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Laser Hair Removal? Be Informed First...

If you're considering laser hair removal, be aware that you may not get exactly what you bargained for. “Lasers aren't like point-and-shoot cameras," says Roy Geronemus, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center. Results can be great, but if you are treated with the wrong laser or on the wrong setting, you may not get much hair reduction. Just know that there is no such thing as total hair removal. The side effects of laser hair removal can result in burns, hyper pigmentation or increased hair growth. There are many state medical boards which allow non-physicians to use lasers. Some of the estheticians who perform these treatments have limited experience or training on these machines. For the most reliable results, it is best to get it done by a dermatologist but they can charge up to $500 on the average for just one treatment. Wherever you decide to go—whether it’s to a Dermatologist, a Medispa, or a gynecologist—Make sure to ask these questions before you sign on the dotted line…

1. How many lasers are on the premises? Are they rented or owned? Remember that the more lasers a doctor or Medispa has access to, the more likely you'll be treated with the safest, most effective one for your skin color and hair type. Just be aware that if machines are rented, the chances are greater that this outfit is only doing a few procedures a month and may lack the experience or training to be your safest option.

2. What lasers do you use for hair removal? which is best for my skin type and why? The doctor or technician should be able to explain in detail why a particular laser would be the best match for you. They should be taking into account your skin tone, hair texture, and the color of your hairs. They should go over any contraindications with you (potential complications based on many factors such as medications, moles, skin tags, etc...) The Alexandrite laser for hair removal is widely used. The Diode and ND:Yag lasers are also particularly effective. Intense pulsed light machines can remove hair, but only on light skin. The quality of those machines can vary.

3. Ask the Esthetician… How many laser hair removal treatments have you performed? There is no standard laser hair removal certification so these questions are a good way to gauge the person's experience level. The answer should be at least a few hundred. Any less than that you may well be in the hands of an inexperienced technician.

4. How many sessions will I need? The average number of visits necessary to see permanent hair reduction is 4 to 8. Some people with courser/thicker hair may need up to 12 treatments. That is why packaged deals offered is often more advantageous for the doctor or technician than for the patient.

5. Can you treat me if I have a tan? The answer should be NO! If they say yes... be aware that having tanned skin can cause burns as the laser cannot differentiate between a dark hair follicle and dark skin. If they use a low setting, essentially that treatment would be ineffective for hair removal and you would be wasting one of your treatments. You would do best to wait a week or more till the tan fades.

Get the facts before you consider laser hair removal. Most estheticians continue to wax clients who have undergone laser hair removal. It does not guarantee total hair loss.

Standard laser hair removal machine

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