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  • Writer's pictureZak Lockhead

What is Laser Hair Removal?

Updated: Apr 2, 2022

With the advancement of technology, it is crazy to think that we are now at a point where we can permanently remove hair with no serious complications. Laser hair removal and ‘IPL’ is seriously popular, and there is a lot to know regarding it.

You probably are thinking to yourself ‘well how does it work’ or ‘is it safe’ or maybe you are looking at buying a new machine and want to know what machine is best. Look no further because I have written this article with you in mind. Before I begin, I must state that this will probably end up being a rather long article as there is a lot cover. Because of this, I have split the article into sections which makes it easier to navigate if you do not want to read the whole thing.

What is Laser hair removal?

This is the first question I usually get asked. Simply, Laser hair removal is the process of permanently damaging hair follicles using a device that emits short pulses of light. Now, this is where confusion begins for most people. Laser hair removal and IPL hair removal are different (technically speaking) with the difference related to the type of the machine the technician is using. A laser diode can be used to permanently remove hair (which we call laser hair removal) whereas an IPL device (such as an E-light machine or SHR machine) does the exact same thing but these are IPL machines and not actually lasers. Now I will go into the differences in machines in a later section, but just know that both IPL and laser are both extremely effective forms of removing hair.

Laser diode and E-light IPL machine
Figure 1. E-light IPL machine (left) and Laser Diode (right) are both extremely efficient at permanently removing hair.

How does hair removal work?

Laser diodes and IPL emit energy (in the form of light) that penetrates the skin and targets the hair follicle. Melanin (the part of the hair that gives it colour) can effectively absorb this light which leads to the generation of heat. When this heat is generated in the hair follicle it actually damages the hair follicle preventing it from re-growing. Most importantly, when we target this hair follicle with light we also destroy hair stem cells that further prevents the regrowth of hair. Now one question that is always asked is ‘Well how do we know we are targeting hair and not something else?’. Well, specific wavelengths of light are absorbed by different things located in the skin. For example, the IPL and lasers machines release wavelengths that only target melanin in the hair follicle. One major problem of this is that our skin also contains melanin (with darker clients having a greater amount of melanin). So it can be very difficult to treat clients with darker skin types. Now certain devices do actually allow us to complete laser hair removal on darker skinned clients and I will run through this in one of the following sections.

Laser hair removal
Light emitted by Laser/IPL machine is absorbed by hair follicle which is then destroyed

Is hair removal safe?

The simple answer is Yes. Now this all depends on the laser technician and the type of machine used. If you are a laser technician, make sure you have completed all the necessary training required and also have bought a machine from a reputable company. I offer comprehensive training starting from just £99 and my machines are all CE MDD Medical certified ensuring they meet UK and EU regulations.

Can hair removal cause cancer?

This is actually asked A LOT! I do understand, I mean the thought of a laser or IPL being pointed at your skin and zapping you does sound like it will cause harm. But fear not, it is highly unlikely that IPL or laser treatment causes cancer and I will briefly explain how.

We know that UV rays (i.e. the sun) are extremely harmful for the skin, with UV exposure potentially leading to cancer. However, the IPL and Laser devices actually filter out this harmful UV light using advanced technology, meaning the wavelengths of light that are emitted by the device are actually safe for the human body!

Laser removal skin cancer
As we can see, UV light is harmful and is removed by the device whereas the visible light is non-harmful

When should hair removal be completed?

This is a very important consideration for successful hair removal. You see, hair grows in 3 stages. The Anagen phase (growing phase), the Catagen phase (regressing phase) and the Telogen/Exogen phase (resting/shedding phase). Now I won’t go into much detail here, but for successful hair removal we must treat hair whilst it is the growing phase (Anagen phase). Now unless you have access to a fully equipped laboratory it is impossible to fully know what phase of growth your hair is in. HOWEVER, at any one time approximately 90% of the hair is in the growing phase (which is great for us). If we then space treatments out (i.e. every 4 weeks) then we can ensure we manage to target every hair follicle whilst it is the anagen phase. Now I have seen this strategy debated many many times in this industry! However, I have also seen this strategy work perfectly for permanently removing hair! So as the old saying goes ‘if its not broke, don’t fix it!’. Another strategy that I have seen work is alternating the gaps between treatments like follows:

  • 4 weeks

  • 4 weeks

  • 3 weeks

  • 5 weeks

This ensures that you target hair in the growing phase. Just a word of warning for you technicians, make sure this is allowed with your insurance first.

The different kinds of devices

At present, there are several different devices available to buy on the market. Please read my article ‘Which IPL device should I buy’ where I run through each of them in more detail. However, I shall just list the pros and cons of each quickly below:

IPL SHR Laser Diode

What clients are suitable for Hair removal?

Unfortunately, not everyone is suitable for hair removal! Those with darker skin types (skin types IV+) may not respond well to treatment because their skin contains a high amount of melanin which can actually absorb the IPL light and lead to hypopigmentation! However, the SHR or Diode machine I offer can actually be used in darker skinned clients.

Dark skin IPL laser

Which device should I buy?

Now this depends on what services you are wanting to offer and the client base you have. For example, if you are wanting to offer hair removal in darker skinned clients, then I would recommend the Laser diode or the SHR machines. The laser diode also comes with the added benefit of offering skin rejuvenation treatments (for more information read my skin rejuvenation article). However, the E-light machine offers all treatments (vascular therapy, Acne, Hair removal, skin rejuvenation etc) and also combines radiofrequency to maximise the effects of the device. There is also the option to combine machines for maximum benefit (i.e. SHR and E-light machine).

I realise picking the right device is probably the hardest thing you can do, but I am always here to help! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me. Remember I offer a free consultation to help you in any way I can.

Which supplier should I use

I offer several machines on my website ranging from E-light devices to tattoo removal devices. Prior to starting my own business, I worked in medical research facilities earning me my doctorate. I have utilised this knowledge to design the devices I offer today, ensuring they are the most effective and safest devices available. Unlike some suppliers, I will not rip you off with astronomical pricing.

Thank you for reading!

Written by Dr Lockhead


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