What is Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal uses light emitted from a laser source to stop hair growth. The light damages the hair follicle and prevents its regrowth. Upon completion of a series of laser sessions, our clients will no longer need to shave or wax, thereby saving time and money over the long run. Because of the effectiveness of this procedure, the popularity of laser hair reduction continues to climb steadily, especially in warm climates like Tampa Bay.

What types of devices can be used for hair reduction?

There are several types of lasers and light sources that can be used for hair removal. They vary based on the type of wavelength of light used, the amount of energy that can be delivered, and the spot size that can be used to remove hair with each pulse of the laser. Within the aesthetics industry, these are the types of lasers currently available for hair reduction: Alexandrite, Ruby, Diode and NdYag lasers. In addition, a device called IPL (intense pulsed light) can be used. All of these devices work by destroying the hair follicle through the use of light energy. Epilation can also be used for hair removal. It involves using a small needle to place an electric current into the hair follicle to destroy it. It is useful for contouring areas with large, coarse hairs (such as the eyebrows) but it is a slow process and is best used for small areas.

What are the methods used by Lumen Aesthetics for hair reduction?

We are proud to offer two of the most advanced hair removal systems available. The Fotona Dynamis SP laser, is the newest generation NdYag laser. We chose this laser because it is the only laser we have found to be both highly effective, safe to use on all skin types (including tanned skin and people with skin of color) and virtually painless. Unlike most other lasers used for hair removal, no topical numbing cream is required because there is no “rubber band snap” shock from the laser pulse. It’s ideal for patients new to laser hair removal or people with anxiety about procedures in general.

We also offer the Elos Plus IPL from Syneron Candela. This pulsed light platform is indicated for several other uses but when paired with the HR handpiece, it is ideal for removing hair from places like the axilla, lip/face, bikini line and lower legs/toes. Like the Fotona laser, it is painless, highly effective and safe, although its use is limited to those with a lighter complexion and with no tan.

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Commonly Treated Sites

Nearly any part of the body can be cleared of unwanted hair. Some areas respond more quickly than others. Women tend to focus on the legs, axillary zone, upper lip, bikini/Brazilian zone, and toes. Men often request the back, shoulders and the chest. The ears and nose are difficult to treat with light-based devices but often respond to epilation.

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Our aesthetic fees are based on several factors:

  • We are a located within an accredited dermatology clinic, on St. Anthony’s Hospital campus
  • We are a physician-directed clinic.
  • All of our providers are overseen by Dr. James Connors, a board-certified dermatologist
  • Most services are performed by physician extenders (PAs and nurse practitioners), highly skilled in both dermatology and aesthetics
  • We are the official aesthetics training center for resident physicians at the University of South Florida Department of Dermatology
  • We spare no expense in using the gold-standard, leading technology selected by our medical director for its safety, efficacy and comfort

What is the Process for Laser Hair Removal?

Prior to Treatment

Initially, we perform a consultation so we can listen to the concerns of our client and explain the procedure in detail. During this time we will review what device and settings will lead to the best results and provide an estimate of the cost, time and number of sessions required. During the consultation, we will also review your overall skin health and medical history to make sure the procedure is safe for you. It’s important that you disclose any medical conditions and medications you may be taking. In some cases, a test area may be treated to make sure we get the laser parameters set properly for your unique skin type.

Shaving prior to the procedure is fine, but we recommend avoiding procedures such as waxing and plucking for 4 weeks prior to the laser session. If you are being treated with the Elos Plus IPL system, it’s important that you avoid getting a tan prior to the procedure to avoid the risk of brown spots where the laser has worked. If you are being treated with the Fotona laser, we still recommend avoiding a tan. Although the laser will still be effective, you will get better results when there is less pigment within the skin to compete with the pigment within the hair follicle. We also recommend avoiding agents that may irritate it for at least 12 weeks prior to the procedure. This includes astringents, chemical peels, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol wipes, retinol and other Vitamin A derivatives and bleaching agents including hydroquinone. Taking these steps will allow us to achieve the results you want faster and safer.

