sensation is to ensure that your center uses a very powerful skin-cooling device in conjunction with the laser. A subzero temperature is best. This is obtained through pulsed air from a Cryojet C600 available in centers of excellence using a Cynosure Apogée 9300 laser. A spray of cryogenic gas is also available through the Candela Mini GentleLase laser.
How many sessions is it going to take?
A very strict minimum of 4 sessions will be necessary to obtain a significant and stable hair reduction. Complete hair removal will often require up to 7 sessions and sometimes up to 9 on some select areas (shoulders, chin, knee, front/external face of thighs). Since all hairs are not in the same phase at any given moment, several sessions are necessary to achieve our goal: complete and widespread follicle destruction. The primary objective of a laser hair removal program is to destroy all hairs in the anagen phase. That phase is also called the “growth phase”. In that phase the growth bud (“hair factory”) is part of the root and the rest of the hair goes up to the skin. In all other phases the growth bud is not part of the hair, there is no link between the « hair factory » and the rest of that hair, just ending with a bulb (see hair cycle). Once a program has ended and over the years, some hair could grow on a treated area. This is due to essentially 1 to 3 reasons: hormone imbalance, pregnancy, menopause, and/or simply aging. These hairs would come from the activation of sleeping follicles, not having expressed hairs until then. The good news is we don’t have that many sleeping follicles. Consequently, we might need a maintenance session once every 18-24 months if it’s really necessary.
People who present hormone troubles or people who have used wax or tweezers for a long time tend to require a few more sessions than previously thought. Also, people who use a NdYAG Long Pulse laser (dark skins) will need a couple of additional sessions to achieve a perfect result. After a program has ended, if some thin and lightly pigmented hairs remain, here and there, it would be preferable to use electrolysis to get rid of them, if needed.
Is it fast?
The biggest advantage of a laser is its treatment speed associated to long lasting results. Consequently, laser is particularly recommended for large areas such as legs, back, chest, bikini…. Especially compared to electrolysis, which is long, tedious and painful (and more expensive).
A simple comparison: a back will take 45 minutes with a high-end laser, and 120 hours with electrolysis. Furthermore, if some hair comes back on a laser treated area, it will be quite thin and slightly colored.
Average session durations (examples) :
Man’s back: 45 minutes (with a Cynosure Apogée 9300 – Alexandrite laser)
Upper Lip: 3 minutes
Shoulders: 10-20 minutes
Chin: 4-6 minutes
Armpits: 5-10 minutes
Full legs : 1 hour (1/2 legs: ankle to knee = 35 minutes)
Bikini : 10-20 minutes (up to 30’ for a Top Model Bikini)
A standard combination: Full legs + Bikini + Armpits = 1h30
PLEASE NOTE: pulling hair must be avoided as soon as a laser hair removal program is started, so , no more waxing, tweezing and pulling device. Prior to a session your skin should be prepared by: shaving the area (s) 2 days before your session is best. But please women should not shave their face. Then One hour and a half before your session, Emla cream should be applied on the areas selected for treatment.
What should I expect from my initial free consultation?
This initial visit is key, your physician will explain the entire process and describe the procedure to you. Your photo type will be established and a test will even be performed on a small area such as a corner of your underarm. During the test you will be wearing a pair of protective glasses or goggles. This test will be used to identify the laser settings that are best for you. Your overall health status will be evaluated; medications you are taking will be recorded, such as antibiotics or hormones. At the end of this initial free visit you’ll be given a consent form including the estimated number of sessions and cost per session of your desired treatment. An EMLA cream order form would also be handed over to you.
The Consent Form contains very important information, going extensively over the key points covered during your initial free consultation. It includes details regarding risks and side effects, complications and medications to avoid during your laser program. This form explicitly describes the areas you wish to treat, the number of expected sessions (ranging from 4 to 9 depending on the area) the cost per session, including a multizone package, the laser type if you have dark skin. A global price, for your entire treatment is rarely done since we don’t know in advance the exact number of sessions you will need. In our center, starting at the 5th session, your cost per session will be 10% cheaper.
Practically, what should I do before and after a laser session ?
Precautions to take before my session :
1- No suntan, wait until my skin is lighter. No sunburn.
2- Shaving the desired area (except a female’s face) is best when done one or 2 days before your laser session. A very tiny bit of hair on the skin is perfect.
Stop pulling hair off the area to be treated with a laser at least 2 weeks prior to your appointment. (No more tweezers, wax or other pulling device) . Stop discoloring hair as well, 2 weeks prior laser.
4- If you have cold sores around the mouth, or if you have genital herpes, please consult your physician and request a ZoviraxÒ prescription and take some at least for 2 weeks prior to your laser session.
5- Apply EMLA® cream (AstraZeneca /order/prescription) for at least 60 minutes, or at best 90 minutes, prior to your laser session. You can come to the laser center and do it there. The cream must be covered with plastic wrap to reach efficacy.
What happens after my session
1- After your laser session, you may observe a widespread redness (sun burn type) along with little bumps where the hairs were. It’s normal. It’s even clinical evidence of efficacy. Skin redness, little bumps and popcorn sound during treatment are the 3 clinical signs of laser hair removal efficacy. To relieve the skin of this redness and bumps, your operator will apply a soothing cream on your skin such as one containing Vitamin E or cocoa butter. These side effects disappear within 2 to 4 days.
