Do you have unwanted hair? Achieving smooth, hair-free skin goes beyond legs and underarms. Clearing the bikini area has become an accepted ritual not only of summer, but year-round, as well. Eliminating undesirable facial hair, such as stray whiskers, peach-fuzz mustaches, and unibrows, is a regular topic of beauty blogs and morning shows. Even men have embraced hair removal, particularly on their chest and backs.

Common hair removal methods include depilatory creams, shaving, tweezing, and waxing. However, these options are time-consuming and may irritate sensitive skin. Additionally, these methods provide short-term results, and as hair grows back, you may also experience unsightly stubble and inflammation from ingrown hairs.

To rid your body of excess hair, laser hair removal is becoming increasingly popular. It used to be that you would have to visit a dermatologist or aesthetician for laser hair removal. But today, at-home devices are available and they are often as effective as treatments received from a professional.

Lasers are not new. For over a decade, lasers have been used for a variety of dermatological procedures including reducing the appearance of acne scars and age spots, and removing tattoos. More recently, lasers have been employed for cosmetic reasons, such as minimizing lines and wrinkles and whitening teeth.

Laser hair removal works by beaming intense, pulsating light into the skin where it is absorbed by the melanin in hair follicles. The heat from this light damages these tubular cavities. When treated in this way, the follicle can no longer grow hair. Hair may remain in the shaft, but usually within a month, it will be shed.

To get permanent hair reduction in a specific area, repeated laser treatments are recommended. This is because a hair follicle’s growth cycle can vary from four to twelve months, depending on the location of the hair on the body. By administering the laser in intervals of weeks or months, more follicles will be reached and disabled. Those who receive multiple laser hair removal treatments will notice that there is significantly less hair, and any hair that does appear is lighter and finer than before. Sometimes hormones or other factors will trigger hair growth, in which case follow-up laser treatments can be performed to maintain the area.

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If you have dark hair and light skin, you are a good candidate for laser hair removal. This is because the laser targets the hair’s pigment, so those with brown or black hair will see better results. If you have blond, red, gray, or white hair, laser hair removal may not be effective for you. It’s because these colors do not contain enough melanin to interact with the laser, even if the hair is dyed darker. If you have darker skin, the melanin-seeking laser may cause burns or scarring. However, recent technology innovations are making it safer to treat those with darker skin.

The laser can be used on most areas of the body. Laser hair removal should not be performed on the eyelid or surrounding eye zone as it may cause severe damage. In fact, while treating areas of the face, such as the lip and chin, you should wear special eye protection as a precaution.

Here’s how to prepare for a laser treatment. During the six weeks before the treatment, do not tan and do not remove your hair via electrolysis, plucking, or waxing. Instead, shave or trim the hair as it will help keep the follicle intact. Just prior to treatment, gently wash and dry the area. By cutting the hair and cleansing the skin, the laser beam will better target the follicle.

For some, the laser procedure may cause some discomfort. The sensation may feel similar to snapping a rubber band against your skin, or it may feel like a burst of heat. You may want to apply a topical anesthetic beforehand. Whether you’re getting treatment from a professional or are operating a device at home, the laser settings can also be modified to suit your comfort level.

The laser device should be placed flat on your skin during treatment. Depending on the size of the laser head and the area to be covered, you may be able to treat hairs in a matter of minutes. The back and legs will take longer.

Immediately following the procedure, your skin may be red and swollen. Applying ice or a cold compress may help. Some professionals recommend healing lotions or steroid creams to soothe inflammation. Your skin may also lighten or darken, but this should be a temporary side effect. In rare cases, blistering may occur, but if the laser is administered correctly, this is unlikely. It is important to stay out of the sun until your skin heals, and after that, make sure to wear sunscreen for another four to six weeks.

Whether performed by you with a device at home, or done by a professional, laser hair removal will help you realize hair-free results.

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