I think it is safe to say that everyone knows what laser hair removal is at this point, as it’s been used since July 1960. However, It has taken nearly 40 years to perfect the science in which we see and use today.
As a laser technician of over 15 years, I can tell you firsthand there has been some major improvements in patient comfort, speed, number of sessions and the lasers ability to treat all skin types equally.
For the longest time if you weren’t “Snow White” (light skin, dark hair) laser removal was a challenge. Those with lighter hair like myself, or darker skin needed significantly more sessions…and when you pay per treatment, that kind of sucks!
I get a lot of questions in my day to day at the clinic, but I think one of the most important questions to ask, and answers to know is….
How to know which TYPE of laser is most effective…FOR YOU!
This is a bit of a loaded question. There are several approved lasers on the market for “permanent hair reduction” (Check out my blog that explains “Is laser hair removal permanent?”) all of which can be fantastic but have their window of excellence.
Let me try to break it down in the simplest terms.
Laser hair removal works mainly by targeting the melanin (color) in the hair’s roots. The higher contrast between the color of your skin and the color of the hair makes the laser’s job easier. Now we also need to put enough energy to kill the hair root without damaging the skin, so here is where the delicate balance and knowledge of your technician comes into play.
Since color is the laser’s target, the darker an individual’s skin the higher risk of their skin’s melanin absorbing too much laser. This can be problematic for multiple reasons. The first being that if too much energy is absorbed into the skin, then the hair follicle is likely not getting enough energy, therefor you are wasting both your time and money on ineffective treatment. The second being an increase to negative side effects on the skin such as burns or hyper/hypo pigmentation which is definitely not what you or we signed up for.
On the same hand if your skin and hair is light, the laser may see minimal to no contrast and although lighter skin can handle the laser without some of those risks there treatments simply don’t work.
What does this all mean?
Well, in order not to bombard you with too much information, I will tell you about my opinion on which laser wave lengths are most effective for different skin types.
IPL- this is broad spectrum light (and I will do a separate blog to explain the difference of IPL vs. Laser)
- For lighter skin types 1-3 (Check out this standard for skin typing) with relatively decent results if done by an experienced technician but with higher number of sessions required.
- Best for shallow hairs as the rays do not penetrate the skin very deep at around 650nm
Alex- Gold standard for lighter skin types
- This laser is best for skin types 1-3
- It penetrates at the ideal depth of 755nm and effectively treats dirty blonde-black hairs
- Due to the increased depth, there is less risk to the skin’s surface, less downtime, less discomfort.
Diode- For awhile this was the go-to work horse.
- At 810nm this laser has a higher ability to treat darker skin types and is deemed safe for all skin types.
- In my opinion however, the energy needed to effectively treat skin types 5, and especially 6 were too uncomfortable and required significantly more sessions.
Yag- Gold standard for dark (and tanned- yay) skin types 4-6
- At the deepest depth of 1064nm we draw the energy away from the skin’s surface and ensure that all energy is delivered into our target.
- The depth allows us to treat tanned patients (1 week out of sun vs. 4 weeks) and dark skin types with the same comfort level and efficiency as lighter skin types AND with similar total number of sessions which is a game charger.
Here is where the problem lies….
Most machines… only carry one technology and I am not going to lie…machines like these do not come cheap (which is why…please do not ask me about at home lasers LOL).
At Skin Revival we are fortunate to have actually had all of the above available to us over the years, and although we recently got rid of our Diode as it just became obsolete, and we rarely use our IPL for hair removal.
Our main go to machine is the Elite IQ, this machine became available less than a year ago here in Canada and has really elevated the results we see in clinic. It is a single platform with ability to use either Alex laser or Yag laser.
My favorite part about it though, is that it has multiple laser head sizes so large areas go super fast and small tricky areas can now be easily and accurately treated which you just can’t do with a lot of machines…. but that’s just a little remark from this laser nerd, hehe!
Keep in mind…
Please, always go see an experience technician. As someone who certifies and trains only people on how to use technology, I can tell you that a machine is only as good as the operator. If your technician does not understand how to fully use the machine to its maximum capability than it really doesn’t matter if they have all the best equipment in the industry.
Before doing any type of cosmetic treatment make sure that you feel safe & confident during the consultation process and when in doubt- Let’s talk!
I will follow this up with a little series on common FAQs on laser so that you can have all the information you need to confidentially ditch that razor for good.
Your skin revival