Laser hair removal uses light treatments to heat and destroy hair follicles. The laser uses a specific wavelength of light aimed at the hair follicle. This light damages the melanin in the hair follicle, making it less able to grow.
Laser hair removal works best for people who have dark hair and light skin. But new types of lasers can remove blonde, gray, and red hair. These lasers can also remove hair for people who have dark skin.
Laser hair removal is used to remove body hair wherever it isn't wanted, such as from the face, legs, and underarms.
Lasers have been used for many years to remove hair. While they can permanently reduce the number of body hairs, they aren't able to permanently remove all hair. Sometimes the hair follicles can still grow hair, but the new hair will be finer and lighter than the original hair. Usually several treatments are needed.
Risks of laser hair removal include skin irritation and changes in the color of the skin (pigment changes).
If you are thinking about getting laser hair removal, choosing the right doctor is important. You can see a dermatologist or a doctor who's board-certified in cosmetic surgery. Choose someone who has experience doing laser hair removal. Sometimes the doctor's assistant or nurse gives the treatment. This is fine if the doctor is available on-site when you get the treatments. Sometimes laser hair removal is done at spas or salons by people who don't have proper training. In these cases, the risk for long-term problems is greater.
Last Revised: July 31, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Keith A. Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
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