My LHR tech prefers me to NOT shave before my appts to see my progress since I am having terrible results. (I am light- skinned with dark hair and have been treating my full face and underarms for 3 years, and still not close to being hair-free.) She asseses, then shaves for me. Frequently I notice after my treatments, she does not shave closely and most of my hair is still ABOVE skin as stubble. Is the treatment ineffective beacuse of this? Or will the laser still hit the pigment at the root?
What Should I Do About my LHR Tech?
Doctor Answers 3
How to Get the Best Results from Laser Hair Removal
First make sure your treating physician has experience and the proper laser for treating your skin color. We use the GentleMAX laser by Candela which has many treatment options for most skin colors.
1. Prior to laser treatment, it is important to shave the area. Otherwise hair gets pressed to the surface of your skin. When the hair shaft is destroyed by the laser it can injure the surrounding skin. Shave a day prior to your appointment, so if you nick yourself, the area will not be bleeding during your procedure. Any method of hair removal such as waxing or tweezing will remove the deeper portions of the hair follicle which contain the "target pigmentation" and will render laser hair removal ineffective for at least two weeks. Either shaving or depilatory creams can be used up to the day of the laser treatment as they do not remove the entire hair shaft.
2. Make sure the area has had no sun exposure for one month prior and one month after the laser procedure.
3. The use of any photosensitizing medications or over-the-counter supplements known to cause photosensitivity should delay laser hair removal treatment until these medications can be safely discontinued.
4. Topical retinoids used in the treatment area should be discontinued 1 to 2 days prior to treatment.
5. If a tan is present the treatment should be delayed until the tan has faded.
6. Make sure there is no inflammation in the skin of the area to be treated prior to the procedure.
LHR Tech and what to do
Your technician is most likely trying to give you the best treatment possible. He/She is trying to access where the hair is, to make sure he/she can position the laser correctly. As long as he/she is not doing a close shave, your skin should be OK to be treated. If the hair is above the skin level, that is OK, unless you are experiencing burns or any other complications after the treatment. After 3 years of LHR you shouldn't need anymore treatments. At this point, I would try another type of laser to see if you get better results. Good Luck!
"Should you shave before Laser Hair Removal?"
I do not recommend shaving for 1 - 3 days before laser hair removal, depending on rate of hair growth. One main reason is for avoiding burning! When you shave, you inadvertently remove loose layers of dead skin cells that are protective during the lasering process. On the other hand, I do not recommend that the hair be allowed to grow out too long either. Long hairs will get too hot during the laser treatment, and potentially allow too much heat to accumulate on the skin's surface. This could lead to burning.
If the laser procedure is being conducted properly with the laser head positioned properly onto your skin, the laser energy will reach the bulb of the hair root where melanin is most concentrated. This will allow for effective destruction of actively growing hairs (called anagen hairs). This energy penetration should occur whether you shave or not, if the proper laser and technique is being used. Hopefully, this helps!
Windell Davis Boutte, MD, Medical Director, Premiere Dermatology and Surgery, Lilburn, GA