Here are some of your frequently asked questions that relate to the science of laser treatments for both men and women:
What are the different types of hair removal lasers?
There are a number of different types of lasers used for treatment. The most common ones are described below:
Ruby: this was the first type of used in hair removal treatments. The Ruby laser, as the name suggests, uses red light. The red-coloured beam targets the melanin inside the hair's shaft. The light emitted from the Ruby has a wavelength of 694 nm. This laser is particularly suitable for use on light or fine hair. It is not effective on dark or tanned skin, and can only be used to treat small areas of hair.
Alexandrite: this is a long-pulse laser and accomplishes deep penetration into the skin where the hair follicles are located. The light emitted has a wavelength of 755 nm and is the highest speed of laser. This type is usually suitable for skin types I to III.
Diode: these are the most efficient hair removal lasers and contain small diodes or semiconductors that are arranged together to produce light. The diode has a longer wavelength than most other lasers and is used for darker skinned patients, but not for those with lighter or finer hair. Since the rates of repetition of treatment are high, it can be used for the brisk treatment of large areas of hair. The light emitted has a wavelength of 810 nm, and this type of laser is usually suitable for skin types I to IV.
Nd:YAG: these lasers produces 2 different wavelengths of light. One is an invisible infrared light used for deeper penetration to reach deep hair follicles. The other wavelength is a green light which is used for treating follicles closer to the surface. This type is most commonly used for very dark skinned patients and can also be used on large areas of skin. The light emitted has a wavelength of 1064 nm, and this type is usually suitable for skin types IV to VI.
What is 'Melanin'?
Melanin is the substance in hairs and skin that gives it its natural colour - often called pigment. There are 2 main types of melanin found in humans: pheomelanin and the more common eumelanin. Blonde or red hair contains mainly pheomelanin pigment, which is less able to absorb the laser's energy than the eumelanin pigment which is present in black or brown hair.
Melanin is the substance that protects humans from ultra-violet rays. Thus, the more melanin in the skin the more protection it provides. It works by absorbing the short wave length light, which coincidently is also the same type of light used in most lasers used for hair removal. This is why laser treatment is less effective in dark skinned patients and why they require a long wavelength laser in order to be effective.
What is the 'hair growth cycle'?
Follicles produce hairs in repeated cycles. Each hair's cycle is independent of other hairs. The growth cycle comprises 3 phases:
Anagen - Growth Phase - approximately 85% of all hairs are in the growing phase at any 1 time. The Anagen phase or growth phase can vary from between 2 to 6 years.
Catagen - Transitional phase - at the end of the Anagen phase the hairs enters into a Catagen phase which lasts about a couple of weeks. During the Catagen phase the hair follicle shrinks to about a sixth of the normal length. The lower part of the follicle is destroyed and the dermal papilla breaks away to rest below.
Telogen - Resting Phase - the resting phase follows the Catagen phase and normally lasts about 5-6 weeks. During this time the hair does not grow but stays attached to the shortened follicle while the dermal papilla stays in a resting phase below. Approximately 10-15% of all hairs are in this phase at any one time.
At the end of the Telogen phase the follicle re-enters the Anagen phase. It lengthens and joins the dermal papilla at the base of the follicle. Once they have joined, a new hair begins to form. If the old hair has not already been shed the new one pushes the old one out and the growth cycle starts all over again.
What are the possible causes of excessive hair growth?
There are many causes, including:
HeredityNormal aging processesPregnancyGlandular and/or hormonal imbalances, including diseases causing these effectsInsulin resistance issuesReactions to certain medicationsExcessive temporary removal methods like waxing, tweezing, creams and depilatories, etc.
You should explore a possible underlying reason of the extreme hair growth before starting laser treatment. There may be something in the body consistently triggering the growth, and therefore treatment might seem to be ineffective because the body will keep developing new hairs.
Women with excessive hair growth on the upper lip, chin, and cheeks, should see an endocrinologist and have hormonal tests taken. Men should be tested for such things as insulin resistance. Contact your doctor if you think you might have an underlying medical condition causing excessive growth before starting treatment. Once the condition has been diagnosed and controlled through treatment or medication, the procedure can then be performed.
Many darker skinned patients often have a condition known as pseudofolliculitis. If a patient has this condition they will notice lots of small bumps on the skin. This condition is caused by the hairs in their follicles either entering the follicle walls (i.e. they don't leave their follicle), or on leaving their follicle they turn and re-enter the skin. Fortunately this condition can be dramatically improved with treatment from hair removal lasers.