Razor bumps? Ingrown hairs? Wax burns? No, thank you! If you're one of many that feel unwanted hair is the bane of your existence, then it might be a good time for you to consider laser hair removal.
Ditching your razor and avoiding frustrating stubble just days after shaving sounds like a dream, but for many, it's just that - a dream. Having oh-so-soft touchable skin without a hair in sight is something many people wish for. Unless, of course, you're into body hair, which is totally cool too, but if you're not, then you know firsthand how annoying it can be.
Laser hair removal is an effective hair removal method loved by many because it deeply penetrates the skin to eradicate unwanted hair at the source - the hair root. However, getting lasered isn't as simple as just walking into your local beauty salon to leave in twenty minutes with perfect hair-free skin. Why might you ask? Because laser hair removal takes time and quite a few sessions to achieve complete removal of unwanted hair.
How many sessions? Let's find out!
Why Do You Need Multiple Laser Hair Removal Sessions?
Many people considering laser hair removal ask why multiple sessions are required. If laser hair removal works so well, why can the entire treatment not be completed in a single simple session? To truly understand this, it's important to first understand how hair grows.
Did you know that there are three hair growth cycles? Laser hair removal is extremely effective, however it can only successfully treat unwanted hair when hair is in the correct cycle.
The three hair growth cycles are as follows:
Anagen. The first phase of the three is known as the anagen stage and is where the hair is most visible in the hair growth cycle. The follicle is most exposed in this stage because the hair is above the skin - which is why this is the stage where lasers work best. The laser is able to target the hair and travel down to the root and destroy it.
Catagen. The catagen stage is the next phase between the growth stage (anagen) and the resting stage (telogen). During the catagen stage, the hair will leave the papilla (bottom of the follicle), where the hair is attached. This is when people shed their hair, which naturally comes out when they groom themselves or sleep. Laser hair removal treatment typically doesn't work during this stage because the hair detaches before the laser can travel down it to reach the follicle. This is the shortest phase of the three and only lasts 2-3 days.
Telogen. During the final telogen phase, also known as the resting phase, the hair remains in the root until it is pushed out by the growth of a new anagen hair. It is the resting phase of the hair root and can last anywhere from a few days to a few months as the new hair grows. Laser hair removal treatment can't affect the follicle at all during this stage.
For this reason, laser hair sessions are spaced 2-4 weeks apart, depending on what your doctor or technician thinks you need. By spreading out the sessions, you give your hair enough time to move from one stage to the next to help get rid of it completely. Now, it is important to keep in mind that some hair can stay in the final telogen stage for months at a time, so some patients may see slight hair growth unexpectantly many months after their series of laser sessions.
Okay, so how many laser hair treatments are needed for permanent hair removal?
In short, it varies. In addition to how your hair grows, the number of hair reduction treatments required depends on a few factors such as genetics, age, medical issues, medical prescriptions, and even hormonal factors. However, most people can finish their initial treatment set where within 4-6 weeks and there's no more (or minimal) regrowth.
Why Maintenance Laser Hair Removal Sessions are Necessary
Laser hair removal treatment is often touted as a permanent solution when it boils down to unwanted hair, so why are maintenance sessions required after your initial series of sessions to get rid of hair? There are two main reasons for this.
The first reason is due to the final telogen stage. As we mentioned, this stage can last for quite some time and happens to be the stage where lasers are the most ineffective. So in order to achieve total removal of unwanted hair, you'll have to wait for this phase to end so the anagen hair can start back up again. Remember, lasers are only able to eradicate hair from the root in the anagen stage. With this being said, it may take several months or even years to completely destroy all the hair follicles in one specific treated area.
The second reason is that your hair follicles can heal after some time, which will promote hair growth. With proper nutrition, self-care, and time, your body will try to repair the damaged hair follicles. Without maintenance treatments, patients may start experiencing thinner and lighter hair growth a year or two after their first treatments. Maintenance treatments are crucial to maintaining the level of removal in your treated area.
