Laser hair removal was first practiced on an experimental basis in the 1970s, according to the skincare community. However, it was not widely accepted as a skincare procedure until the 1990s. In 1998, it became increasingly popular after the publication of an article about it by a Massachusetts General Hospital team. Since then, laser hair removal has continuously risen in popularity. To understand why, you have to examine the nuances of the procedure.
The Relationship Between Laser Hair Removal and Melanin
The reason lasers are so effective at removing unwanted hair is that laser machines perform a procedure called selective photothermolysis. The procedure involves using specific light wavelengths to target the skin. The reason it is so effective is that laser is able to target a substance called melanin within each hair.
Melanin is what produces pigmentation (color) in skin and hair. Dark-skinned people have different melanin distribution than light-skinned people, causing the visual difference in skin tone. In most cases, hair removal lasers perform the task by targeting darker areas created by the melanin, meaning the procedure is best performed when you have dark hair compared to your skin color. However, modern laser devices are available to treat other skin/hair color combinations.
The reason you must be concerned about the melanin in your skin and hair when considering laser treatment is that laser can disrupt the melanin distribution in your skin. If you have dark skin, that means the laser has the potential to make it look lighter and splotchier in the treated area. That is why selecting the proper laser device and consulting with a trained professional is essential.
Laser Hair Removal and Hair Growth Stages
The hair is different on each part of your body. Also, hair grows in a three-stage cycle. Those stages are called anagen, telogen and catagen. Essentially, it means that there are periods when the hair is actively growing and periods when it is not. The early anagen stage, which is when the hair is growing, is the only stage during which laser hair removal can have a useful impact on it. For that and other reasons, you must have a series of laser treatments to make sure all hairs are removed and extend regrowth time as long as possible.
Laser Hair Removal Risks and Side Effect Considerations
There are several side effects of laser hair removal to consider. Many of them occur in almost all cases but last for only a few hours to a few days and are mild. Among them are redness, temporary swelling and the skin being tender to the touch. More serious side effects do occasionally occur, but they are far less common. Among them are acne outbreaks, blisters or burns, and discolored patches of skin.
Pain or discomfort can occur during the procedure but is typically mild. It is often managed with cool blasts of air administered to your skin. Topical numbing lotions can also be applied to your skin. Such creams must only be applied by a trained clinician. When the procedure is over, the discomfort may continue for a short time. However, ice applied to the treatment area can quickly relieve it. Therefore, by the time you leave the clinic after your treatment, your discomfort should be minimal. Typically, from start to finish, a laser hair removal procedure takes under one hour.
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