During Your Session

After answering any questions and making sure you are comfortable, we thoroughly clean the area to be treated. You will be provided with protective goggles to avoid eye injury. We then do a few test sites to see how the hair follicles are responding. We start with a lower energy and work up until we see the follicles react in a way that tells us they are responding. We then use that setting to treat the remaining areas for that day.

Both devices that we use for hair removal are gentle and most patients feel no discomfort. If the need arises, we have topical anesthetic that can be applied to those clients that request it. Depending on the site treated, the session may last anywhere from 2-3 minutes to an hour. After the session is over, we apply a soothing hydrating cream and review instructions.

After Your Session

Some pinkness and swelling of the treated areas are to be expected. It’s important to keep the treated areas hydrated with a moisturizing cream for 45 days after the treatment. We recommend avoiding sunscreen to the area. Rather, use clothing/hats and sun avoidance for the first few days to the treated areas. Your provider will go over other aftercare guidelines with you based on the area treated. It may take a few weeks to see a difference in the treated sites. The follicles that were destroyed still have a hair shaft that needs to shed, and this can take a short while.

How Does Laser Hair Removal Actually Work?

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Each hair follicle cycles in and out of these three phases over the course of several weeks. Only hairs that are in the anagen phase will respond to the laser/IPL treatments. During a laser treatment, therefore, we are only clearing out a fraction of the total number of follicles, not the entire population. It takes a few weeks for a new set of follicles to transition into the anagen phase. Typically, it takes several sessions to get adequate clearance of the hairs. The treatment sessions are spread out every 4-6 weeks.

What Are the Factors That Will Affect the Response?

The Skin Type of the Client

People with darker skin tend to be at higher risk of blistering, scarring and having altered pigment/color of the treated areas. As a result, many lasers have to be adjusted to much lower energies to avoid these risks. It sometimes takes longer to get clearance of hairs in patients with skin of color. During your initial consultation, we will determine your Fitzpatrick skin type. This is a scale developed by Harvard Dermatology Professor, Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick. It’s a scale from 1-6that rates the degree of skin pigmentation within an individual. The scale helps gauge the risk of an individual for certain skin conditions and skin cancer. In aesthetics, it can also help us gauge which clients are at higher risk of an adverse event from laser hair removal.

The Hair Type Of The Client

Patients with thick, dark hair tend to respond quickest. Believe it or not, smaller, whiter hairs require more energy (called “fluence”) than thicker, darker hairs. The color of our skin and our hair comes from melanin. There are two types: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin appears brown/black and responds well to laser/light-based hair removal. Pheomelanin appears red/yellow and does not respond as well. It takes more energy to affect it. White hairs are devoid of melanin and tend to be the most resistant to treatment.

The Type of Laser Used

There is no one laser that gets 100% clearance in every patient, every time. Certain people respond better to some lasers than others. In our experience, patients that have failed in the past with Alexandrite, Diode, and/or Ruby lasers have often failed because the fluence/energy was set too low due to fear of damaging the skin. We prefer the NdYag laser for clients with Fitzpatrick skin types 3,4,5 or 6 for this reason. When there is less risk of injury to the skin, we are able to increase the fluence to a level where we can get fairly consistent results across all skin types.

The Anatomic Location

Hair removal on the legs, bikini area, axilla and back usually proceed consistently. The face/lips/beard area can sometimes be more resistant and require more sessions.

The Experience of the Provider

Our providers are physician extenders that are trained in both general dermatology and aesthetics. By knowing what response to look for, we can ensure that our clients are getting the best outcome during each session and thus saving them both time and money.

The Overall Health of the Client

Clients with polycystic ovarian disease, thyroid conditions, and other medical issues can sometimes be resistant to treatment. This is why it is important to disclose any medical conditions during the initial consultation with our providers.

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Frequently Asked Questions

When will I see results?

Answer: You should start seeing results after the first session. You will initially see some regrowth after the first few sessions but with each treatment, the hairs will become noticeable reduced. Each session is spaced out between 48 weeks so that new hairs will cycle into the anagen phase and be targeted by the laser/light source. The degree of hair reduction will increase after each session until you reach a state where there are so few hairs left that it is simply not worth treating.

