Laser depilation - permanent hair removal

Cosmetically distressing hair, excessive hair growth or excess hair

Hair growth in certain places of the body is normal. Depending the colour of your hair and skin, the hair growth can be less or more visible. However, the amount of hair is linked to race and gender, and can also be familial determined. When the hair is too noticeable, it is often experienced as abnormal and cosmetically distressing.

Sometimes, there is abnormal excessive hair growth in places that normally are slightly hairy, like the arms and legs. In that case, we refer to it as hypertrichosis. This can occur in both men and women. Usually, hypertrichosis is genetically determined but can also be caused by medications.

In the case of women suffering from excessive hair growth with a typically male growth pattern, this is called hirsutism. With hirsutism, dark, coarse hair grows in the moustache and beard area, on the chest, back, stomach and thighs. Hirsutism usually starts at the end of puberty and occurs in 5 to 10 % of the women before the menopause. Hirsutism is associated with hormonal disorders, including an excess of male hormones (testosterone) or a condition in which the ovaries contain cysts (PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome).

Whether it is regarding abnormal excessive hair growth or cosmetically distressing facial or body hair, many people are bothered by it and do everything possible to remove the excess hair. In addition to the classic treatment methods, including shaving, wax depilation and needle electrolysis, since the nineties, you can also depilate through laser depilation. This hair removal method enables a permanent depilation in a quick and relatively comfortable manner.

Who is permanent laser depilation intended for?

Laser depilation is suitable for both cosmetically distressing hair and abnormal excessive hair growth such as in the case of hirsutism and hypertrichosis. Almost all skin types for both women and men can be treated. However, there are some exceptions. Light downy hair and thick grey or white hairs do not respond as well to the laser because this type of hair contains little or no pigment. People with a dark skin type also have a more difficult reaction.

Permanent depilation or hair removal with the depilation laser

A laser device is a high-energy light source with a specific wavelength. In laser depilation, the wavelength is determined so that the energy is absorbed by the pigmentation present in the hair roots during the last stage of the hair growth cycle. It is this absorbed energy that causes the destruction of the hair root.

Every single hair has a hair cycle and each hair cycle has three phases: the growth phase (anagen phase), the transition phase (catagen phase) and the resting phase (telogen phase). This cycle differs according to the location on the body. Only during the growth phase (anagen phase) of this cycle, is sufficient pigmentation present in the hair root in order to achieve permanent hair removal.

This means that, after one treatment, we can maximally remove the percentage of hair that was in the anagen phase. For several weeks to months, all the hairs can temporarily stay away, but usually, a portion will appear again after a while.

In laser depilation, each hair is not treated separately (hair by hair). The laser has two pulse sizes and these are positioned with a slight overlap over the entire surface.

The depilation laser is provided with a special cooling system in the contact tip this makes the treatment more comfortable and reduces the risk of complications.

Preparation for laser depilation

  • Before laser treatment, the hair needs to be shaved very carefully. You can do this yourself at home. 
  • If after shaving, the hair stumps are no longer superficially visible, it is useful to nicely mark the hairy area. This way, we know what area needs to be treated. 
  • The hair cannot be depilated for at least 4 weeks prior to treatment. Though, shaving is allowed.
  • Sunbathing and sun-beds are advised against, from at least one month prior to treatment until 1 week after the last treatment.

The expected results and frequency of treatments

  • Repeated treatments can provide a significant result with a continued thinning of the hair. On average, about five treatments are necessary with a two-month interval to achieve permanent hair removal of at least 90%. The fine downy hair and the terminal hairs that are too fine or do not have sufficient pigmentation to absorb enough energy to get damaged will remain. Often, the remaining hair is rarely distressing.
  • In areas of the body, including the armpits, legs and bikini line, a laser depilation usually delivers a stable and lasting result after about five treatments. For facial hair, however, we advise one maintenance treatment every year. This way, we can treat the new hairs that evolve from small new downy hairs early, in order to maintain the achieved results. 
  • Since the laser energy is also absorbed by the normal pigmentation of the epidermis, it is logical that the best and quickest results are obtained in persons with darker hair and a pale complexion. 

Is laser depilation painful?

  • During a laser depilation, you can experience light to moderate pain.
  • The pain can possibly be reduced by applying an anaesthetic cream locally beneath a plastic bandage 1 hour before the treatment. 

What to expect after the laser treatment?

  • After the laser depilation, redness and a slight swelling (oedema) may occur around the hair follicles. This can last for several hours. In addition, you will experience a burning sensation. This is a reaction to the intense heat caused by the laser under the skin. 
  • Sometimes small blue spots (purpura) may also occur. These will disappear within a few days.
  • In the case where some hairs were inadequately shaved or removed before the treatment, small superficial wounds (erosions) may occur.
  • Blistering is mainly expected in people with a darker skin colour or after recent exposure to UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds. Therefore, it is absolutely not recommended to undergo laser treatment if you have been exposed to the sun or a sunbed during the past 14 days, even if your skin colour is hardly tanned (pigmented).
  • Small wounds and blisters will heal quickly and usually do not cause scars. You can treat them locally with an antiseptic ointment or gel.
  • After the laser treatment, your skin can be slightly paler (hypopigmentation) or browner (hyperpigmentation). Usually, this is not pronounced and will disappear again spontaneously. People with a darker skin type are usually more sensitive to this.

When is it not possible to perform laser depilation?

  • When you have a history of 'proud flesh' (keloid scars)
  • In the case of an active infection or fever blisters (herpes simplex) in the area to be treated
  • If you have been medically treated (with Roaccutane) for pronounced acne during the last 6 months
  • If you have been exposed to the sun or have used a sunbed during the last 14 days

Aftercare following laser depilation

  • As aftercare, it is recommended to cool the treated zones down during the first few hours with cold compresses or washcloths, or with a cooling gel or ointment such as Flamigel or Flammazine. These ointments are also recommended in the case of small wounds or blisters. 
  • If you experience skin irritation, it is also important to avoid strong friction or the use of soap and detergents as much as possible on the treated areas.

What you also need to know

  • During treatment, the patient, the physician(s), staff and any attending family have to wear special glasses to protect their eyes from the laser light.

If you have any question about laser depilation, do not hesitate to contact us.