It may sound simple, but there is actually quite a bit of science behind the treatment known as laser hair removal. Akron, Ohio, area plastic surgeon Dr. David Hartman is used to explaining how the procedure works to the men who come to his office seeking a solution to the problem of unwanted hair, whether it’s some stray strands on the shoulders or a furry carpet covering the entire back.
Laser hair removal works by beaming light energy into the skin. After it penetrates the surface, it is absorbed by pigment in the roots of unwanted hairs, which heat up and are damaged by the temperature they ultimately reach. A damaged follicle is unable to properly send out a shaft of hair, so hairs that fall out are not replaced as quickly—if at all.
There is a bit of a challenge, however, in the fact that this strategy works only on hairs in their active growth phase, which is about 70 percent of the total number of hairs at any given time. The other 30 percent are in various stages of growth or rest, which cycle continuously throughout a person’s life.
After the active growth phase, known as anagen, comes a period of preparation, known as catagen. During this stage, the follicle shrinks and the hair itself loses access to the body’s blood supply. These shutting-down steps get the follicle ready to push the hair out.
Telogen comes next, serving as a sort of dormancy phase that allows the follicle to gather energy once again and prepare for new growth.
When a new hair begins to grow, it pushes the disconnected old hair up and out of the follicle, making room for a fresh shaft to emerge and grow longer throughout a new anagen phase.
When the follicle is damaged while in anagen phase, the cycle is short-circuited, preventing proper preparation for a new hair to emerge. When the old hair eventually falls out, there will be nothing to replace it for quite some time. Hairs that do eventually grow in tend to be both thinner and lighter, making them less noticeable and easier to deal with.
Given the realities of each follicle’s cycle, multiple laser hair removal treatment sessions should be performed weeks apart in order to get as many active follicles as possible over time. Keep this timeline in mind when scheduling sessions, especially if there is an event to prepare for, such as a pool party or a shirtless new-dad photo shoot.
Men considering this treatment for whatever reason should also avoid removing hairs by force in the weeks before a session, since trauma to the follicle can hamper the laser’s ability to properly do its job. Force means plucking, tweezing, and waxing—any technique that yanks a hair out and can damage the follicle itself.
Men should also avoid tanning under the sun or lamps, or otherwise darkening their skin—as with a tanning spray—prior to a laser hair removal session. This is because the laser energy needs to be absorbed into melanin in the follicles in order to work. More pigment in the surrounding tissue means a less effective treatment.
Similarly, because melanin-heavy areas are the target of laser hair removal treatment sessions, lighter-colored hair is not ideal for removal efforts. The best results are enjoyed by men with high contrasts: light skin and dark hairs.
When effective, however, the treatment is truly effective, with an up-to-90 percent record of hair removal persistence after 13 years, according to studies of particular devices. Even with fine hairs—known as vellus hairs—coming in, shaving can go from a daily chore to a task to be done every two weeks or longer.
For more information about laser hair removal, contact the Ohio-based office of Dr. David Hartman. Call Fine Arts Skin & Laser at 330-440-0499 or visit fineartsskinandlaser.com.