So Many Options

You have numerous choices when it comes to hair removal. Some are practically free and take a few minutes, others have a hefty price tag and demand a commitment of consistent appointments with your dermatologist. There’s shaving, waxing, plucking, and chemical depilatories, to name a few.

What’s the best choice, and how do you decide? First, how much hair do you want removed? Do you have a little mustache that’s only noticeable a few times a year? Maybe waxing or plucking is your best bet. Do you have furry legs and a few minutes to spare every day or two in the shower? Perhaps shaving will be your choice. 

If you’re seeking a permanent solution, however, your options dwindle. The two choices for permanent or semi-permanent hair removal are electrolysis and laser hair removal.

What’s the Difference

Electrolysis

Electrolysis uses an electrical current to heat up and destroy the root of the hair. It is generally agreed to be the most effective permanent hair loss solution. One issue with electrolysis is that it tackles only a single hair at a time. It may be most suitable for small treatment areas.

Electrolysis is not as painful as it used to be in the early days of the treatment, but it can be uncomfortable. Ask your practitioner for numbing cream if you think you need it.

Electrolysis demands multiple treatment sessions, often once a week or every other week. The exact number of treatments depends on each individual patient and their needs, although it is not uncommon to have 10, 12 or 14 sessions. The cost per session will depend on the size of your treatment area, but the price will add up after a dozen or so appointments. 

Lasers

There are several lasers that are effective when used for hair removal. They include long-pulse ruby lasers, long-pulse alexandrite lasers, long-pulse diode lasers, and long-pulse Nd:YAG lasers. Each of these lasers emits a light that targets melanin (pigment) producing cells and damages the hair follicle, thus minimizing or stopping hair growth

Most people will see significant changes in their hair growth after 6 to 8 sessions 6 to 8 weeks apart, although because these lasers specifically target melanin they work most efficiently on dark hairs. Fair haired people can certainly reap benefits from laser hair removal, but it might take a few extra sessions to get the results you’re looking for.

Lasers are the best choice when you have a large treatment area you want to address. They are suitable for small areas, as well, but they have no trouble tackling legs, backs, or chests, as well. It is less time consuming, more flexible, and will probably be less expensive to opt for laser hair removal than electrolysis in the long run.

How to Prepare For Laser Hair Removal

  • Don’t shave, wax, pluck, or bleach the area you’re going to have treated for 6 week prior to your appointment
  • Do shave the area the day before your treatment
  • No self-tanner for a few weeks before your laser
  • Avoid alcohol for the few days before your appointment
  • No makeup, moisturizer, or deodorant on the day of your appointment
  • Avoid the sun

Aftercare

  • Apply cool compresses if you experience any redness or swelling
  • Don’t shave if your skin is irritated
  • Avoid hot baths, showers, saunas, and chlorine for 2-3 days
  • Avoid strenuous exercise for a few days
  • Avoid makeup, moisturizer, and deodorant for 24-hours
  • Avoid the sun

Your dermatologist may have more specific pre- and post-care directions for you, but these give you some idea of what to expect.

Things to Consider

As with any procedure, there is always some risk. The most common risks with laser treatments are burns, scarring, hyper-pigmentation, and herpes activation.

In the hands of a skilled professional, all of these risks are extremely low. However, if you have a history of cold sores, be sure to discuss it with your doctor and take antiviral medication like Acyclovir before your treatment to lower your risk of a flare.

As always, discuss potential risks and complications with your doctor before your procedure so you can make the best and most informed decision for yourself.

Outcome

Laser hair removal has been proven highly effective in many studies. A study in 2003 showed that 71% of people were highly satisfied with their laser results. Another study showed that almost 88% of people who had undergone a full course of treatment for laser hair removal maintained their positive results almost 12 years later.

This is not to say that all their hair growth will be completely eliminated. Laser hair removal will likely thin out and slow down hair growth, but occasional maintenance treatments might be necessary over time. Also, as mentioned before, people with dark hair might be more satisfied with their results than fair-haired people.

Even still, laser hair removal has been proven over time to be a highly effective and low-risk procedure for most people. Perhaps it will be the best choice for you.

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