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Laser hair removal is also called epilation. It was first experimentally performed in the 1950s and was offered to the public first in the 1970s. Laser hair removal is related to intense pulsed light therapy, which uses a xenon light source to remove hair. Laser surgery or hair removal is now widely accepted by cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists, who use it to remove unwanted hair in thousands of individuals per year.

The mechanism of action of laser hair removal is called "selective photothermolysis", which means that lasers can attack dark tissue and hair while leaving the light skin behind. It really only works on dark hair follicles and on light skinned people. It doesn't work on white or grey hairs and it causes too much pain and destruction of skin in dark skinned individuals. It uses heat to destroy the follicle so that the follicle won't create a hair from it. The hair removal device selectively targets the melanin in the skin.

Melanin comes in two varieties. There is eumelanin, which provides the body with brown or black colouration and hairs. There is also pheomelanin, which creates blonde hair or red hair. The laser hair removal only tackles the eumelanin and leaves the pheomelanin alone. The ideal combination for laser hair removal is light skin producing dark hairs but new lasers are available that can target really dark hair against dark skin.

Laser hair removal devices have actually been in use since 1997 and have been approved by the US FDA for permanent hair loss. It doesn't always get rid of all possible hairs but diminishes the number of hairs on the affected area of the skin. The effect is basically permanent and multiple treatments can get rid of more hairs. Some people will have regrowth of hair after several years and need to have another treatment from laser hair removal. It is an extremely popular way of managing excess hair but often takes several treatments (3-8 treatments) if the area is large or the hair is not very dark. Some people don't respond to the hair removal method at all and it is unpredictable who will respond and who will not respond. Some of it depends on the skills of the person providing the laser therapy.

Laser hair removal is different from electrolysis. Electrolysis works well with fine hair or with light coloured hair but is time consuming. Electrolysis is permanent whereas laser hair removal may not be permanent. The FDA currently lists electrolysis as the only truly permanent way to lose hair of all colours and types.

There are several different types of hair removal devices, some of which act in the visible spectrum and others which operate in the near-infrared spectrum. There are lasers made from argon gas, ruby lasers, and alexandrite lasers. The first two laser types are not used on hair removal any more. A pulsed diode array is a laser type used for pale to medium skin types. An Nd:YAG laser type is used on darker skin types successfully. Longer pulse width can be safer for dark skin but a shorter pulse width is better able to kill off hair follicles.

During the procedure, the skin can heat up and can cause pain. In order to reduce the effect of the heat, the device uses contact cooling through the use of circulating water or a cryogen spray applied to the skin right after the laser pulse is given. Forced air at very cold temperatures can be used to cool the skin so as to reduce the pain of the procedure. It takes many treatments (about 6-8 treatments) that are spaced out about 8-12 weeks apart in order to have maximal success. They need to be spaced apart because of the hair cycle patterns associated with the area of the body being treated. It all depends on the area of the body being treated with laser light therapy, on the reason for the extra hair, the gender of the person being treated and the coarseness of the hair involved. The best treatment comes from coarse hair on pale skin. Fine hair is often not affected at all.

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Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Laser Hair Removal solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Laser Hair Removal solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here