Laser Hair Removal Overview

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Laser hair removal has come a long way since the first device received FDA clearance in the mid-90s. Older generation lasers were slow, painful, and worked only on people with dark hair and light skin.

Today, there are several laser hair removal devices specifically designed for skin tones and hair types. It usually takes a series of treatments for permanent hair removal, but options exist for almost everyone.

Types of laser hair removal

Always consult with your medical provider to find the best laser hair removal treatment for you. Here are several types of lasers and some details on each:

Ruby Laser

  • First laser introduced for hair removal.
  • Laser beam is well absorbed by melanin pigment in hair, good for removing finer, lighter hair.
  • Should be used for hair removal on patients with fair skin, as it may burn those with dark or tan skin.
  • Slow repetition rate and relatively small spot size, which may mean a longer, more expensive treatment with greater discomfort.

Alexandrite Laser

  • The fastest hair removal laser.
  • Large spot size (up to 18mm) and high repetition rate.
  • Can rapidly treat large body areas, for example, an entire back can be treated in under 30 minutes.
  • Suitable for patients with fair to olive complexions.

Diode Laser

  • Longer wavelength allows deep penetration into the skin and safety for darker skin types.
  • Not effective for lighter and finer hair.
  • Smaller spot size, which results in longer treatment time, which may result in greater expense and discomfort.
  • The TRIA Beauty home laser hair removal system is a diode laser.

Nd:YAG laser

  • Can be used on all skin types, including tan skin.
  • Large spot sizes and fast repetition rates allow large areas to be treated quickly.
  • Provides less effective treatment for fine and light hairs than some other hair removal lasers.

Intense pulsed light (IPL)

  • Used for hair removal, but primarily to treat skin pigmentation problems.
  • Unlike lasers, IPL devices emit the full spectrum of light wavelengths.
  • Works best on patients with fair skin and dark hair.
Compare to Electrolysis:
Before laser hair removal, electrolysis was one of the only cosmetic treatments available to permanently remove or reduce hair. Although electrolysis is known for being tedious and somewhat painful, it can be very effective, especially for reducing fine or light-colored red, blonde, and gray hair, for which laser hair removal is typically less effective.

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