Ballpark Estimate: $300 to $7,200 for multiple treatments
If you’re one of the millions of men and women who suffer from the embarrassment of unwanted hair, you’ll be glad to know that there are new and improved ways to treat this problem and leave your skin smooth and bare.
A Growing Trend
The first commercial laser hair removal treatments were unveiled in the mid-1990s, following two decades of experimentation. Since then, the popularity of this procedure has increased so significantly that there are numerous companies who currently manufacture devices approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The popularity of laser hair removal has grown primarily because of the relatively low cost and the speed of the procedure. Though the device used is not even technically a laser, the Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) tool uses xenon flash lamps to emit full spectrum light to remove the hair from the skin.
Over the years preceding lasers and to some extent even today, the accepted procedures for removing unwanted hair included shaving, waxing, tweezing and depilatory creams. All of these options are somewhat effective and inexpensive, but need to be repeated often. Electrolysis, on the other hand, is a more permanent process that uses a needle to pass an electric current to destroy each hair follicle. The drawback with this option, however, is that each hair needs to be treated separately, making this is a long, costly and extremely tedious process.
How Laser Hair Removal Works
That’s why many people are turning to laser hair removal, which works by employing a concentrated burst of pulsating light of a specifically controlled duration that can cause localized damage to the hair follicle. This effect occurs because the dark colored melanin, which is the pigment matter in the hair shaft that gives the hair its brown or black color, absorbs the laser energy to the point where the accumulated heat travels down the shaft and damages the base of the follicle and prevents its capability to function properly. The laser light footprint can be about the size of a nickel (88-88 mm.), depending on the laser-head setting. This allows a larger number of follicles to be treated at one time without damaging the surrounding skin, making the treatment a much faster alternative to electrolysis.
The sensation of laser hair removal can be described as the feel of a rubber band briefly snapping against the skin as each pulse targets a follicle. Following treatment, it is usually normal for the affected area to show some redness for about 3 days.
Different Results for Different Folks
While laser hair removal is generally effective, not everyone will experience the same results. That’s because not all hair is created equal. In fact, there are two types of melanin in hair. The first is eumelanin, which produces black or brown hair. The other, pheomelanin, produces blonde or red colored hair. Because the laser light can be readily absorbed by the darker eumelanin, laser hair removal is much more effective for patients with dark course hair than for blondes or redheads. Further, since melanin is also the color pigment in the skin cells that can best absorb the laser energy, the ideal patient for laser hair removal is a person with dark hair and pale skin.
Since not everyone has this combination, however, companies have adapted the technology accordingly and have created different types of lasers that are designed to be most effective for different skin colors. For instance, Alexandrite long pulse and diode types are best suited for light-skinned patients, and Nd:YAG long pulse lasers are better for dark-skinned patients. While you don’t need to know the names and technologies yourself, just understand that these distinctions help patients achieve the best results.
It is also important to point out that human hair goes through several stages in its life cycle, from active to dormant. The laser treatment will be effective only when that hair follicle is in its active stage and the hair is growing and not at all in the dormant stage. Consequently, follow-up hair removal sessions are necessary every 6 to 10 weeks to target those follicles that were dormant on the previous visit but are now active. This process will be repeated until all active follicles are targeted, which will usually take around 6 to 8 sessions in all.
What It Costs
If laser hair removal sounds like a good option for you, you can find treatment available at certain spas and laser clinics, among other places. Keep in mind that most states require a medical doctor to oversee this treatment process.
Here are some basic price ranges you can expect to pay for this option:
- Upper lip, chin, underarms (both) – $50 to $150
- Regular bikini (definitions vary) – $100 to $200
- Full face, butt – $150 to $300
- Brazilian bikini – $350 to $500
- Arms – $350 to $500
- Chest (definitions vary), abdomen (definitions vary) – $350 to $600
- Back – $600 to $900
- Face and neck – $600 to $900
- Half legs (both) – $650 to $850
What You Can Expect
The effectiveness and safety of the laser hair removal procedure can be influenced a great deal by the skill and/or the experience of the laser technician and the choice of laser technology used at the clinic for your hair and skin color.
People should also be aware that, contrary to many advertised claims, there is currently no laser on the market that provides “permanent hair removal”. The FDA’s approval clearly describes the Cost For Laser Hair Removallasers as providing only “permanent hair reduction,” which is defined as the loss of at least 85 percent of the hair in the treated area. This means it’s quite possible that some follicles in the treated area will not be totally destroyed but will be sufficiently disabled to the point where they produce only fine, light hairs that will no longer respond to further laser treatment. This is backed up by extensive clinical studies and you should be wary of anyone who claims otherwise. Furthermore, the only time the FDA allows the term “permanent hair removal” is for the use of electrolysis, which is effective on all hair colors.
With this in mind, you should have realistic expectations when seeking laser hair removal services. Also, it is highly recommended that you visit several clinics first to question the doctor about the costs, the experience of the technician, the laser technology used at the clinic, etc.
With all of these cautions aside, however, the good news is that when laser hair removal is performed correctly, it can be well worth the cost and time for the results you will receive when it is done.