Why Laser Hair Removal Isn't As Permanent As You Thought
Body hair removal is an inevitable step in the average individual's beauty routine. You can hate your body hair or feel empowered by it, but either way most people lean on hair removal methods to achieve smooth and fuzz-free skin. For all the hairy girls out there, the desire to sport hair-free limbs is likely a constant chore. Popular hair removal methods such as shaving, epilating, and waxing can be time-consuming, and painful. Thankfully, cosmetic innovation birthed the miracle technology of laser hair removal, which is a blessing for the hairy and the lazy.
Although laser hair removal is considered the most expensive method for hair removal, the benefits far outweigh the cons in this situation. For one, laser hair removal is far more effective than shaving or waxing where it's easy to miss hairs. Laser hair removal is also relatively pain-free compared to waxing and epilating. In fact, there are several laser models that are virtually painless. If, at this point, you're still not convinced then here's the cherry on top: Laser hair removal is the closest thing to permanent hair removal that you can find. That said, it's important to understand that laser hair removal isn't as permanent as you may assume. Here's the rundown on how laser hair removal machines work and how long laser treatments actually last.
Before we get into how long laser hair removal actually lasts, it's important to understand how this technology works. There are five main laser machines: Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), Diode, Alexandrite, ND:YAG, and Ruby (via SpaMedica). IPL and Alexandrite are the two most commonly used lasers, though IPL is becoming increasingly popular as it can target all hair and skin types thanks to customizable machine options. Alexandrite, on the other hand, is not recommended for those with darker skin tones and it cannot be customized. Diode and ND:YAG machines are better suited for medium to dark skin tones and those with coarse hair.
In general, laser hair machines use concentrated beams of light to damage the hair follicles by converting the light energy to heat, per Mayo Clinic. The focused light is attracted to the melanin or pigment found in hair follicles. IPL works differently than other laser machines and, instead, uses pulsed light. Either way, laser hair removal can be used to treat most areas of the body. Multiple sessions are required to notice changes and the results vary between individuals.
Many assume that laser hair removal is permanent. However, the truth is that it is impossible for lasers to completely remove hair. Instead, it is more accurate to say that laser hair removal can reduce hair growth, rather than remove it. Lasers can significantly reduce the amount of hair on your skin by damaging hair follicles and slowing down the process of future growth, according to Mayo Clinic.
Why is laser hair removal not permanent? Well, it comes back to the two main types of hair: terminal hairs and vellus hairs. Terminal hairs are the thicker and darker hairs that are more noticeable than vellus hairs, or peach fuzz, which are the fine hairs that can appear on most areas of your skin (via Cleveland Clinic). Lasers target the melanin in hair follicles, which means that laser hair removal is unable to target vellus hairs, as vellus hairs lack pigment.
Laser hair removal also does not account for fluctuations in hormones which affect hair growth cycles. Your hormones, specifically androgens, can actually convert vellus hairs into terminal hairs. This is why laser hair treatments require regular monthly or bi-monthly maintenance, as you can develop new terminal hairs that may go untreated. That being said, laser hair removal is the most long-lasting method of hair removal available and, although pricey and not entirely permanent, it is worth every single penny.