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Essentials: Getting Fuzz Free
What is Permanent Hair Removal?
There should be a disclaimer with hair removal techniques, stating that they don’t permanently remove hair, but rather permanently reduce it. Two of the most popular and effective methods are laser and IPL – Intense Pulse Light. They’re often regarded as the same procedure, and while they both use energy to disrupt hair growth, they are different treatments.
- Laser uses one wavelength of light that’s extremely concentrated, and treatment is slower because the light source is highly targeted.
- IPL uses the full spectrum and delivers a wider range of wavelengths to the skin. Treatment is quicker because the scattered light covers a larger area.
How Does It Work?
Both processes send intense light energy down the hair follicle. This light converts to heat, which targets the melanin (or colour) in the follicle and this prevents hair growth. Your hair also grows in cycles, but not the same cycle, so when you have laser or IPL, only the hair in the active growth stage is targeted. For this reason you need more than one session to treat a single area.
Who Can Have Laser or IPL?
Not everyone is a good candidate and it depends on hair colour and skin type. Dark hair is the easiest to treat as it has the most pigmentation and so absorbs the most light. Medium coloured hair is more challenging but light, grey or red hair is almost impossible as there is little or no pigmentation, and without light, the follicle can’t be destroyed. Skin tone works in the opposite way, so a light skin is better than a medium toned skin, which in turn is better than a dark skin. Because laser picks up the contrast between hair and skin pigment, the ideal candidate has light skin and dark, course hair. Of course there have been improvements in technology, which allow most people to have treatments with reasonable success.
People who should not consider laser or IPL without first getting medical consent are:
- Anyone hypersensitive to light
- People who are epileptic or diabetic
- A person on photosensitizing medication or antibiotics
- Pregnant women
- Someone with herpes 1 & 2
Is it Painful?
Pain is subjective and so it depends on the individual’s threshold, but it’s often compared to the feeling of having someone snap an elastic band on your skin. Most patients easily tolerate the discomfort.
Is it Safe?
Both treatments are considered safe when done by a professional, in a regulated environment, but it can be dangerous for some people, or leave lasting side effects. The complication is that skin also has melanin, so dark skin is more likely to absorb laser light which could leave blisters or burns. A trained technician should analyse your skin and hair, and create a personal treatment plan to avoid any skin damage. Reschedule if you have spotty, broken, irritated or sunburnt skin, and avoid going over areas with tattoos or permanent makeup as the laser can alter the colours.
What's the Process?
Find a reputable specialist and get medical approval if needed. For six weeks before your first session you need to avoid the sun and any self-tan products, and stop all waxing, plucking and electrolysis. A tanned skin makes hair removal less effective and it can lead to complications, while you need the hair root to be present to successfully obliterate it! During your session the technician will shave the area to be treated before using the laser or IPL. With each treatment your hair growth is reduced, but in between your sessions it’s recommended (your fiancé will thank us!) to shave. Most people will need a touch up 1-4 times a year to deal with those few resistant, stray hairs.
Is it Cost Effective?
You pay per session, so it depends on the size of the area being treated and how stubborn your hair is. Both techniques are initially expensive, but after your treatment is complete, you’ll no longer spend money on razors, wax or depilatory creams or spend hours in a salon or plucking rogue hairs in front of a mirror.
When Should I Start?
Brides looking at permanent hair reduction need to start the process up to a year before getting married. This is because you need to wait 4-6 weeks between each treatment, and you need on average 6-8 sessions. Some people see results after two, but others need as many as 12, it depends on the individual and how your hair responds. The ideal time to start is during winter, when your skin is pale and it’s easier to avoid the sun. The most important thing is to give yourself enough time to complete the process long before your wedding day.
There are differing opinions about which is the better treatment. Laser is precise, which makes it more effective, but it’s often more expensive. IPL is cheaper, covers a broader area in a shorter space of time, but may require more sessions for the same result. Both are widely performed and the decision ultimately belongs to each individual.
Alternative Hair Removal Techniques
Fortunately, when it comes to hair removal, there are as many different techniques as there are types of people, and it’s about finding what works for you. Before you say farewell to your fluff, consider these motivations:
- Is it economical?
- How painful is it?
- Is it convenience?
- How long will it last?
Pro - Inexpensive, quick, convenient and you can do it yourself
Con - Razor burns, nicks, ingrown hairs, skin irritation and stubble
Time - Lasts one-three days
Pro - Only expense is tweezers
Con - Time consuming, painful, requires patience, can get ingrown hairs
Time - Lasts from one week to three, depending on the person
Pro - Can wax at home, hair growth diminishes with use
Con - Messy, painful, expensive when done professionally, hair has to be a certain length, can’t wax all unwanted hair
Time - Lasts from a week up to four weeks, depending on the person
Depilatories (cream or liquid that dissolves hair)
Pro - Relatively inexpensive, quick and easy to apply, widely available and can do at home
Con - Messy, possible allergic reaction for sensitive skin, results vary and it can have an unpleasant odour
Time - Lasts several days to two weeks
Epilators ( device that simultaneously pulls out multiple hairs from the root)
Pro - effective over a large area, the more you use it the less your hair grows back
Con - Not effective on curved areas like armpits, painful, ingrown hairs, hair must be a certain length
Time - Lasts from one week up to four, depending on the person
Threading (Ancient method used in the Middle East and India, where cotton threads are twisted and rolled along the face to remove hair from the root)
Pro - Doesn’t irritate the skin and is less painful than waxing
Con - Not as accurate as tweezers, skin gets temporarily red, can be painful and it needs to be done by a professional
Time - Lasts from one week to three, depending on the person
Electrolysis (probe inserted into individual hair follicles and a current kills each hair)
Pro - can be used on all skin types and hair colours
Con - time-consuming, expensive, can be painful
Time - viewed as the only permanent hair solution
Hair growth is natural, but unluckily for some people, they simply have more (or more stubborn!) hair than others. If you have a scary, hairy situation, use one of these removal techniques so that when you let your hair down at your wedding, you’re only talking about the hair on your head!