Also known as: Phototricholysis, Photoepilation, Permanent Hair Removal
Put your fuzz in the firing line. Laser hair removal is a way of zapping unwanted hair using intense pulsed light to disable the follicle. It’s the AK-47 of hair-busting techniques, killing hairs from the root and helping to prevent those nasty in-growers too.
If you’ve ever sat in a black car on a hot day, you’ll know that dark colours can get pretty toasty in the sun. The way that the energy from light is absorbed by dark colours is the key to laser hair removal. The treatment uses an intense pulse of light which passes through skin harmlessly but is absorbed by the roots of your hairs and causes them to heat up and frazzle the hair follicle, putting it out of action.
Before the hair can be lasered, the area of skin you want to treat must be shaved as smooth as possible because it’s just the root of the hair within the follicle that needs blitzing – no need to start a forest fire. Your practitioner might use a white pencil to mark out the area that is to be treated if it’s not obvious once shaved.
Each pulse of the laser treats an area about the size of a two-pence piece and it takes just a fraction of a second, so a large area can be covered quite quickly by moving the hand-piece along in rows. After the whole area is completed, some aloe vera gel will be applied and cold damp tissue left on the skin to cool it.
You might find your skin goes a little pink, but this doesn’t last for long, which is great if you’re slotting your treatment into your lunch hour. It’s also important not to allow strong sunshine on the area treated as it can sometimes lead to discolouration – so no sunbathing those freshly-lasered legs.
Much like electrolysis, the laser can only treat hairs that are in the growth period of their lifecycle. This means that you need a number of treatments (usually 6 to 8) to catch the majority of the hairs. As time goes by, you might need to have the occasional top-up to keep your peachy skin fuzz-free, because your hormones will prompt new hairs to grow from time to time. Most clinics will recommend having your sessions four to six weeks apart, but if possible it’s best to try to work out the timing of your hair growth cycle to really beat those bristles at their game.
The good thing about laser treatment is that it’s suitable for most areas of the body. So, if you have hairy legs, arms, armpits, buttocks, face, bikini line, back, chest, nipples or you’re a bit of a yeti all over, laser treatment could give you a longer-term solution than waxing, shaving or just hiding in the shadows.
Light coloured skin and dark coloured hair are ideal for laser treatment. Recently, the technology has been developed to make it suitable for people with dark skin too, but unfortunately for the blonde bombshells, light coloured hair just doesn’t have enough pigment for the laser to do its job.
The treatment isn’t completely painless; it feels a bit like having an elastic band pinged against your skin. Also, if your hair is particularly dark, don’t be alarmed if you can smell the hair burning. Most people would say that particularly for sensitive areas, the pain is much less than waxing and, of course, it lasts much longer. In the UK, laser hair removal clinics can’t claim they give “permanent” hair removal for legal reasons, but the results have been known to last for many years.