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Laser Hair Removal - How Well Does It Really Work?

Updated on April 23, 2010

What happens when the old adage “You get what you pay for” doesn’t apply? And what if what you’re paying for, is really expensive? These are questions that many people who have invested in laser hair removal are asking themselves.

Since the first Laser Hair Removal machine was introduced to the market, it has seemed like the logical choice for those who have some extra money lying around and are seeking a hair-free care-free lifestyle. Imagine the idea of going to a beautiful and relaxing spa to have 6-8 monthly treatments to permanently remove unwanted hair and no longer be burdened with task of shaving or waxing consistently. Almost sounds a little too good to be true.

Most laser technicians will tell you that there is a 10% chance that this treatment won’t work for you. The two main reasons for this are your skin colour and your hair colour. The laser light used in this process is attracted to melanin (the colour) in your hair follicles. If a person has a dark skin colour, the laser can be attracted to your skin melanin as well and may scatter -making it lose its effectiveness. If your hair is blonde or grey, it will contain very little melanin and the laser light will not have a target.

Now let’s say that you do have the ideal combination of dark hair and light skin, there are still many factors that may inhibit this process from giving you your desired results. The first, and most common is simply the laser technician’s lack of knowledge or experience. Every time you come in for your treatment, the technician needs to calibrate the machine to the best settings based on your individual hair and skin colour. This calibration allows them to put the most amount of heat and energy into the follicle in the quickest amount of time so that they don’t burn your skin. There is a very small margin of correct settings for most people’s skin, and this margin is sandwiched between under-treating and over-treating. Because of the serious possible complications of blisters, scaring and lawsuits, many spas are choosing to under-treat their patients to stay on the safe side. This under-treating also results in more visits for the patients, and greater spa revenues.

So now let’s say you have the ideal hair and skin colour, and the technician is amazing at choosing the right settings. The next obstacle is you. This procedure is very time-sensitive. A person needs to come on a regular cycle depending on the area being treated. For example, underarms need to be treated on average once every 4 weeks. It is imperative that you keep this strict schedule because every 4 weeks is about when your next hair cycle comes in. For anyone who has every waxed before, there are often slightly smaller hairs that are just too small to remove. These little hairs are part of the next hair cycle, and many people have 6-8 hair cycles. If during your laser series, you come only 2 weeks after your last treatment, you will essentially be killing follicles that you already killed. If you come 6 weeks after your last treatment, you may be missing the “prime time” to treat that new cycle and can end up missing it entirely.

With all these important factors creating uncertainty in the treatments, each individual has to decide if it is really worth the cost. For many women who have struggled with embarrassing and stubborn facial hair, it is absolutely worth the financial load. If you do decide to try laser hair removal, the most important thing to do is your research. Make sure you find a clinic with experienced and knowledgeable staff who can adequately explain the theory behind the settings that they are choosing, and who will be diligent in making sure you book and keep your strict appointment dates.

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