Wednesday, 26 February 2014

All you want to know about Laser Hair Removal & IPL - Part 1

Laser hair removal
I know many of you out there wonder: 

Does Laser and IPL hair removal work?

I had IPL on my full legs about 15 years ago and I can tell you, it was one of the best things I ever did.

This is a story that probably all of you can relate to: My nightmare with hair started when I was 14. The hairs in my legs where pretty blonde and soft but a bit longer than vellum hair. During a sleep over at a friend's house, she convinced me they were unsightly and I should shave them, so I did. I never regretted anything in my life more than that! Leaving aside the fact that I cut myself everywhere, the most upsetting thing was that my hair grew back with a vengeance. It came back thick and black and more abundant than before.

From there on, if I wanted to wear shorts or a skirt or go to the beach I had to shave. My skin did get a bit irritated, but that was not the worse part. The worse part was that my hairs grew so fast that 3 hours after shaving, my legs felt like sandpaper. Very embarrassing when I started dating a few years later.

So, I tried waxing. I withstood the pain, I even put up with wearing only pants until the hairs were long enough to be waxed again, but I could not deal with the ingrown hair. Waxing for me was a torture.

Laser hair removal
I tried depilatory creams and just as well, got heaps of ingrowns. I tried depilatory machines: horrible pain, hairs growing back all at different times because the large amount of breakage and more ingrowns.

Then, in 1993 (or around that) I tried Electrolysis: pretty effective, very painful, very expensive... extremely slow. I went once and never again. In one hour they treated like a 4cm x 4cm area. Going for one hour, once a week it probably would have taken a whole year to do the equivalent of 45min of Laser or IPL.

When Laser hair removal and IPL came around I was thrilled. However, I didn't jump in the bandwagon right away but waited a bit to make sure. I read a lot of information, made sure that it was safe, and finally I made my decision. It was expensive (in those days far more than now) and I was barely able to afford it, but got all my savings and had my first IPL treatment.

Was it painful? 

A little bit, but easily tolerable. Compared to waxing was like a walk in the park. To me, it felt like tiny pinpricks everytime the light flashed.

Treatments are spaced between six and eight weeks and in average it takes 6 to 8 sessions to eliminate 80-95% of the hair. The first 3 sessions you don't notice much difference because you have to leave the hair to shed naturally (you cannot wax or pluck or use depilatory creams; you can only shave in between treatments) and while is being shed it looks like if it's growing. Also I had so much hair it was difficult to tell.

Laser hair removal for men
After the 3rd treatment I started noticing patches of skin where the hair didn't grow back, that really cheered me up.

Does it eliminate the hair permanently? 

Yes, and no. The majority of hairs won't grow back, however if the hair is thin and light coloured it doesn't receive enough energy to destroy the follicle, so it only gets weakened and regrows very small, light and thin, like vellum hair. There is also the fact that we have many dormant cells in our skin and because of hormonal changes they may awaken at any moment and start producing hair.

Want to know my results? 

I had 8 treatments done, for good measure. In my lower legs where the hair was most profuse and black I have 99% permanent hair removal to-date. I have something like 12-18 stubborn hairs that grow in the knee area and that I pluck with the tweezers in less than a minute, once a month. My skin is as smooth as a baby skin. My pores that used to be large and red from the shaving are now tiny and unnoticeable and the IPL treatment got rid of all my ingrown hairs. On the upper legs because half of the hairs there were thin and light I still have about 25% of hairs but they are now like vellum hair, hardly visible.

Will my legs stay free of hair till I die? 

Probably not, as I mentioned before hormonal changes can produce regrowth. As I approach menopause my testosterone levels will go up and this usually causes and increased growth in body hair. Solution: a yearly IPL treatment until my hormone imbalance stabilises.

I just wish Laser hair removal and IPL would have been invented when I was 14, the amount of money, time and unpleasantness it had saved me would be priceless.

Some background information:

Laser hair removal & IPL (Intense Pulsed Light)Permanent hair reduction are technologies that use light and the pigment of the hair to destroy the hair follicle.

