Laser Hair Removal: Is It Worth It?

Tired of waxing or shaving to get rid of body hair? Get the lowdown on laser hair removal from women who have had it done.
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How Laser Hair Removal Works

Voluntarily allowing a hot laser to penetrate your delicate skin -- sounds like high-tech torture, right? Yet an increasing number of women are opting for laser hair removal as their gateway to silky smooth skin.

Here's how it works: A laser is pulsed on skin for milliseconds at a time, emitting a beam of light that converts into heat as it passes harmlessly through the skin. The heat is absorbed by the pigment melanin in the hair follicle and shaft, which inhibits growth. Contrary to popular belief, laser hair removal does not result in permanent removal of all hair (electrolysis is the only procedure that results in permanent hair removal). Instead, laser hair removal results in a permanent reduction of the number of hairs.

Who It's Best For

According to the Institute of Laser Medicine in Los Angeles, the best candidates for laser hair removal have dark, coarse hair and light skin. Due to their lack of pigment, white and grey hair does not respond to treatment, and blond and red hair is difficult to remove. Patients with hair lighter than their skin color -- for instance, tanned patients with blond hair -- cannot be treated.

Lasers can remove hair anywhere except the eyelashes, although some clinics won't treat eyebrows since they are so close to the eyes. Typically, the upper lip, chin, face, neck, underarms, bikini area, and legs are the most common areas women choose to treat. With the newest laser technology, all skin shades are treatable, from Caucasian to African-American to Asian skin. According to the Mayo Clinic, patients with tanned skin -- both real and fake -- need to wait until the tan fades; otherwise they risk skin discoloration and blistering.

Continued on page 2:  How Painful Is It?


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