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Laser Hair Removal: What You Need to Know

by Je
Laser hair removal diode machine

Let’s talk laser hair removal.

But first, let me just say that hair removal is a personal choice and I find silly the pressure women face regarding body hair. Women and men are free to leave a little out there. Hair is harmless. There are far worse things going on out there in the world that require discussion. But for those eco-friendly souls who prefer a smoother, hairless skin, laser hair removal might be the way to go.

How environmentally-friendly is laser hair removal?

Quite friendly, if you compare it to other methods of hair removal.

Disposable razors? This option is popular but it has a problem. About two million razors are disposed off every year says the Environmental Protection Agency; most of these will make it to the landfill or pollute the water bodies. Stainless steel is a far better “green” option; it may cost you more but lasts longer too.

Strip waxing is another widely used method but far from sustainable as it results in synthetic plastic and paper waste. If you are intent on waxing, how about sugaring, where you use honey or sugar in place of the sticky wax? The jury is still out on its effectiveness but it seems a far better environmental choice.

And then there is hair removal cream that does a bang up job of rounding up unwanted hair but smells awful. And it’s made from an exhaustive list of chemicals.

This leaves us with a method that has none of the baggage mentioned above – (*drum roll*) laser hair removal.

Laser hair removal – how it works

Laser hair removal treatment is different from most. It offers the hope of permanence. Commercially available at the very end of the last millennium, the treatment is now generally regarded as among the best of all hair removal solutions. 

Here’s how it works…

Laser damages the stem cells in the bulge and dermal papilla of the hair follicle by targeting melanin. In simpler parlance, the objective is for the laser to destroy the follicle in each individual hair so that it doesn’t grow back.

There are several reasons why people seek laser hair removal. It may be due to conditions of abnormal hair growth such as hypertrichosis or hirsutism or simply for cosmetic reasons.  Another reason is because the procedure is approved by the FDA, which adds a level of confidence in the patient. It is essential that the procedure that is performed is safe and devoid of worrying side-effects.

Dark, coarse hair against light skin complexion is ideal because the contrast makes it easier for the light to target the hair follicle. This could mean that after a few sessions you will get to a place where you will not need to wax or shave. Don’t fret if you have a darker complexion. The YAG laser machine (see infographic below) does the job for those with darker skin tones.

The Fitzpatrick scale classifies different type of skin tones. You can use it as a guide in case your skin tone does not fall in any one of the categories.

The Fitzpatrick scale
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Types of laser hair removal machines

Below are the different types of laser hair removal machines…

Compare Types of Laser Hair Removal Machines
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Time between sessions vary from 4–8 weeks depending on the intensity and area of the treatment. Exfoliating regularly between sessions quickens the process.

So, how will it feel when a dermatologist goes all Jedi on your skin?

The pain you experience is very mild and tolerable but then again everyone’s threshold for pain and sensitivity is different. Some people have described the procedure to feel like a rubber band snapping against the skin or a light pinch. There are numbing creams for those who simply do not want to experience any kind of discomfort.

Tips: Stay off antibiotics around the time of the procedure, they make skin sensitive to light.  Avoid waxing, hair removal creams, and bleaching; these can affect the root which needs to stay intact for the laser to destroy the follicle.  Also, avoid enjoying too much of the sun (tanned skin comes with its own set of complications) 4-6 weeks before the treatment.

Choosing the treatment center and laser hair removal costs

Make sure they are actually allowed to do the laser hair treatments. Some places have unqualified staff who just follow basic instructions. A good practitioner should also be able to you tell what procedure suits you the best. Typically, bigger cities have more laser hair removal centers as consumers have greater spending capacity.

Laser hair removal costs vary a lot, depending on factors such as the size of the treatment area, time required for treatment, the number of sittings, the person in charge of the procedure (whether they are a doctor or staff), and region where the procedure is taking place.

I wanted to give definitive figures on this and so put my Nancy Drew hat on and scanned the Internet for authoritative stats on the procedure. Alas, I found very little that was conclusive.

In the US, laser hair removal cost varies from $150–500 (2017) but some in public forums have claimed that they’ve had to shell out over $1000. In the UK, it’s £40–400 (2016) but do a little digging and some apparently have had to pay upwards of £600.

In Germany, laser hair removal prices are around the same as in the UK. In India, it’s between INR 3000–8000.

You get the picture. It’s blurry. So, if your spidey senses tell you that you’re been taken for a ride, I recommend you compare the centers in your area to get a better idea.

Is laser hair removal permanent?

Yes, it is if the hair follicle is destroyed during the treatment. But that is easier said than done. Often, the laser manages to only damage the follicle and in such cases, hair will grow back. It may take several sessions for hair to be permanently removed.

With repeated treatments, the effects can be significant and long lasting. Most patients report a 70–100% reduction in body hair in areas treated by the procedure.

The cons

FDA lists blistering, discoloration and redness as potential side effects while there is also a risk of burning. The treatment can become uncomfortable at the hands of inexperienced personnel leading to scars and burns on the skin. However, in the right hands and the high-quality range of machines available today, the treatment is painless and yields good results. 

Final thoughts

Over the long term, laser hair removal costs are not much different from other treatments such as waxing. They could even be cheaper besides being physically less uncomfortable. Plus, the treatment does not contribute to environmental waste like waxing does or add to the already populated landfill like disposable razors. Maybe, one day, science will deliver a pill to take care of unwanted hair. Till then, laser hair removal remains one of the best and most eco-friendly of the available solutions.

If you are interested in how to create an eco-friendly beauty routine, there are some invaluable tips in this article and this one too.

What are your thoughts on laser hair removal? Have you tried it? Let us know in the comments.

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Rachel October 18, 2019 - 1:48 pm

I don’t know if I’m ready to try this procedure due to safety concerns but I’d love to not have to deal with hair removal again. I didn’t think about the sustainability factor and I think I will try buying a stainless steel razor to help the environment and my wallet–plastic razors are so ridiculously expensive nowadays.

Je October 19, 2019 - 12:47 am

I understand the safety concerns completely, but centers with qualified professionals and a good reputation should be safe enough. And stainless steel is a great choice, anytime better than disposable razors.

Lalh October 19, 2019 - 8:19 am

Have a friend who chose laser hair removal rather than using bleach on her face or waxing (which she said is more uncomfortable than laser). Required a few sittings but now she is a free woman!
An informative article. Thank you!

Je October 20, 2019 - 1:30 am

You’re most welcome. 🙂

Katt October 23, 2019 - 10:10 am

I NEEDED this post! Haha I’ve wanted to get it done on my fave for ages but I’m not bothered about anywhere else really, due to price I guess it shouldn’t be too much in a small area? X

Je October 25, 2019 - 8:15 pm

The price is dependent on a lot of factors including the area where you want to get it done.

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