I hear an advertisement for laser hair removal several times a day on the radio. And for as widely as hair removal is advertised, I feel like it is rather poorly understood. So today, let’s clear up some of the misconceptions.
1. Laser treatments don’t remove hair – Yep, that’s right. Laser hair removal is a misnomer. It should actually be called laser hair reduction. The treatments don’t make fewer hairs grow; they just make the hairs that are there much finer and thinner. So why does it look like the hair is gone? Go ahead and reach up and run your hand over your cheek for me. Feel any fuzz? Not much, right? Your cheeks actually have the highest density of hair on your body, but the hair is so fine you can barely see it (unless you’re Liam Hemsworth, maybe, in which case that scruff is just part of your natural charm). This is what laser hair removal does- it makes the hair so fine you no longer notice it.
2. Not all hair is created equal – laser hair treatments target the pigment in hair. The energy is absorbed by the hair follicle, damaging it so that it grows in more finely next time. If hair has little (blonde) or no pigment (gray hair) then the laser doesn’t have anything to target. So laser hair treatments work best on darker hair.
3. Hormones can reverse the effects – if you had laser hair removal as a teenager and then finished puberty, you might notice some of the hair has come back. This is because your hormones were still adjusting. Laser hair removal doesn’t work on pregnant women for the same reason- their hormones are causing hair growth that makes laser hair removal fighting an uphill battle. It’s much easier to wait until after pregnancy, when hormones (and hair growth) return to normal.
4. Some areas can’t be lasered – and no, I know what you’re thinking. The Brazilian laser hair removal does exist. Surprisingly, laser hair removal doesn’t work on the eyebrows. Most body areas require anywhere from 6-8 treatments to achieve hair reduction, because the hair is in different phases of the growth cycle (if hair were all in the same phase, you would be bald or have no eyebrows for several weeks at a time- now there’s a thought!). Usually 6-8 treatments will cover all the different phases… except in the eyebrows. They are in so many different phases that it’s pretty much impossible to treat this area effectively with laser.
5. But we can still get rid of the hair! Electrolysis uses an electrical current applied directly to the hair follicle using a very tiny needle to accomplish what the laser can do over a much broader area. But it works on hair in more phases of the growth cycle because the current is directly applied to the hair follicle (laser energy is absorbed best by hairs in the anagen phase of the growth cycle- see below), so electrolysis works well on the eyebrows. It also works well on any stray hairs that laser hair removal may miss.