Health Topics

Healthy Living

August 2011
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Dr. Betsy Lakshmi Narayanan
Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

What exactly is Laser?
Forget the physics! Laser just means that the light is so focused by virtue of its unique wavelength and pulse that, it zeroes in on the ‘target’ tissue with minimal damage to surrounding tissues. This in its simplest sense means that say, if a ‘hair-removal’ laser is used, it would hone in on the melanin (or the pigment cell) in hair follicles alone, and not the rest of your body.

How would I know if I am a good candidate for laser hair removal?
As mentioned before, laser is attracted to a target --- and how effectively it does that depends on how clearly it is able to ‘see’ the target. So a person with fair skin and dark hair offers a clearer contrast to laser and therefore better results. If you are dark and have dark hair, you may not get the results you desire, just as you would if you are fair with light hair.

White Hair is completely devoid of melanin making it extremely resistant to laser hair removal. Coarse hair seems to respond much better to laser than fine hair.

If you have an underlying hormonal problem (like polycystic ovarian disease or PCOD), then a correction of the underlying problem needs to go hand-in–hand with the hair removal. So a proper medical work-up is recommended wherever necessary.

Lastly, there are a minority group of ‘non-responders,’ but this usually occurs when the device isn’t right, the parameters incorrect or the patient not being a good candidate. This is why also you get the best results when you go to an experienced dermatologist.

Why would I need to go for repeated sittings? Why not get it all done in one shot?
To answer that we need a bit more perspective on hair and the way it grows. At any one time your hair may be ‘growing’, ‘resting’ or be anywhere in between. Laser is finicky in that it acts ONLY on the growing hair follicles. What this means for you, is that at the time you’ve taken your laser sitting you’ve knocked off only around 10 to 30% of your hair follicles.

So, you would need to come down after say, 3 to 8 weeks to let more of the remaining hair enter the ‘growing’ or susceptible phase. This also means that the conventional 6 sittings are often inadequate and ‘touch-up’ sessions are needed in many cases, but at longer intervals.

Then what was all that about PERMANENT hair reduction?
Permanent hair reduction does NOT mean permanent removal of ALL hair (see the explanation to the question above). It only means that the laser permanently REDUCES the total number of body hair.

How many sittings would I need?
The number of sessions depends on numerous factors like the colour of your skin, how coarse your hair is, any underlying causes for excess hair growth, your gender and lastly the site and extent of involvement. On an average 6 sessions are needed.

What are the side-effects I need to be prepared for?
  • Pain is common with the conventional Nd-Yag laser, so a local anaesthetic cream applied liberally, an hour before is helpful.
  • The newer technologies such as those which involve the pulsed diode are however almost painless.
  • Redness, burns, itching, swelling, flares of acne or herpes are all observed in clinical practice, though with proper precautions the risk is miniscule.
  • Most of the complications are also very easily managed if brought to the attention of the dermatologist in time.
       So don’t think twice. Laser hair removal is here to stay---and totally worth it!

Dr.Betsy Lakshmi Narayanan Consultant Cosmetology Apollo Hospitals Hyderabad

  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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