Laser Hair Removal: Is laser hair removal permanent?

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In short, no. Laser hair removal works by heating the hair follicles to stop new hairs from growing. This puts the hair follicles in a state of dormancy for a long period of time — much longer than with shaving and waxing. When the hairs do grow back, they’ll be lighter, finer, and fewer in number. Although the procedure is often touted as a form of “permanent” hair removal, laser treatment only reduces the number of unwanted hairs in a given area. It doesn’t get rid of unwanted hairs completely.

Laser therapy uses high-heat laser beams as a mild form of radiation. During the process, these laser beams heat up and damage your hair follicles.

Your hair follicles are located just below the skin. They’re responsible for producing new strands of hair. If the follicles are destroyed, then hair production is temporarily disabled.

By contrast, tweezing, shaving, and waxing all remove hair above the surface. These methods don’t target hair-producing follicles.

This form of hair removal works best with darker hair colors on light skin tones. This is because the lasers target hair melanin (colour). Even if some hairs aren’t removed, the lightening of their color can reduce the appearance of hair on the skin. Some of your hairs may also shed within a few days of your first treatment session.

Overall, laser hair removal is a relatively quick process. Smaller areas, such as the upper lip, can take just minutes. Larger areas of hair removal, like the back or chest, will take longer.

Despite the high success rate of laser hair removal, hair follicles eventually heal. This results in new hair production. To ensure the best results possible, you will need to undergo multiple treatment sessions.

Follow-up treatments are necessary to get the most out of laser hair removal. The exact number of maintenance laser treatments varies by individual. Most people need between six to eight laser therapy sessions. You also need to space these out by six weeks each — this means that the full treatment cycle will take several months.

After each session, you’ll likely notice fewer hairs. Any hair that remains or regenerates will also be lighter in both texture and color. The number of hairs should reduce by approximately 10 to 25 percent after your initial session. The rate of reduction thereafter will improve, but will also vary.

Additionally, for the best results, you’ll likely need occasional maintenance sessions. These help ensure that the hair follicles don’t regenerate. Depending on your individual needs, you may need a maintenance session once or twice a year after your full initial round of laser treatment.

The timeline for each session is the same as your initial laser hair removal treatment. Overall, the timing depends on the area of treatment. If you’re touching up just a few small areas during your maintenance sessions, then your appointment may be shorter.

Although laser hair removal isn’t exactly permanent, it’s still one of the best options for slowing hair growth over an extended period of time. Other long-term hair removal options you can discuss with your laser technician include electrolysis and needle epilators.

If you don’t want to go through with the expense of medical procedures that aren’t really permanent anyway, there are numerous at-home hair removal options including tweezer epilators, waxing or sugaring, threading and shaving.

Miniature versions of laser hair treatments are available on the market for home use, but their safety and efficacy aren’t clear. These at-home laser hair treatment devices, however, are not regulated as medical devices, so they aren’t tested as such. It’s best to leave laser hair removal up to the expert.