If you have been experiencing problems and irritation with temporary hair removal methods such as waxing, and/or you are looking for a permanent hair removal solution, several clinically proven methods are available.
There are several important considerations when choosing the best method of hair removal for you. These include (1) your skin color, (2) the color of the hair you want to remove, (3) cost and frequency of treatments required. When assessing whether a treatment is right for you, ask whether it is safe for your skin type, how effective the treatment is (ie. how many repeat treatments required), and how much time each treatment takes.
(1) and (2):
Lasers and light based treatments (intense pulsed light, IPL, BBL) essentially work on the principle of selective photothermolysis, simply put - when the skin and hair are exposed to a high energy light (lasers or IPL), it is preferentially absorbed by the target pigment (in the hairs), heating it up. The intention is to heat up the hairs enough to remove them and reduce future growth, but without injuring the surrounding skin.
- If you have light coloured skin and dark hairs (the best combination for effective permanent hair removal/reduction), most Laser or IPL systems will work well for you.
- If you have tan skin and dark hairs, lasers have a greater margin of safety than IPL, and will accommodate a narrower difference between the hair colour and background skin colour. Even so, some hair removal lasers (e.g. long pulsed Nd-YAG lasers) are safer than others (e.g. Diode lasers) in tan or light brown skins.
- If you are dark skinned and have dark hair, the risks of side effects from lasers/IPL treatments are much higher. This may still occasionally be treated with certain lasers like a long pulsed Nd-YAG, but must be assessed by an experienced doctor to see if you are suitable.
- However, if you have light blond or white hairs, lasers and IPL treatments do not work as there is no target pigment chromophore to absorb heat energy. Electrolysis (which is not colour dependent) would be the best approach for light blond or white hairs.
(3) the area requiring hair removal is also sometimes a consideration. For example, for removing small areas of hair accurately (e.g., upper lip hair removal, shaping the forehead hairline or sideburn) lasers perform better as they have smaller spot sizes. On the other hand, covering large surface areas such as arms and thighs are more more time consuming with lasers, and IPL treatments for these areas can be completed more efficiently, in suitable cases.
Dr. Jonathan Lee
Waxing and shaving are temporary hair removal methods. They remove the hair shaft but leave the hair follicles and hair roots intact.
Permanent hair removal methods target areas regulating hair growth resulting in destruction of the follicles and hair roots.
There are 2 groups of Permanent hair removal treatments:
Lasers make use of a powerful and specific wavelength of light to heat up and destroy the hair follicle selectively. The laser energy is absorbed by the pigment within the follicle and the heat generated in the process is enough to “burn” the hair follicle without causing much injury to surrounding tissues.
Current lasers have epidermal cooling systems incorporated to allow for use of higher fluences whilst reducing pain and side-effects especially in darker skin types.
Long Pulsed Nd YAG (1064nm) is particularly safe for all skin types especially those with darker skin.
Lasers are only available in MOH-licensed Medical Clinics.
2. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
IPL uses a very bright light consisting of several wavelengths which is converted to heat energy that travels through the tissue of the skin until it strikes the hair shafts or the bulb (root) of the hair and destroys them.
Although occasionally marketed as "Laser hair removal", IPL is not a true laser technology as it emits multiple wavelengths of light in a single pulse.
SHR works by repetitive short energy pulses, rather than a single pulse of high energy. These pulses minimize the risk of burning to the skin and maximises patient comfort.
This makes SHR one of the safest laser hair removal options, including for dark skinned patients.
Laser and SHR are both good options. Other factors to consider would be price and experience of the doctor/clinic in offering this services.
Hope that this helps!
Dr Justin Boey
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