All you need to know about laser facial hair removal
Here are the facts
Remember when Kourtney Kardashian spoke for all of us when she said, “This is a job and a half,” while prepping to give Khloé a bikini wax ? Well, she couldn’t be more right. For those of us majestic beings who like to grow and show, more power to you, but for those of us who like to keep that growth in check, hair removal constitutes a chunk of our lives. Last time we checked, women spent about 72 days over the course of a lifetime, just shaving their legs. That’s approximately 1,728 hours and a lot of forsaken Netflix time, ladies. Which is why, for some of us, permanent hair removal is the boon we’d been waiting for most of our teenage lives. And now that it’s been around a while–tried and tested to show great results–we deep dove into the laser facial hair removal procedure with Dr Chytra Anand, CEO and consultant cosmetic dermat at Kosmoderma Clinic, for the real lowdown.
Okay doc, permanent facial hair removal. What are our options?
“There are two types of facial hair: thick, coarse hair that is easy to permanently remove with laser, and finer hair that can be taken care of with epilation, waxing or threading,” says Dr Anand. Quick aside: an epilator is an at-home device that removes hair by the roots by plucking it.
What are the laser hair reduction options?
“Diode is the most commonly used method, while the Nd:YAG laser is designed dark skin types. There’s another option called the Q-switch laser, for medium fine facial hair. Also, you might want to know the difference between laser light, and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light), which releases light at different wavelengths, and looks like a flashlight going off. This requires more sessions than a laser treatment.”
Is it safe to say all hair is eligible for this treatment?
“Well, yes, but if it’s very fine, fluffy baby hair on the face, we don’t recommend the diode and Nd:Yag laser, but the Alexandrite or red light laser instead,” she says.
This little inconvenience is thanks to something known as stimulatory or paradoxical hair growth. “This means that once you laser these hairs, they’ll grow back thicker and darker because they’re changing from baby to adult hairs.”
What’s the typical process for facial laser hair removal?
Pull over for some fun science. The basic principle involves the laser light being targeted at the melanin in the dark hair, while ensuring the skin around the hair shaft doesn’t absorb that energy. Dr Anand explains, “The laser targets the biogen or the hair follicle (that’s where the germ cells or stem cells are located) and the blood supply. Because germ cells are black due melanin and haemoglobin is red, the laser destroys these.”
“Only 10-15% of hairs are in growth at any given time (known as allogen hairs) and the rest of them are dying or dead in the cycle, which is why you get about 10% reduction per session. The rest of the hair grows back finer every time you do the treatment, until you catch all of them in their allogen stage and destroy them once and for all.” That’s why experts recommend a year of 6-10 sessions to laser body hair, and 8-12 sessions for the face. Each session is scheduled 4-6 weeks apart depending on your hair growth.
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Is there a pre-treatment prep?
Don’t skimp on sunscreen and avoid trips to the beach before an appointment. If you do, you’ll have to wait around four weeks to redo the laser. “Laser light is colour blind. It can’t tell the difference between the melanin in skin and hair—it targets whatever is darker. That’s why the hairs have to be thick, and several shades darker than your skin colour to be treated successfully. We tell our patients to protect themselves from tanning, because if the laser light is absorbed by the skin it can cause scabbing,” she warns.
So what’s the best time to zap hair?
“A stubble length is perfect because that’s when the hair is in the active growth cycle. In any case, it’s shaved before a procedure because any hair on top of the skin can scab.”
Does laser target ingrown hair?
Dr Chytra says, “Since laser light treats hair follicle under the skin, and not on the surface, ingrowths are definitely targeted. We combine this with glycolic peels and lactic acid peels to exfoliate the dead skin on the surface of ingrown hair.”
What are the skincare no-nos after a laser session?
Avoid sweating for 24 hours post-treatment and you’re golden. This means you’ll have to ditch the gym, a hot shower and refrain from making spa appointments on the same day. “Your skin’s typical reaction post laser is to swell up a bit around the hair follicles, like scattered little dots, and mild redness in some cases—all of this goes away in a couple hours. Apply moisturiser and sunscreen before you head out of the clinic. Also, no waxing, plucking or threading during the course of the laser sessions–you don’t want to mess with the hair cycle,” she advises.
Now for the big question: will the hair grow back?
“No, it won’t. The procedure has a 90-95% success rate, permanently destroying dark hair follicles, while the rest is super fine and can be shaved, or they just slide off and won’t come back for weeks again,” says Dr Chytra. “However, hormonal changes (during pregnancy, IVF, menopause) can stimulate regrowth,” she clarifies.
What drawbacks should we brace for?
“People tend to forget that this is a medical device (a Class 4 laser) that must be used under medical supervision only.” Sadly, due to some loopholes in regulations several regular salons offer the service as well. Pro tip? “Look for an experienced the establishment for better results.”