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Laser Hair Removal: Technology Advancements, Expectations & Cost
MIAMI, FL --
If you just cannot spend one more minute shaving your legs, you might need expert high-speed laser hair removal.
In the past several years, laser hair removal has become one of the most popular non-surgical cosmetic procedures in the United States. This procedure, which involves a laser pulsing through the skin to be absorbed by the melanin, or pigment, in the hair follicles, can be performed on virtually any area of the body, from chin to chest to toes.
With advancement in laser technology, the procedure works on people with all skin colors and hair types (though it tends to have the best results on people with lighter skin and darker hair). Plus, the procedure is relatively permanent; it destroys about 80 percent of all the hairs in the treated area and the hair that may grow back is usually finer in texture and lighter in color.
A new piece of equipment could be your new best friend. GentleMax Pro is a dual wavelength laser that can be used on a variety of skin types and can treat large areas of skin, making the treatment faster and more effective.
The device can also be used to treat leg veins and sun spots. After a few appointments, "your legs will look perfectly airbrushed." GentleMax Pro generates permanent hair reduction in just four to six treatments, depending on the treatment area, spaced four to six weeks apart.
So the million-dollar question (hopefully not literally) is: How much does it cost?
The price of the procedure depends on a variety of factors, including the area of the body to be treated, the number of necessary treatment sessions, and the type and location of the clinic. Typically, removing hair from smaller areas of the body -- like the bikini line or underarms -- cost less, around $250 to $500 per treatment. But larger areas -- like the legs or back -- cost considerably more, around $600 to $900 per treatment. Overall, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) sets the average price of a single treatment at $429.
Multiple treatments are usually required, but the exact number will depend on the area being treated. For most patients, four to six treatments spaced about four to eight weeks apart works best. That means that, on average, the series of treatments would cost between $1,716 and $2,574.
Location and clinic types can also play a role in determining prices. However, keep in mind that a cheap price shouldn't necessarily dictate your choice of clinic. Although there are an abundance of spas and other walk-in clinics that will perform laser hair removal, convenience and price shouldn't trump health and safety concerns. Make sure your procedure is being performed by a certified physician to guarantee a safe and effective outcome. Of course, as with all medical procedures, you should consult with multiple physicians to reach a balance of quality and cost.
How do you prepare for laser hair removal?
Before scheduling laser hair removal, you meet with your doctor to discuss the factors that determine whether the procedure is likely to work well for you. This meeting generally includes:
Your medical history. Your doctor asks questions about conditions you have or have had, as well as any medications you're taking.
Photographs. Photographs are taken from different angles of the area to be treated. Your doctor uses these photos for before-and-after assessments and long-term reviews.
A discussion of risks, benefits and expectations. You and your doctor talk about risks and benefits. He or she explains what laser hair removal can and can't do for you and what your results might be.
If you have a tan from sun exposure or sunless tanning products, you must wait until the tan fades completely before undergoing laser hair removal. A tan increases your risk of side effects such as blistering and discoloration. Avoid sun exposure four to six weeks before treatment.
Laser hair removal is effective only on short, visible hair. Two to three days before the procedure, you shave the area to be treated, and allow it to grow to a stubble. Avoid waxing or plucking the hair and electrolysis three weeks before treatment.
How does laser hair removal work?
During the procedure, your doctor presses a hand-held laser instrument to your skin. Depending on the type of laser, a cooling device on the tip or a cool gel is used to protect the skin.
When the doctor activates the laser, the laser light passes through your skin's surface to tiny sacs (hair follicles) where hair growth originates. The intense heat damages the hair follicle, which inhibits hair growth. It takes several treatments to provide an extended hair-free period.
What can you expect during laser hair removal?
During the procedure, you wear goggles to prevent accidental exposure of your eyes to laser light. When the laser is activated, you feel a stinging sensation. Oftentimes a topical local anesthetic is applied before the procedure to reduce discomfort. The procedure causes a slight charring of stubble. You may notice a strong odor of singed hair, which is normal.
How long the procedure takes depends on the area of the body involved. A small area such as the upper lip may take several minutes. A larger area such as the back may require several hours.
What can you expect after laser hair removal?
After the laser hair removal, no medications or bandages are necessary. You may notice some redness and swelling for the first few hours. Also, stinging may occur for the first 24 to 48 hours. Some people experience a slight crusting of the skin. If crusting occurs, keep the area moist with petroleum jelly (Vaseline).
Avoid exercise and exertion for the first 24 hours. Perspiration from exertion may increase irritation caused by the laser.
Avoid exposure to the sun for several weeks after treatment. After this period, make sure you apply sunscreen whenever you're in the sun. Avoid tanning booths — the ultraviolet light damages the skin.
Don't wax or pluck hairs between treatments.
Don't pick at or manipulate the skin in treated areas.
Don't rub or scrub the treated area. You may gently wash the area with soap and water.
What are the results of laser hair removal?
Studies show that for suitable candidates, hair removal lasers can reduce hair counts by 40 percent to 80 percent. Results vary from person to person, however, and some people respond better to treatment than others.
Multiple treatments can prolong the duration of hair loss, but hair regrowth is possible. Also as you age, unwanted hair growth inevitably continues, and you may need repeat treatments in the future.