If there is still a small amount of melanin in your skin, some round violet dots may appear and stay for about 7 to 10 days. In any case they never stay more than 3 weeks for the slow ones. These violet scabs are made of cooked melanin (cooked protein) in the process of being expulsed by the skin. NEVER scratch or expose these scabs to sunlight. Continue cream applications on these scabs until they fall off. Hyper pigmentation risks exist if these scabs are exposed to sunlight.
2- Make up may be put on an hydrating base if needed. It could prove itself useful after a laser treatment on the face.
3- Apply sunscreen (SPF 60) on the skin until all redness is gone. DO NOT use UV salons while you undergo a laser hair removal program.
4- The only acceptable method of hair control during your laser program is shaving. (except on a woman’s face, where only scissors must be used).
5- Burnt hairs are falling off slowly for up to 3 weeks after each treatment. There is no need to manually extract these burnt hairs. It may seem that hairs are growing right back, but they are actually falling off. All hairs not in the anagen phase will come back, just in time for the next laser session. Ingrown hairs burnt under the skin will slowly disappear from session to session. Some may be extracted right during your laser session under pressure from the acquired heat..
6- After a session you can return to your usual activities. Manage your treated area with care as discussed earlier. Refrain from applying Retin-A based creams, alphahydroxic acids² creams and glycolic acid peels. You can take a shower after a session, but you should reapply a soothing cream on the treated area. Please use water and a soft soap such as an unscented Dove.
When am I going to see the results ?
After your FIRST session, your hair is gone for at least a month. The “false” growth is observed when the hair falls off right after a treatment. Then, session after session, the hair quantity diminishes and hair quality falls to a thin and lightly colored version. During the initial free consultation, your physician told you how many hairs were destroyed each time and how long it would take before you would need to come back for your next session. All hairs not in the anagen phase will reappear until your program has gone over all the anagen phases included in the treated area’s hair cycle.
How much does it cost ?
Prices are all over the place, but one thing is clear: it’s not cheap. A laser machine runs in excess of $90,000. (By comparison, a flash lamp, also known as Intense Pulsed Light is only about $30,000, is also known for not doing permanent hair removal, just “long term” hair removal, and yet treatment prices are similar to laser! This is so strange and unethical!) So, real laser prices per session may go quite high in select areas and come down a bit in areas where competition is fierce like urban areas. For example, in Europe prices are 30 to 40% less than in the US….still it’s a luxury some may not afford. In the US a bikini can range from $150 up to $500 per session. A full man’s back could run from $400 to $800 per session. By comparison, in our Laser Center in Paris, a Brazilian Bikini costs 125 € ($145) and a full man’s back, shoulders and top of arms is at 280 € ($330).
These prices may seem high, but if you compare to other alternatives (lifelong), laser hair removal is economically a sound investment. In addition, time spent on each treatment alternative speaks in favor of laser, especially if we add up the time over 20-30 years. Here is an example, a back
Cost per session
1x 2 - 5 months
$400 – 800
10 - 23 months
1 x every 3 weeks
Based on availability (your own)
As you can see, laser can save you time and money….and pain ! Visit our price list .
Are Laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) or Flash Lamp the same ?
NO. Hair removal performed with flash lamps or IPLs use standard light but produced in high intensity. It has nothing to do with laser. A filter is placed in the hand piece to select a wavelength capable of burning a hair. A laser emits its coherent light in just one wavelength. With a Flash Lamp, the amount of energy transferred to the follicle is often quite weak and doesn’t allow a permanent destruction of the hair root. Side effects are ranging from skin burning to redness. This system comes in contact with the skin and thus can’t cool the skin as well as cryogenic gas or pulsed air associated with the most sophisticated lasers. Long-term side effects of IPLs or Flash Lamps are not known while laser has been used in medicine since the 1970s.
Even if IPLs or Flash Lamps can reach some type of efficacy over a very long period of time (12 to 20 sessions), their use is quite elaborate and tricky; in any case non-MD personnel should not operate these equipments. .
The main “selling” argument for a Flash Lamp or IPL is its large surface treatment capability, only due to its filter-based hand piece. In fact, it can treat large zones fast but it may require a lot more sessions to obtain a significant result.
Is it possible to guarantee the results of a laser program?
NO. Given the number of variables from one patient to the next and the complexity of the settings involved, it is impossible to predict absolutely a particular outcome. Laser Centers of Excellence don’t play games and can’t risk their reputation with marketing gimmicks such as guaranteeing results. A Laser Center of Excellence will use the best lasers on the market (often the most expensive) manipulated by experienced laser physicians (or supervised technicians) so treatments are performed with the best possible quality and care. Results always follow with such an approach. And it shows: people run in droves to these centers. They refer family and friends and that’s the best guarantee of all.
These questions are the most asked and have been at the top of our e-mail hit parade. If your question is not addressed up here, please feel free to send us an email and we will answer it as quickly as possible or just click on: Contact-us.