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How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?

 

Question: "I'm interested in trying laser treatments for hair removal. How do they work?"

Answer: A concentrated beam of light is aimed at hair. The light is absorbed by the pigment, which damages the follicle enough to retard future growth. Lasers can remove hair for anywhere from several months to years, as the results differ widely from person to person.
Ouch Factor: Depending on a person's pain tolerance, lasers can feel like a gentle pinch or the snap of a hot rubber band.
The Price: Up to $1,000 or more per session for large areas, with three sessions needed to thoroughly zap hair — it may really hurt your wallet.

Keep In Mind:

  • The procedure isn't permanent. "Hair grows in indeterminate cycles, and it needs to be caught in the growth phase for the procedure to be effective," says Sarnoff.
  • A post-zap breakout is common, because the treatment leaves hair follicles open for a few days. An OTC hydrocortisone cream or antibacterial lotion will prevent blemishes.
  • Tanning-from either the sun or a bottle-is a no-no before a laser treatment, since darker skin absorbs the light before it can reach the follicles.

What's New:

A concentrated beam of light is aimed at hair. The light is absorbed by the pigment, which damages the follicle enough to retard future growth. Lasers can remove hair for anywhere from several months to years, as the results differ widely from person to person. Ouch factor: Depending on a person's pain tolerance, lasers can feel like a gentle pinch or the snap of a hot rubber band. The price — up to $1,000 or more per session for large areas, with three sessions needed to thoroughly zap hair — really hurts your wallet.

There's exciting news for people with a serious abundance of hair: Vaniqa, the first growth inhibitor approved by the Food and Drug Administration, blocks action of a key enzyme involved in hair growth. In a study of 596 women who applied the prescription cream to shaved areas twice a day, researchers noted a significant slowdown in regrowth. Currently approved only for use on the face, around the lips, along the jawline and under the chin, Vaniqa costs about $47 for a two-month supply.

Skin-saving tips:

  • Stop using Renova, Retin-A and AHAs-which can make skin fragile and sensitive-several days prior to waxing, using a depilatory or laser hair removal. If taking Accutane, ask your physician about hair-removal options.
  • Avoid chlorine, saltwater and the sun for a day after shaving, waxing or using a depilatory and for a week after laser hair removal (to prevent irritation and burning.)
  • Don't subject sunburned skin to any hair removal; wait until the burn subsides.
  • Originally published in Fitness magazine.

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