What is laser treatment for body hair?
Laser and light-based technology is effective for hair reduction and the removal of unwanted body hair. During laser hair removal, a laser beam passes through the skin to an individual hair follicle.
The intense heat of the laser damages the hair follicle, resulting in reduction of the number of hairs and the quality of hair. Hair will be less noticeable, finer, and possibly lighter. The degree of hair reduction depends on the number of treatments.
Am I candidate for laser treatment for body hair?
Until recently, laser hair reduction and removal worked best on those with light skin and dark hair. Fortunately, Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center offers the latest in laser technology that allows patients with darker skin to be treated safely and effectively.
How do I prepare for laser treatment for body hair?
Preparation for laser and light-based treatment at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center includes:
- Avoiding sunbathing, tanning beds, waxing and any chemical peels or collagen injections for two weeks prior to the procedure
- Avoiding perfumes, deodorants or any potential irritants in the treatment area before and after treatment
- Avoiding aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements due to increased risk of bleeding
- Taking photographs of treated areas before and after your procedure to evaluate improvement.
Experts at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center will also give careful consideration to your natural skin color and type to determine the treatment best suited for you to minimize the risk of developing additional pigmentation or a loss of pigmentation (whitening of the skin).
How is laser treatment for body hair performed?
Hair reduction and body hair removal typically requires the use of non-ablative lasers. Before laser hair removal, you'll be fitted with special goggles to protect your eyes from the laser beam. A topical anesthetic may be applied to your skin to reduce any discomfort during treatment.
During the hair reduction or body hair removal procedure, a hand-held laser instrument is pressed to your skin. Depending on the type of laser, a cooling device on the tip of the instrument or a cool gel may be used to protect your skin.
When the laser is activated, a laser beam will pass through your skin to the tiny sacs (follicles) where hair growth originates. The heat from the laser beam damages the hair follicles, which inhibits hair growth. Treating a small area, such as the upper lip, may take only a few minutes. Treating a larger area, such as the back, may take several hours.
Patient before laser hair removal (left) and patient after 20 months/three treatments (right).
What types of lasers are used to remove body hair?
For laser hair reduction and body hair removal, various laser products can be used:
The oldest type of hair removal laser, ruby laser works best for fine and light hair. The ruby laser cannot be used on patients with darker skin, including people with tanned skin. This and other factors, such as the relatively small area that they cover, have made ruby lasers increasingly less popular for laser hair removal in recent years.
The fastest of the laser types, the alexandrite laser is good for treating large body areas in patients with light-to-olive complexion. This is one of the most widely used lasers for hair removal.
The diode laser is most effective for darker skin types and is less effective on lighter, finer hair. It covers large areas and has fast repetition rates, allowing brisk treatment of large body areas.
Long pulse Nd:Yag laser
This laser can be safely used in all skin types, including tanned patients. Large coverage areas and fast repetition rates allow large areas to be treated quickly, but may cause more discomfort during treatment.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Devices
These devices are not lasers, but are “laser equivalents” in the sense that they use the same concept of selective photothermolysis to complete hair removal. IPL devices are more difficult to use than lasers and require a very skilled and experienced technician to operate.
What results can I expect?
Laser hair reduction and body hair removal results vary greatly from person to person. Multiple treatments can prolong the duration of hair loss, but hair regrowth is still possible.
For best results, you may need four to six treatments spaced a number of weeks apart. Light-skinned patients with dark hair can be treated more aggressively and with less treatment times than dark-skinned patients. Additional periodic maintenance treatments – generally once every six to 12 months – may be needed as well.
Follow-up with an expert at Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center is the best way to ensure long-lasting results from ablative and non-ablative laser procedures.
What is involved in recovery?
After laser hair reduction or body hair removal, you may notice redness and swelling for the first few hours. A stinging sensation may linger for a day or two and the treated skin may also become slightly crusty.
While healing from laser hair removal, wash your skin gently with soap and water. Avoid picking at or vigorously scrubbing the affected skin. You should also avoid sun exposure – both natural sunlight and tanning beds – for at least one week after treatment. After this period, use sunscreen whenever you're in the sun.
Is laser treatment safe?
All procedures carry some risk.
The most common side effects of laser hair removal include:
- Skin irritation (temporary irritation, crusting or scabbing)
- Pigment changes (treated skin may darken or lighten, usually temporarily). Skin lightening primarily affects those who have darker skin, especially if an incorrect laser is used at an incorrect setting.
Rarely, laser hair removal may cause blistering, scarring or other changes in skin texture.
Why Choose Us
If you’re considering laser treatment, look for an expert with specialized training and significant experience performing these procedures. Consider going to an expert who is affiliated with a major medical center, such as at Cleveland Clinic. Ask your specialist about credentials, training and how many laser and light-based treatment procedures he or she has performed.
Is this procedure covered by health insurance?
As with all cosmetic procedures, laser treatment is not typically covered by health insurance. Ask to talk with a financial representative from Cleveland Clinic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Center who can explain costs of the procedure and if insurance coverage is an option for you.
This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.
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