As the seasons shift from cloudy and cold to clear and warm, people shed layers to take advantage of the sun when out for a jog, visiting the beach, or lounging by a pool. Men who are self conscious about a hairy back or shoulders may hesitate to go bare chested, however, prompting them to shave, wax, or consider a longer-term solution. Explaining the details of modern hair reduction treatments is something familiar to the team at Advanced Dermatology & Skin Care in New Jersey. Laser hair reduction patients there frequently have questions about timing their treatments—and they’re not alone. All men preparing for a potentially shirtless summer across the country can benefit from a greater understanding of what happens before, during, and after a laser hair reduction treatment can impact results.
Most importantly, it is crucial to note that laser hair reduction does not produce immediate results. Planning in advance is key.
BEFORE THE TREATMENT
Preparation should begin four to six weeks prior to the first treatment. Since the laser energy focuses on follicles, men need to take care not to damage them in the weeks leading up to an appointment. This means avoiding any activity that would involve forcibly pulling a hair out of the skin, including waxing, tweezing, and plucking in the target area.
Hair to be removed should not be bleached or colored in the two to three weeks before a treatment. In this time, men should also avoid natural or artificial tanning, including “spray” tanning.
This is because the laser used for hair reduction delivers energy absorbed by the pigmented cells in a hair follicle, damaging them and preventing them from properly producing hair in the future. Dark hair in light skin is ideal for the treatment, so anything that interferes with the laser by lightening the hair or darkening the skin can decrease the effectiveness of the treatment.
Anyone considering laser hair reduction should take this window of preparation into account when planning to get the treatment.
DURING THE TREATMENT
The laser hair reduction process typically involves more than a single treatment session. This is because each follicle moves through a series of cyclical phases that produce new hairs, allow them to grow, cause them to fall out, and then provide a period of rest.
The lasers only impact follicles currently in their active growth phase, known as anagen. Though many follicles are in this phase at any given time, that still leaves a percentage of an area’s follicles moving through a different phase, not susceptible to the effects of the laser. The percentages vary by body part.
To account for hairs not actively growing at the time of an initial treatment, patients should return for subsequent treatments. It can take four to six to 10 sessions to clear a given area of hair long term, with each treatment spaced weeks apart to allow for more follicles to move into the anagen phase. Ultimately, patients can expect to see approximately and 85 to 95 percent reduction of dark hair.
Since the process can be time consuming, men should include the understanding of multiple visits spaced over months into their planning. Some patients opt for six-month or annual touch-up visits to keep treated areas as hair-free as possible.
AFTER THE TREATMENT
Skin that has been treated with lasers can be sensitive, and patients can expect at least a few days of visible side effects, including sunburn-like redness and swelling, as well as bruising and occasional crusting or blisters.
Speaking of sunburns, exposure to ultraviolet radiation after a laser hair removal session can increase the risk of side effects, such as blotchy discoloration, so patients are encouraged to avoid going out in the sun in the days following a treatment. As always, an effective sunscreen should be worn on any bare skin every time exposure is possible (as in, going outside).
Don’t forget that ultraviolet radiation penetrates even clouds, so unseasonably overcast days are no excuse for skipping sunscreen.
While laser hair reduction can be a long process, many men find it worthwhile, since it means a departure from more frequent shaving, waxing, and other hair-removal techniques that require constant vigilance and offer no long-term reprieve.
To learn more about laser hair removal, contact New Jersey’s Advanced Dermatology & Skin Care by calling 973.731.9600 or visiting www.drspey.com.