Permanent hair removal: our expert’s advice.

For hair the 2 December 2007 by Joe the "tire-remover"

It’s time for a few more words on the subject of hair removal. My last article on the subject (in French) was nearly 2 years ago. So today I’m going to explore permanent hair removal, with an interview with Dr. Ludovic Rousseau, a dermatology expert and webmaster of a site devoted to dermatology, and in particular laser hair removal.

- Hello doctor, is permanent hair removal really permanent?

Hello. We prefer to call it long-term hair removal, because although the hair the laser treats is destroyed, it is possible that other, unaffected hairs (lighter and downy hairs) may become darker (due to hormonal stimulation, for example).

- What are the current solutions offered for permanent hair removal?

Several techniques allow the hair to be permanently destroyed. Among them, the most well known and the most widely used are lasers and pulsed light. Lasers are beams of photons with the same wavelength. Some wavelengths are absorbed by melanin (the pigment found in hairs and skin) and destroy it using heat. This is called “selective photothermolysis”. The lasers used to destroy hairs use photons with these characteristics and intense light pulse lamps use photos with different wavelengths, some of which have these characteristics.

- Are there particular recommendations for different skin types?

– For pale skin: laser and pulsed light are not particularly or not at all effective on light hairs, as of course they destroy the hair’s pigment. And light hairs contain little or no pigment.
– In dark-skinned people, the skin contains a lot of melanin and they have a higher risk of seeing lighter patches after laser hair removal. There are, however, lasers that pose less risk of creating light patches on dark-skinned people and doctors who perform these operations will also adapt the settings of his machine to the patient’s skin type.
– In all cases, lasers are not advisable for people who are tanned after sunbathing as their skin contains a lot of melanin, which risks being destroyed by the laser, leaving them with lighter patches. What’s more, sun exposure is not recommended for several weeks after laser hair removal as the redness caused by the laser risks being coloured by the sun and leaving brown patches. It is therefore preferable to carry out sessions during winter. Moreover, lasers are not advisable for children and pregnant women, in individuals with certain conditions that render the skin sensitive to ultraviolet and sunlight, called photodermatoses, or if taking medication that increases photosensitivity. Finally, areas of skin that have anomalies such as beauty spots are generally avoided when performing laser hair removal

- What happens during a session?

As we have seen, sessions normally take place in winter, on untanned skin that has been shaved around 3 days before the session. The doctor and patient wear protective goggles. Each impact produces a prickling and burning sensation that is normally reduced by a cooling technique, or the application of an anaesthetic cream on the area for hair removal 1 to 2 hours before the session. After the session, the destroyed hairs are inflamed, and fall out within a few days.

- How much does it cost?

That’s a difficult question: prices vary from one clinic to another and are defined according to several criteria: the equipment used, the area for hair removal etc. The best solution seems to be asking for advice before making a decision. At any rate, it costs hundreds or thousands of euros depending on the size of the area to be treated (especially on a large area such as the back, for example). It takes several sessions (on average between 4 and 8) to remove hair from the entire area: lasers and pulsed light destroy hairs that are currently in a growth phase (melanin rich), which only make up 15-20% of hairs on average. Only around 15-20% of hairs are therefore destroyed after a session, and it is necessary to separate the sessions by 2 to 4 weeks on average to obtain a new set of hairs in their growth phase.

- Which body parts do men most frequently have hair removed from?

Men usually want hair removing from the torso, back or even armpits and groin.

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