The primary principle behind laser hair removal is based on contrast between hair and skin color. Lasers localized damage by heating dark target matter in the area that causes hair growth while not heating the rest of the skin. Because lasers are concentrated beams of light and light is absorbed by dark objects, lasers can be absorbed by dark material in the skin. This dark target matter can be naturally-occurring or artificially introduced. With this background in mind, one may better prepare for laser hair removal.
Laser hair removal is not for everyone
Since laser hair removal requires contrast between skin and hair color, the process is not available for everyone. The absolute requirement is that one’s hair must be darker than the surrounding skin. Therefore, darkly pigmented people absorb too much laser energy in their skin and are not ideal candidates for laser hair removal. Likewise, tanned patients with light hair are not model candidates.
Tanned patients with dark hair should wait until their tan fades before they are treated. Those with light skin may increase contrast by rubbing a carbon-based lotion into the target area.
Patients should avoid tanning for at least 4-6 weeks prior to laser hair removal. Sunscreen is recommended for any treated areas exposed to the sun. Also, ingested Beta Carotene–found in carrots, squash, other vegetables, and vitamin A supplements–gets deposited in the skin, producing a subtle orange or yellow color in the skin. This pigment absorbs laser energy, preventing it from reaching the hair follicle and increasing the absorption of laser energy in the skin. Beta carotene persists for months after ingestion. For best results, potential laser hair removal patients should discontinue use of all forms of beta carotene.
A person planning to have laser hair removal performed should avoid waxing or plucking the targeted area for 4-6 weeks prior to laser treatment. Shaving hairs or using chemical depilatories, however, is acceptable.
Additionally, patients preparing for laser treatment may have to use specially formulated skin care products and/or a prescribed skin care regimen in order to prevent pain caused by the procedure.
Finally, patients interested in laser hair removal should be aware of the possible side effects of the procedure. Though very rare, these side effects may include damage to the surrounding healthy tissue in the form of scars, burns, redness and swelling. As with any medical procedure, patients considering laser hair removal should seek further information about the treatment from their physicians.