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Melanin and Laser Hair Removal – What’s the Connection?

Posted on: February 29th, 2016 by csiaccess

Here at California Skin Institute we’ve helped many patients achieve their aesthetic goals through laser hair removal.* During this time of year, it is common for our providers to see more patients interested in this procedure and we get a lot of questions about how laser hair removal works.

To help you better understand this treatment, we’ve put together this informational article that focuses on a very important aspect: melanin pigment in your hair and skin. It’s a very important topic that doesn’t get enough attention.

If you have any questions after reading this article, please call a California Skin Institute practice near you (or send us an email) and we’ll be glad to answer any questions.*

The Role of Melanin in Laser Hair Removal

At the very core, laser hair removal is designed to target a pigment called melanin, which is one of the pigments that gives your hair its color.*

During your laser hair removal treatment, the laser or IPL device will target the melanin in the hair follicle, which resides inside your skin.* The heat will damage the follicle, slowing hair growth.*

This relationship between hair removal lasers and melanin is very important because it affects how laser hair removal works, what hair color it can target, and how it can affect the skin.* Let’s consider all of these in more detail.

  • Multiple Treatments: To be effective, laser hair removal has to be performed over a course of a few months, with treatment sessions spaced several months apart.* This is necessary because hair goes through three main stages; growth, transition, and resting stage. During the growth stage, the melanin concentrations in the hair follicle are much higher, making the laser treatment more effective. Because at any given time some hair follicles may be in a resting stage, a typical patient will need multiple treatments over the course of several months, to ensure that all follicles are targeted when they are in the process of growth.*
  • Effects of Hair Color: Laser hair removal is most effective for individuals with dark hair, because the melanin concentration is higher in darker hair follicles.* Although laser hair removal can also be effective for lighter hair colors, individuals with very light or grey hair typically won’t see very effective outcomes.* Unfortunately, dyeing your hair darker will not help.*
  • Skin Tone: Because melanin is also present in the skin, individuals with darker complexion may experience side effects like temporary hyperpigmentation in the treatment area.* However, this often happens when the treatment is performed by an untrained provider who doesn’t understand the technology very well and uses the wrong type of laser or settings.* Here at California Skin Institute our providers have effectively administered laser hair removal for individuals with darker olive complexions, because we have several types of lasers and our providers are deeply experienced with proper skin assessment and matching of appropriate laser settings.*

How Long do Laser Hair Removal Treatments Take?

The length of your laser hair removal treatment will directly depend on the area being treated.* The larger the area, the more time it will take for the laser applicator to target all of the hair follicles.*

However, the typical treatment for facial hair or arm-pit area is about 10-20 minutes, meaning you can easily fit an appointment into your daily schedule without having to take time off work.* Please discuss this with your provider ahead of time, if you have time constraints.*

Do Laser Hair Removal Treatments Hurt?

Laser hair removal treatments are virtually painless, and most of our patients easily handle the procedure with no problems.* Further, California Skin Institute providers can apply a topical anesthetic and take additional measures to reduce any potential discomfort.*

If you decide to visit a California Skin Institute practice for laser hair removal treatments, our providers will always take the time to listen to your needs and address any concerns you have.* We are a patient-centric dermatology practice with a culture of putting patient safety and comfort above all else.*

When is the Best Time to Get Laser Hair Removal Treatment?

The best time to get laser hair removal treatments is when your skin is less exposed to the sun.* Late fall, winter and early spring are typically good times for such treatments. There are several reasons for this:

  • You will need multiple treatments spaced several weeks apart to target all of the hair follicles in their growth (anagen) phase.* Therefore, if you want to finish treatment before summer, it’s a good idea to start several months before your planned vacation, to reduce exposure to UV radiation.*
  • Another reason why laser hair removal treatments are better reserved for traditionally cooler times of the year is because you’re less likely to have a sun tan.* Since you’re less likely to go on beach vacations, it’s easier to avoid getting a strong tan, which makes the laser treatment more effective because there will be less melanin in the skin; making it easier to target the follicle.*
  • Lastly, after any laser skin treatment, it’s important to avoid the sun as the skin’s natural defenses against UV radiation will be temporarily weakened.* As the sunlight during the cooler months of the year is less intense, it’s typically a better time to get this procedure.*

Laser Hair Removal Devices

Another aspect that doesn’t get enough attention in the media is that the best outcomes are achieved when the laser hair removal treatment is device-tailored to the specific treatment area.* What this means it that hair removal on the legs should be performed with a different laser or hand piece than the removal of hair on the face.*

This is one of the reasons California Skin Institute invested in a variety of hair removal lasers which give our providers a very broad range of laser types and settings.* This allows for highly customized laser hair removal treatments based on treatment area, hair type, skin type, and much more.*

If you’d like to learn more about our laser department, check out the technology section of our website. And please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions. Just call a California Skin Institute practice near you, or fill out the Contact Form and we’ll get back to you right away!

*Individual results may vary and are not guaranteed.


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