Laser Hair Removal Overview

By RealSelf
Laser hair removal has come a long way since the first laser for hair removal received FDA clearance in the mid 1990s. Older generation lasers were slow, very painful and worked only on individuals with very dark hair and very light skin. Now there are varieties of laser hair removal specially designed for different skin tones, hair types, etc. It usually takes a series of treatments for permanent hair removal, but there's a treatment out there for just about everyone.

Types of lasers used for hair removal
No single laser is ideal for every individual. Depending on your skin and hair color, some lasers will be more effective than others.
Ruby Laser
* First laser introduced for hair removal
* Laser beam is well absorbed by melanin pigment in hair, making it good for removing finer, lighter hair
* Should be used for hair removal on patients with fair skin, as it may burn those with dark or tan skin
* Slow repetition rate and relatively small spot size, which may mean a longer, more expensive treatment with greater discomfort
Alexandrite Laser
* The fastest hair removal laser
* Large spot size (up to 18mm) and high repetition rate
* Can rapidly treat large body areas - an entire back can be treated in less than 30 minutes
* Suitable for patients with fair to olive complexions
Diode Laser
* Longer wavelength allows deep penetration into the skin and safety for darker skin types
* Not effective for lighter and finer hair
* Smaller spot size, which results in longer treatment time
* The longer treatment time necessary for diode laser hair removal may result in greater expense and increased discomfort
* The TRIA Beauty home laser hair removal system is a diode laser
Nd:YAG laser
* Can be used on all skin types, including tanned skin
* Large spot sizes and fast repetition rates allow large areas to be treated quickly
* Provides less effective treatment for fine and light hairs than some other hair removal lasers
Intense pulsed light (IPL)
* Used for hair removal, but primary use is to treat skin pigmentation problems
* Unlike lasers, IPL devices emit the full spectrum of light wavelengths
* Works best on patients with fair skin and dark hair

Compare to Electrolysis:
Before laser hair removal, electrolysis was one of the only cosmetic treatments available to permanently remove or reduce hair. Although electrolysis is known for being tedious and somewhat painful, it can be very effective, especially for reducing fine or light-colored red, blonde, and gray hair, for which laser hair removal is typically less effective.

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