The Evolution of Laser Hair Removal

The concept of laser hair removal was invented by Dr. Rox Anderson from the Wellman Institute at Harvard. Dr. Anderson was responsible for developing many of the cosmetic laser treatments  that are avaliable today including treatments for birthmarks, pigmented lesions, tattoo removal, and permanent hair reduction. 

Hair removal lasers have been available since 1997 and  approved for “permanent hair reduction” in the United States by the FDA at that time.  I can tell you from experience that the technology has dramatically evolved for the better. The basic  guidelines and patient selection still remains the same. All  lasers hair removal devices adjust settings to both skin and hair type. The laser fires a concentrated beam of light that is directed at the pigment in your hair follicles, the light travels down to the root and if the hair is in the active stage of growth (anagen) the follicle will die. Dark, thick are hair follicles are usually easy to treat because, again, the laser targets the  pigment of the hair. So even after 20 years on the market,  gray, white, blonde, and red pigments are still not successfully treated. 

In 2003, early in my aesthetic career I preformed laser hair removal at Americal Laser Center clinics in New York City. The laser we used was a Syneron Aurora, it was an IPL (Intense pulsed light). We were a high volume business that made promises of hairless faces and bodies to all. In the "old days" copious amounts of gel were applied to the patients skin and each treatment took from 20 minutes for an upper lip or chin or underarms to 2 hours for full legs. Looking back, patient satisfaction was not very high. While the lasers permanently reduce the total number of body hairs, they will not result in a permanent removal of all hair as promised. Although we used the Fitzpatrick Skin Type Scale to help determine a  patients’ skin type and ultimately, their candidacy for laser treatments, IPL is not suited for darker skin types and would result in unsightly burns. 

Laser hair removal has become popular because of its speed and efficacy, although some of the efficacy is dependent upon the skill and experience of the laser operator, and the choice and availability of different laser technologies used for the procedure. Today most laser hair removal is very safe, and  administered with either the 755 Alexandrite laser or the 1064 YAG laser. The treatment time is a quarter of what it used to be when I started, and with an experienced technician the parameters can be adjusted for amazing results. These newer devices have a stream of cool air that blows while the treatment is being done, protecting the skin and creating comfort to the patient. . Most adverse reactions are due to carelessness on the technicians end or the client not providing information about light sensitive medications, sun exposure, self tanner, topical medicals applied to the skin and so fourth.   

I no longer provide laser hair removal to my patients, but I remain  a huge advocate of Laser Hair Removal, and I always recommend my patients to get it done!  It can be truly life changing.