Getting rid of unwanted body hair may seem like a modern cosmetic trend, but its roots extend far back in time. In fact, body hair removal treatments date all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, who used seashell tweezers for plucking. Hairlessness was a sign of wealth in some historical cultures, which should indicate that treatments did not come easy. Fortunately, there is a wide range of popular techniques for removing body hair today, including threading, waxing, shaving, electrolysis, and laser hair removal. At Western Dermatology Consultants in Albuquerque, laser hair removal is the treatment of choice. The dermatologist-led team is experienced in explaining the advantages offered by lasers, which offer longer-lasting results than many other options.
The use of lasers to remove hair on the skin—as well as in other cosmetic medical procedures—was first explored in the 1960s. Theodore H. Maiman designed the first laser (known as the ruby laser) that was able to destroy hair follicles, and it was revealed on July 7, 1960. Although it was capable of diminishing hair growth, it was known to cause burns. It was also a very slow and tedious process, since it could only target a few hair follicles at a time.
In 1964, the YAG laser was approved for laser hair removal. It was able to reduce hair growth safely, but was unable to permanently remove the hair follicle.
The Alexandrite laser was produced in the 1970s, and this option was found to be much safer than the ruby laser. That said, it was not able to generate enough heat to destroy a hair follicle, so it would take years before it could provide long-lasting results.
Types of Laser Hair Removal Devices
Today, there are five well-known laser hair removal and other light-based machines, each designed for specific uses.
Ruby Laser: The ruby laser was the original device for laser hair removal—and has advanced significantly since its early days. It has a high rate of melanin absorption and is more appropriate for those with pale skin. It can cause discoloration on those with darker skin.
IPL: The IPL (Intense Pulsed Light therapy) is technically not a laser, but works for hair removal. A typical laser treatment sends out a beam of a single focus, but IPL works by sending out a beam made up of a larger spectrum. It is not as powerful as a laser and is less effective, making it more suitable for those with fair hair. It can also be a more affordable treatment.
Nd:YAG Laser: The Nd:YAG laser hair removal machine is best for those with darker skin. Due to its longer wavelengths, it can bypass the skin’s melanin and aim directly at the pigmented cells found in the hair follicles themselves.
Alexandrite Laser: Compared to the Nd:YAG, the Alexandrite laser has a shorter wavelength and is best for people with olive skin color. Thanks to its faster repetition rate and larger spot size, it is an idealoption for targeting and treating more significant areas of unwanted hair.
Diode Laser: This laser can work on a range of wavelengths, making it an acceptable choice for most skin tones. With the diode laser, the dermatologist can set the wavelength that is suitable for a specific hair and skin type.
Lasers for Various Skin Types
Harvard dermatologist Dr. Thomas B. Fitzpatrick created a phototyping scale in 1975 that identifies specific classifications for human skin color. Today, it is used to figure out which candidates are best suited for laser hair removal to ensure minimal skin damage from the laser. The Fitzpatrick scale is numbered from Type I to Type VI, with Type I being the lightest skin color to Type VI being the darkest.
The Alexandrite laser is beneficial for those with Fitzpatrick Skin Type I and Type II (white/fair skin), since this skin type has a lack of significant pigmentation, meaning that skin will not hold heat and burns easily under direct sunlight. A laser with a higher setting will provide better results. Those with a natural Fitzpatrick Skin Type III (beige skin) usually tan to a brown when exposed to sunlight. The Alexandrite laser is best for this skin Type III in its natural state. The Nd:YAG laser is suitable for people with Fitzpatrick Skin Type IV, Type V, and Type VI (medium brown/black). Their higher levels of melanin make the Nd:YAG laser a better option.