Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal offers long-term hair reduction, as opposed to the permanent hair removal offered by electrolysis. It can be used on all parts of the body, except the eyebrow and ear. It is most effective on light, medium or olive skin with dark hair. It is generally ineffective on blond, strawberry blond and white/gray hair. Dark brown and black skin has a much higher risk of burns, scars, and hyperpigmentation (permanent darkening of the skin).
There are many different laser devices used for hair removal. The most common are:
NeoDymium Yttrium Aluminum Garnets (Nd:YAG)
To maximize the effectiveness of this treatment, stop all methods of hair removal other than shaving or depilatory creams at least 12 weeks before treatment. Shaving and clipping may be done up to 2 days before treatment.
Laser machines used for hair removal, as noted by Health Canada, “operate with high emission levels and are therefore designated in the highest hazard classes (Class 3B & Class 4)”. This means it is crucial to work with a skilled, experienced and well recommended laser hair removal provider who practice the required safety measures when providing this service. Health Canada has put forth a Safety Guidelines for Facility Owners and Operators to follow; however, monitoring the use of the guidelines by providers is currently not properly implemented in BC.
As skills for providers vary with experience, visit Choosing a Hair Removal Method for tips in choosing a provider.
Laser hair removal is fast. Lasers can treat an area of skin, rather than one follicle at a time like electrolysis. It is long-lasting, and may produce some permanent results. Some people find it less painful than electrolysis. Regrowth is often finer and lighter.
Laser hair removal is expensive. It requires several treatments (3-6 or more). Side effects can include temporary swelling, bumps, crusting, redness, singed hairs that look like tiny black spots, and temporary skin discoloration. More serious complications include blistering, permanent skin discolouration, scarring, intense itchiness, and hives. There is a lack of evidence about the safety and effectiveness of laser hair removal over the long term. It is also an unregulated industry in Canada, raising additional safety concerns (i.e. about the training and experience of practitioners). Many people are not good candidates for laser hair removal, based on hair and skin colour, health conditions, and medication use.
People with the following conditions should not use laser hair removal: epilepsy, diabetes, cold sores, albinism, nervous disorders, sunburn, open wounds, and a history of keloid scarring. Pregnant people and people with gray hair should also avoid this method. Do not use this method if you take Accutane, tetracycline, or Retin-A. If the area you wish to have treated has a birthmark or mole, have the treatment approved by your health care provider first.
Follow your practitioner’s advice regarding aftercare in order to minimize side effects and complications. This will likely include instructions about avoiding hot baths for 24-48 hours; using clean cold packs to soothe the treatment area; applying soothing ointments to keep the area lubricated; and avoiding sun exposure, make up and lotions for a period of time following treatment.