The Expert’s Guide to Laser Hair Removal

Kristin Booker

laser hair removal

We all know that unwanted body and facial hair can be such a bother. Honesty, why can’t it just go away already? Plucking, waxing, shaving – all of these are viable options, but when you want hair to go away and stay gone, laser hair removal is the way to go. There’s a lot of information out there, but how do you know if you’re a proper candidate and what do you expect? We reached out to Dr. Meghan O’Brien, board-certified consulting dermatologist for Physicians Formula and a laser hair removal expert, to get all the details on exactly what to expect when zapping away unwanted hair. From cost to recovery time, here’s everything you need to know about laser hair removal.

Beauty High: How does laser hair removal actually work?

Dr. Meghan O’Brien: The laser targets the hair follicle bulb underneath the surface of the skin. The energy then heats up the bulb and destroys it, which prevents hair growth.

Who are the best candidates for laser hair removal? Are there any candidates for whom it would not be the right choice?  

The best candidates for hair removal have dark, coarse hair and fair skin. Darker skin types require different lasers to avoid causing discoloration of the skin. Those with fine hair can be more difficult to treat with lasers, and very light or white hair usually doesn’t respond very well.

How can you prepare for laser hair removal? What can you expect during and after a treatment?
You should not wax or pluck your hair for 4-6 weeks prior to your laser treatments. In between treatments, shaving or cutting the hair is fine, but removal of the entire hair shaft should be avoided (i.e. waxing or plucking.) Pink, hive-like bumps around the hair follicles may also be seen after the treatment, but mild steroid creams can be used to calm the irritation.

How many treatments does it take to see results?
Typically 5-7 treatments, since about 20% of the hair responds with each treatment.

About how much does laser hair removal cost?
Cost varies depending on geographic location as well as by the professional performing the treatment, but generally non-physicians or medical spas will be less expensive. The size of the area treated will also dictate the cost; for example, underarms (which average $150-$300 per treatment) are less expensive than a full leg. Medical spas or coupon services such as Groupon may offer packages of multiple treatments for one fixed price.

Are there any at-home products that help support the laser hair removal process? 
I recommend Finishing Touch electric razor for hair management in between laser hair treatments on the face; it cuts the hair close to the skin in between treatments when plucking or waxing should be avoided.

Image via Istock

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