However, with that in mind, if a little bit of hair growth doesn't bug you, you can maintain your hair-free lifestyle in a treated area with light shaving. The hair growth will never go back to its level before your laser treatments were performed, regardless of where it is - the chin, upper lip, the legs, or anywhere else. In fact, the hair that does grow back will be thin and quite sparse.
Your Laser Hair Removal Appointment
If you're feeling a little intimidated at the sound of lasers penetrating deep into your skin to eradicate the hair follicle to destroy hair growth - don't fret! It's not as scary as it sounds.
The office visit for treatment typically doesn't last too long, although this depends mostly on the size of the area being treated. Large areas like the back and legs typically last an hour where smaller areas like the upper lip and chin or even the bikini line only take a few minutes.
The treatment itself is actually quite simple. You'll be asked to sit or lie down and a cooling gel will be applied to the area that you are looking to get treated. This will protect your skin from the heat of the laser while allowing it to travel deep beneath the skin to destroy the follicles. After the gel is applied, the laser is applied to the skin, where it zaps the treated area.
Zaps? Before you go running for the hills thinking the laser feels like a painful electric shock, take a deep breath because it feels relatively painless. If you ask someone who has undergone treatment, they will tell you it feels essentially like a warm pinprick or like rubber band snaps against the skin. The pigment melanin from the hair attracts the laser heat, and the energy travels down the hair into the root, which then destroys the follicle. The entire area will be treated to target as many of the little vulnerable hair follicles as possible.
How should you prepare for a laser hair removal session?
Great question. Once you go through the initial laser consultation, you can start to prep for your first session! Your laser hair removal specialist will ask you to do the following:
Shave. It is important to shave the treated area 24 hours before your session to avoid the laser singing any long hairs, which can cause a burn to your skin. No waxing, plucking, or tweezing! You can't laser-treat hair that doesn't exist.
Avoid tanning. Believe it or not, but tanned skin can make your session less effective because it lessens the pigmentation difference between your skin tone and hair tone. It will also leave your skin sensitive and more vulnerable to damage. So, minimize your sun exposure, and cover the treatment area with sunscreen (except on the day of your actual treatment--see below!)
On this note, hair color, skin type and skin color make a difference when it comes to how effective the laser light can be. Those with darker skin may not see as good results as those with light skin, or they may even experience adverse side effects if the right type of laser isn't used. Additionally, dark hair absorbs the laser (and thus the treatment) best, so lighter-haired individuals may also need tailored treatment. Make sure you consult with a certified dermatologist to make sure your treatment plan is tailored specifically to you.
Avoid beauty products. On the day of your laser session, make sure not to use any products for your skin because it could affect how the laser penetrates the hair follicle. This means no skincare products, deodorant, lotions, perfume, moisturizers, and even sunscreen.
It is of the utmost importance that you follow these tips before every single laser hair removal treatment - not just your first one.
How Do At-Home IPL Devices Compare?
If you are not interested in getting professional laser hair treatment, then you are in luck! IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light and has gained a lot of positive attention for being an effective method to remove unwanted hair - all from the comfort of your very own home!
The KENZZI IPL Hair Removal Handset is the world's number one at home IPL handset that has helped thousands to achieve not only hair-free skin, but also a reduction of blemishes, pigment discoloration, and wrinkles!
If you decide to go this route for your hair removal needs, be sure to do your due diligence and purchase from an honest and reputable company like KENZZI with a passion for providing people with a way to safely and effectively kick unwanted hair to the curb!
The Bottom Line
So, how many laser hair removal treatments does it take to permanently remove hair? The answer is: it depends. Factors like hair growth, genetics, and hormonal changes will affect the number of sessions needed, and it can sometimes be a few years until you see permanent hair removal. However, once you do reach your ultimate goal of flawless hair-free skin, you can toss your razor and shaving cream in the trash, because you simply won't be needing them anymore!