The Truth About Laser Hair Removal

The Truth About Laser Hair Removal

At Coastal Dermatology and Medspa, our priority is to deliver quality dermatology care to informed patients in a comfortable and convenient setting.

The Truth About Laser Hair Removal

Comedian and influencer Elyse Myers captured the internet’s attention in October 2021, when she shared the disastrous-but-hilarious tale of her worst first date (spoiler: it involved 100 Taco Bell tacos). Since then, she’s racked up millions of views by sharing her most cringe-worthy moments and inviting followers to laugh along with her. 

Elyse went viral again in 2022 for sharing her experience with laser hair removal. In her characteristically vivid and down-to-earth style, she describes the pain as “worse than giving birth to a child” and shows off the splotchy red patches spread across her legs post-treatment. 

This caught my attention as a cosmetic medical provider. Elyse’s experience is not uncommon, but it should not be the norm. Providers must do a better job of addressing their patients’ needs, ensuring they (and their team members) are trained at the highest levels, and providing honest education about treatments.

So let’s sit down for some #realtalk about laser hair removal and the IPL hair removal we offer here at Krch AESTHETIC MEDICINE. 

What’s the Difference Between Laser and IPL?

You’re probably used to hearing the phrase “laser hair removal”, but that’s not your only option for hair reduction. 

A laser produces a single wavelength of light (meaning it is one color or monochromatic) in a high-intensity, focused beam. IPL stands for intense pulsed light, which is a range of wavelengths (multichromatic) emitted in weaker, more dispersed flashes. 

Both are light-based technologies that can permanently reduce hair growth by targeting and damaging the hair follicles with heat. Reaching maximum hair reduction usually takes multiple sessions, regardless of which technology you use.

Can I Pick Any Old Device?

Within the laser family, there are several different technologies for hair removal:

  • Ruby laser — the oldest version of laser hair removal
  • Alexandrite laser — one of the fastest lasers for hair removal
  • Diode laser — a versatile option for different skin tone/hair color combinations
  • Nd:YAG laser — one of the most popular laser hair removal technologies

Together with IPL (which is not technically a laser), these are the five most common technologies used for hair reduction. Each one has pros and cons, and the one that’s right for you depends on your skin tone and hair color, the settings used and the treatment experience you’re looking for.

As always, a consultation with an experienced provider is the only way to find out what will work best for your unique combination of factors.

Be Honest — Does It Hurt?

I know, I know… this is what you’re really here to find out, so why beat around the bush? 

Brass tacks time: yes, it can. Some pain is normal (these are extremely powerful devices, after all). But a good provider will do everything in their power to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible. Numbing cream can be a great tool, and so can the aloe Elyse talks about using afterward.

But the stress ball she says her tech gave her? Hurting worse than childbirth? Wishing it was done under general anesthesia? None of that is normal. If that has been your experience, then please find yourself a new provider or a new practice altogether. Beauty is not pain, despite what you may have heard.

Why Does It Take So Many Sessions?

Hair today, gone tomorrow?

Unfortunately not — hair removal is a process that happens over multiple treatments, so you must commit to follow-up sessions if you want the best results. Here’s why.

Hair growth happens in a cycle with four phases: 

  • Anagen — the active growth stage
  • Catagen — a transition stage
  • Telogen — the resting stage
  • Exogen — the shedding stage

Each hair follicle is independent, which means that different follicles are in different phases of the cycle at any given time. If our bodies didn’t work this way, every follicle would reach the exogen phase at the same time, and all our hair would fall out at once! (Thanks for working that out, Mother Nature — you’re a real one.)

Laser and IPL treatments only work on hair in the anagen phase. Because only some follicles are in that phase in each session, multiple treatments are necessary to make sure we reach maximum hair reduction for every follicle.

What Are the Risks and Side Effects?

Glad you asked. This is no one’s favorite discussion, but it’s critical to understand what is and isn’t normal, so you know when it’s time to give your provider a call.

The short-lived side effects of laser hair removal can include: 

  • Redness and swelling in the treated area 
  • Skin irritation with a sensation similar to a sunburn

These side effects usually resolve within a few hours or a few days after the treatment.

Other side effects of laser hair removal can include:

  • Pigment changes (darkening or lightening) — people with darker skin are more at risk for pigmentation changes
  • Blisters or burns
  • Infections
  • Cold sore outbreaks
  • Scarring

These side effects are rarer but can be longer-lasting if they occur.

It’s very important to choose the right provider. An inexperienced or poorly trained provider may not understand how to program the device for different patients’ needs, while a properly trained and experienced provider will know how to calibrate the device for your skin tone and the coarseness and color of your hair.

It’s also important to follow the aftercare instructions your provider gives you. Your outcome partially depends on what happens in the office, but part of it depends on how well you take care of your skin afterward. The #1 thing: steer clear of the sun. Sun exposure (both natural and artificial) can trigger hyperpigmentation in sensitive post-treatment skin.

How Long Does It Really Last?

Laser hair removal makes it sound permanent. And for some people, it is. However, a more accurate term might be laser hair reduction

After each treatment, your hair will come back thinner and finer until new growth slows down or stops. This can reduce unwanted hair by as much as 80 to 90 percent. Some people get good enough results that they don’t feel the need to have any more treatments. Others experience some regrowth over time that, though less than what they started with, they decide to treat with touch-up sessions.

Your mileage may vary, and we’re here to help you navigate whatever road that mileage takes you down.

Now That There Are Home Hair Removal Devices, Do I Really Have to See a Professional?

The home device market is getting increasingly sophisticated, but they are not as powerful or as rigorously tested as what you find in a professional setting.

(And if it is as powerful… yikes, send it back to whatever shadowy corner of the dark web you found it on before someone gets hurt.)

The bottom line is, the safest and most effective devices are found in medical offices, as well as the most experienced and knowledgeable operators.

What Else Would You Like to Know? Reach Out and Ask Me

Elyse’s experience does not have to be your experience. If you’re considering laser hair removal, or had a bad experience and are wondering if you should try a different provider, please give me and my team a call at 480-493-5833. 

As Pat Benatar might say, hit me with your best shot — I’m here to address all of your questions and concerns and promise to prioritize education and transparency. I hope to see you soon at Krch AESTHETIC MEDICINE.