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We love summer—the warm weather, pretty sundresses, and lasting sunshine have a way of giving us some extra pep in our step. The one thing we’re not such a big fan of now that warm weather is in full swing? Shaving! Hair removal can be such a process, especially when you’re rocking shorts, skirts, dresses, and bathing suits all season long. While you can get away with skipping a day (or a few) of shaving in the winter, summer isn't quite as forgiving. If you’re tired of keeping up with constant hair removal, you may be starting to consider permanent hair removal—but that raises a lot of questions. For example, is laser hair removal permanent? Can you do permanent hair removal at home? Will a permanent hair removal cream really work? And most importantly, which permanent hair removal method is the best option? Keep reading for everything you need to know about how to remove hair permanently, including key facts about three popular permanent hair removal options.
To answer that very first question, yes—laser hair removal does count as permanent hair removal. In fact, it’s one of the most popular options when it comes to removing hair permanently. So, what exactly does the process entail? Well, as you can probably guess, this medical procedure involves the use of a laser. The Mayo Clinic states that laser hair removal uses a concentrated beam of light, or laser, that is absorbed by the pigment (melanin) in the hair. This light energy is converted to heat which damages the hair follicles that produce hair to inhibit or delay future growth. Laser hair removal can be used to treat the back, bikini area, chest, face (including the upper lip and chin), neck, and shoulder, per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). If you’re considering laser hair removal, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Laser hair removal won’t work on blonde, white, or gray hair. Laser hair removal requires a contrast between your skin tone and your hair color, according to the AAD. This means if you have blonde, white, or gray hair, laser hair removal is not a permanent hair removal option for you, as lasers that can effectively target light-colored hair haven’t been developed yet, per the AAD.
2. If you have dark skin, a special laser will need to be used. Since laser hair removal requires a contrast in skin tone and hair color, those with dark skin require a specific laser for people with darker skin tones, according to the AAD. The AAD also states that those with darker skin are more prone to burns and hyperpigmentation (dark marks) as a result of laser hair removal.
3. For permanent hair removal, it’ll take more than one session. To target all of the hair follicles while they’re in the growing stage, it can take six sessions or more, per the AAD. So. while laser hair removal is an option for those who wish to remove their hair permanently, it isn’t a one-and-done procedure.
4. There are at-home laser hair removal devices, but they may not be the most effective. Wanting to handle permanent hair removal at home is pretty common, and at-home lasers are becoming more widely available. However, according to the Mayo Clinic while these devices might cause some hair reduction, there are no large studies comparing their effectiveness to that of a professional treatment. They also note that there have not been any large, long-term studies on the safety of at-home laser hair removal devices.
5. You’ll need to stay out of the sun. According to the FDA, sunlight should be avoided post-laser hair removal!
6. It hurts. You probably already know the old adage that beauty is pain, but it’s true that laser hair removal can hurt. According to the FDA, sometimes it’s recommended to use a topical anesthetic to minimize pain. In these cases, the FDA states that you should consult a medical professional and follow the directions for using the skin-numbing product.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is similar to laser hair removal in the sense that they both use light to target melanin in the hair shaft, according to a study from the National Center of Biotechnological Information (NCBI). The main difference between the two is that IPL does not involve the use of a laser. The NCBI study states that IPL uses a non-laser, filtered flash lamp device that emits polychromatic, noncoherent, and noncollimated light with varying pulse durations. Here are some facts worth knowing about this permanent facial hair removal method.
1. IPL can be done on all skin tones. IPL hair removal can be done on those with both dark and pale skin tones, per the NCBI study. The process involves a wider range of light than laser hair removal, which can be absorbed by a variety of chromophores (a chemical group that absorbs light and imparts color to a molecule). The study goes on to explain that IPL is less selective than lasers, and that cutoff filters are often used to narrow the spectrum of emitted wavelengths and make the device more specific to the person being treated.
2. You’ll still need multiple sessions for permanent hair removal. Just like laser hair removal, while significant hair reduction can be seen after one treatment, multiple treatment sessions at monthly time intervals are needed to result in permanent hair removal, per the NCBI study.
3. There are potential side effects. The NCBI study notes that adverse effects after IPL treatments include blistering, crusting, dyspigmentation, and (rarely) scarring.
As a third option, electrolysis can be used to permanently remove hair. There are two primary methods of electrolysis, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Electrolysis Method #1: Galvanic. This method chemically destroys the hair follicle and requires several treatments, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Electrolysis Method #2: Thermolytic. The Cleveland Clinic states that this method uses heat to destroy the hair follicle, resulting in faster hair removal and less tissue injury.
While electrolysis is a time-tested method, according to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s important to take note that electrolysis can be painful and, over time, can cause redness, scarring, and dark spots in areas that were previously treated. The Cleveland Clinic notes that each session lasts between 15 minutes to one hour, and can treat areas such as the eyebrows, face, thighs, abdomen, breasts, and legs.
In summary, there is no miracle permanent hair removal cream, but there are quite a few options to consider when it comes to removing hair permanently. As for which is the best method of permanent hair removal, that all depends on you. Do your research and determine which option makes the most sense for you.
If you’re more specifically focused on permanent facial hair removal, you may also want to read our article, Girl Talk: Your Guide to Removing Unwanted Facial Hair.
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