Laser Hair Removal Facts and Myths
“I would get laser hair removal, but I heard it’s not going to work for my skin tone.” Don’t be so quick to count out laser hair removal as the solution to your troublesome hair growth issues, shaving and stubble aggravations and peace of mind during beach season. If you let a laser hair removal myth get to you, you might miss out on the chance to have smooth, stubble-free legs, underarms and bikini area all throughout the summer, based on something that might not be true.
Here are some myths and facts about laser hair removal to help you decide whether your shaving and stubble woes can be a thing of the past.
The Myth: Laser hair removal has not been proven safe.
The Facts: Laser hair removal safety depends on the type of laser system being used. The FDA has approved certain laser hair removal systems, so you’ll want to be sure that you’re going to a board-certified dermatologist using one of the FDA-accredited laser systems. Some beauty clinics may be using cheaper laser systems not approved by the FDA, so invest in the safer system courtesy of a dermatologist to help avoid problems during and after laser hair removal treatments.
The Myth: Laser hair removal actually causes more hair to grow.
The Facts: Laser hair removal doesn’t cause more hair to grow. If that were true, all of the millions of people out there seeking a cure for baldness would be lining up for laser hair removal treatments. They’re not, so this is purely myth. Every person has their own hair growth patterns and everyone’s bodies are constantly changing. Some people will lose body hair over time, and some will grow more hair in new places as they age. Lasers can destroy hair follicles, but they’re not magical: they won’t create new ones, and they won’t prevent new hair follicles from growing over time.
The Myth: Laser hair removal has the safe effects on all hair types.
The Facts: Everyone’s hair is different, so meet with your dermatologist to determine the results you can expect for your hair type. Results of laser hair removal vary by hair thickness, hair color and by your skin type, so the only way to tell how your own hair may be affected, and removed, via laser treatments is to get a doctor’s assessment.
The Myth: Laser hair removal won’t work on certain hair colors.
The Facts: While it’s true that laser hair removal is more difficult for red hair, that doesn’t have the pigment that lasers need to target them, today’s high-quality laser hair removal systems have evolved to target previously difficult-to-zap hair colors. White hair and gray hair won’t be removed by laser treatment, though, since these hair colors lack pigmentation.
The Myth: Laser hair removal exposes you to radiation.
The Facts: Laser hair removal systems approved by the FDA do not emit radiation. While radiation does exist between the light barriers of the laser, it does not exit that space, so it’s not harmful to the patient.
The Myth: You can get permanent hair removal in one long laser hair removal session.
The Facts: Sorry, this one is pure myth. It’s impossible to get rid of all hair growth through one hair removal session. Hair grows in different cycles, and in different timing, so while your laser hair removal treatment will target hairs that are grown on your body, there are other follicles about to sprout new hairs. The best results of laser hair removal treatments happen after several treatments, when each hair follicle can be lasered during its optimal timing.
The Myth: African-American women are not candidates for laser hair removal.
The Facts: African-American women, have darker skin that absorbs more laser than lighter skin, and so may simply require more sessions. Advances in laser hair removal systems have made it possible for your dermatologist to use the proper laser strength and treatments to help African-American women enjoy the results of laser hair removal.
The Myth: I can’t get laser hair removal treatments if I’m a vegetarian.
The Facts: This is one of the more ridiculous myths of laser hair removal treatments. If anyone eats a diet ultra-rich in beta carotene (carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and pumpkin, for instance,) that person’s skin may be a little more yellowish due to levels of beta-carotene in their system. When skin is yellowish, the additional pigmentation absorbs laser light and not enough laser light reaches the hair follicle. See your dermatologist to determine if your skin has a yellow hue that can affect laser hair removal treatments and results.
The Myth: Laser hair removal treatments cause burns.
The Facts: While it’s rare and often temporary, burns from laser hair removal treatments may occur, particularly if you have dark skin. Talk to your dermatologist about side effects from laser hair removal treatment, and to have your skin assessed for pre-treatment expectations.
The Myth: Laser hair removal treatments are too painful to endure.
The Facts: Some patients feel discomfort with laser hair removal treatments. Some experience that discomfort as pinprick sensations, but not unendurable pain. And some people who are very sensitive to pain may feel the discomfort more intensely. Most patients report that laser hair removal is far less painful than waxing.
The Myth: Laser hair removal is guaranteed to remove hair forever.
The Facts: While some people experience a significant reduction of hair growth after a few sessions, others need a greater number of treatments. There are many variables related to the success of laser hair removal treatments: your hair type, width, thickness, and color, the type of laser, the amount of energy used in the laser, the skill of the laser treatment practitioner, and your genes, to name a few. You may have a less than efficient laser treatment, or you may simply have hair that really grows. So while laser hair removal treatment cannot be guaranteed for complete hair removal for all time, it is an effective treatment to reduce and eliminate hair growth. Lasers can reduce hair counts 40% to 80%. After completing initial treatments, the hair will grow back much thinner or not at all.
The Myth: You can’t get laser hair removal treatments during the summer.
The Facts: Of course you can get laser hair removal treatments during the summer. If you have a dark tan, it can affect the laser’s ability to target your hair follicles, but today’s laser systems are used on people with darker skin quite effectively. When you have a tan, though, your dermatologist may not be able to use a stronger setting of laser on your skin, so that might simply mean you’ll need a few extra treatments. Speak to your dermatologist about what you can expect from laser hair removal treatments done while you’re tan. But here’s a fact to keep in mind, and to take very seriously: don’t lay out in the sun or get a tan within 72 hours of your laser hair removal treatment, before or after. If you were to sun-worship within this timeframe, you could experience burns, scarring and skin damage. Be honest, and stay out of the rays if laser hair removal treatment is on your agenda (and please use sunscreen!)
The Myth: Your skin can get discolored from laser hair removal treatments.
The Facts: With any laser treatment, skin can experience some discoloration. Having darker skin and tanning increase your risk of skin color changes. Talk to your dermatologist to assess your skin’s risk for discoloration, and to talk about treatments and remedies that can correct any skin discoloration should you experience it.
Your dermatologist can answer any questions you have about laser hair removal treatments, and share information about the different types of laser hair removal treatment systems they have in the office. You’ll get a magnified look at your hair and skin, an estimate of how many treatments you’ll need, and find out about the best care steps after your treatments. You also need to tell your doctor about any medications you may be taking, since some medications can affect the effects of laser hair removal treatments, or may need to be stopped prior to your laser appointment.