Is the hair reduction permanent?

Answer: Over months to years, there may be some regrowth. Typically, it is minimal. This is true for any laser/light device. It is variable from patient to patient. We advise clients to plan for periodic “touch up” sessions 1-2 times per year, but not all people require it.

I have skin with a darker tone (Fitzpatrick type 4,5 or 6),

Will laser hair removal work on me? How will you change your approach to my skin type compared to someone with a lighter complexion?
Answer: The first consideration is to use the laser that has the best safety profile for darker skin. In this case, we would recommend an NdYag laser. NdYag lasers penetrate deeper into the skin than other lasers and bypass the top layer of skin to minimize the risk of injury there. Older generation NdYag lasers had a reputation for being painful. The NdYag laser we use, however, is not. We use a Fotona Dynamis SP laser. It is a European laser that has a new technology that can shorten the length of time that each laser pulses the skin, and thereby effectively minimize any stinging. Second, we would perform at least one, sometimes two, test sites to see how the skin reacts prior to treating an entire area. Third, we use a cooling device that chills the top layer of skin while the laser is treating the hair follicle. This allows us to increase the fluence (energy) that the hair follicle receives while protecting the epidermis. Fourth, we prep the skin ahead of each session by using our proprietary topical regimen to reduce the skin’s ability to react adversely to the laser. Fifth, we start with a more conservative setting and plan for it to take more sessions in order to get adequate clearance. Because of the variability in the number of sessions, it can take to get full results, we recommend purchasing our treatment plan which covers unlimited sessions until clear for up to one calendar year.

Can I have laser hair removal done over a tattoo?

Answer: We do not recommend it. There have been reports in the medical literature of blistering and pain when laser hair removal is performed over a tattoo. The pigment from the tattoo may pick up energy from the laser and transfer that energy as heat to the surrounding can be placed on skin that has already received laser hair removal, however.

What is the difference between laser hair removal, electrolysis, and IPL (intense pulsed light) hair removal?

Answer: Lasers use a single wavelength of light in a straight collimated beam to selectively destroy the hair follicle by targeting melanin within the hair follicle. The melanin absorbs the energy from the laser and that energy is converted to heat which then destroys the follicle. IPL targets the hair follicle in a similar way but has a cluster of wavelengths of light that are not collimated. It also destroys the hairs by converting the light energy into heat. Both lasers and IPL can treat large areas in one session and only target hairs that are in the anagen growth phase. They work best on dark hairs. Electrolysis involves placing a tiny needle into each hair follicle and then using an electric current to destroy the follicle. It tends to be time-consuming. It works well on white, blond, red and dark hair. Its probably used most commonly on the eyebrows.

How much does it cost?

Answer: The cost per session will depend on the size/location of the site to be treated and which type of device is used. Sessions can be purchased individually, in packages of six (discounted) or by purchasing an unlimited plan which allows for either of our devices to be used for unlimited sessions until clear for up to 1 full calendar year (best value).

Does it hurt?

Answer: Both of our light-based hair removal devices were selected for their efficacy, safety and gentleness/comfort to our clients. Most patients describe no pain. If you are an individual with highly sensitive/reactive skin, we have topical anesthetic that can be applied.

How many sessions will it take?

Answer: Most areas require between 6-8 sessions.

How long will each session take?

Answer: Small areas such as the lip or axilla just take a few minutes. Larger areas such as the back can take 45 min to an hour.

What are the most common areas that you treat?

Answer: For women, the most commonly treated sites are the legs, axilla, bikini/Brazilian region, upper lip, and toes. For men, it is the back, shoulders, chest, and abdomen.

What are the risks?

Answer: Because laser hair reduction is not a surgical procedure the risks are low. The main risks are scarring, burning or change in skin color/pigmentation. These risks are minimal when pre- and Post-procedure instructions are followed closely by our clients. This is especially true when it comes to sun protection before and after the procedure.