The light is attracted by the melanin (pigment) in hair. When the light touches the hair it gets converted into heat energy and travels through the hair shaft to the follicle. Unfortunately for the treatment to be effective, the hair needs to be firmly attached to the follicle and this only happens when the hair is in its growth stage. In most areas of the body, only between 10% and 30% of of the hairs are in their growing stage at any one time. Because of this you need between 6 and 8 sessions to eliminate most of the hair.

Also, to try and catch the hairs in the growing stage it is best if the sessions are spaced between 4 and 8 weeks.
The hair growth cycle

Is it safe?

When used properly the technology ispretty safe. Because the energy is guided by the colour in the hair only the hair follicle is affected, the surrounding skin is not damaged.

Does it hurt?

If somebody offers you Laser hair removal or IPL with no pain at all, I would not trust it. For the treatment to be effective it has to hurt a bit. In a scale of pain between 1-10 where one is no pain at all and ten is quite painful you should be feeling around 4-6 (for me waxing is like an 8). Some people say it feels like the snap of a rubber band, in my personal opinion is more like a pinprick. If you are not feeling anything at all, the settings are too low and you won't be getting any results. 

If you can tolerate a higher setting, go for it because the treatment will be far more effective. If you think is too much tell the therapist to lower it a bit. It will still work but you may need more sessions.

Also the level of pain depends on the area being treated. It is more painful in areas where the skin is close to the bone. The therapist should be asking your feedback often and increasing or lowering the settings accordingly.

Does it work for everybody?

Unfortunately no. Laser and IPL work best for people with light skin and dark hair. If the skin is dark the light is also attracted to the colour in the skin and may cause burns. If the hair is blonde it will not attract enough light and the hair will only be weakened but not destroyed.

IPL hair removalTo solve these problems a new technology has been available for a few years now: Elos.

Elos combines IPL with RF (radio frequency). With dark skin the IPL settings are low and the RF settings high. RF is not attracted to colour.  The light energy is released first and will be attracted more to the hairs because they are darker than the skin. This creates a low resistance path for the RF that will also get transformed into heat energy and travel through the hair shaft destroying the follicle.

For light skin and blonde hair it works in the same manner however the settings for both IPL and RF are set high.

White hair cannot be treated.

More information on Elos Technology...

I have had 6+ IPL treatments and I see no results

I have talked to a few people that commented they had had 6 or more IPL treatments and they were not able to see any results. Here are a few reasons why it may be so:

  • Inexperienced therapist using very low settings:

    It is possible that your therapist is inexperienced or afraid to cause pain and the energy settings are very low. If the IPL machine settings are too low it may weaken the hair but will not cause permanent reduction. For the treatment to be effective it has to hurt a bit.

  • Expired machine head:

    If you look at the photos of laser or IPL machines you can see that a flexible tube (similar to a vacuum cleaner tube) comes out of the machine and ends up in a handpiece (head). These heads are useful for a limited number of shots (light flashes) and they are very expensive (this is why the treatment is expensive). After a certain number of shots the flashes decrease in effectiveness. Some old machines let you keep using the head even if the recommended number of flashes has been exceeded.

  • Health problem:

    Certain conditions such as Hirsutism, Cushing disease, tumors, Hyperplasia, Polycystic Ovary disease, and disorders such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and dermatomyositis, cause abnormal hair growth. If you suffer from one of these conditions you may not get results. 

    Because some of these health problems are related to an overreaction of the immune system it is even possible to get the opposite effect: more hair regrowth after a Laser or IPL treatment.

  • Steroids usage:

    Steroids and some drugs can cause excess hair growth. If you are a body builder using steroids Laser or IPL hair removal may not have any effect at all.

    Check the second part of this post

1 comment:

  1. I’ve had a great experience with Toronto laser hair removal clinic! They are very professional and considerate with my needs and requests. I’m currently getting laser done by them, and they made sure I was comfortable and explained the process to me thoroughly which was great. It was practically painless which was a pleasant surprise! :) I’ve also gotten a few massages by their incredible masseuse, Roya, who gave me the best relaxing massage I’ve ever had. Practically felt like jelly after :D Will definitely continue to get massages and am excited to see how the final result of my laser treatments will turn out!