Many women have unwanted hair on some parts of their body, and hair removal forms a significant part of a modern plastic surgeon’s or dermatologist’s practice.
Hair removal entered a new era about eight years ago with the advent of laser and IPL depilation technology. Prior to this, women (and men) had to endure painful sessions of tweezing, waxing, threading, shaving or electrolysis. With the exception of electrolysis, all the other methods were temporary and had to be repeated every few weeks and all had some form of complication or another.
Both IPL and lasers operate on the same principle where a special light is shone on the hair. The light is absorbed by the hair and converted to heat, which travels down the hair shaft to permanently destroy the bulb. The aim: The destruction of hair bulb through heat, and to deliver the heat only to the bulb and not the surrounding skin.
However, hair removal by these methods is safest and most successful when there is a large colour difference between the hair and the skin. For example, black hair on very fair skin will be more easily removed than black hair on dark skin as the heat does not discriminate between the two and is equally absorbed by both (i.e, the hair gets destroyed but the skin may also end up getting burned).
For dark-skinned people, see an experienced surgeon. A deeply tanned person with blonde or fair hair would be the worst candidate for IPL/laser hair removal as the skin would burn before the hair bulb can be destroyed.
I always advise my patients not to go into the sun before hair removal and wherever possible, I put them on a course of facial or body acid lotions and de-pigmenting agents to avoid burning the skin.
One myth that needs to be dispelled is that there is a 100 per cent clean surface after treatment. There’ll inevitably be straggly hairs left behind which will need further treatments.
I usually tell patients they will require at least four to six sessions to see a significant reduction in the hair. This is because at any one time, only 30 per cent of the hairs on the body are mature, thick and can be destroyed. Immature hair bulbs have small fine hairs in them and they don’t have enough pigment to allow sufficient absorption of heat energy.
I also tell patients to shave, not pluck, hairs in between sessions as this accelerates the maturation of the follicle, so they’re coarser and darker.
Don’t be shy to tell your doctor exactly what you want. I have removed hair from the back, neck, buttocks, bikini line and even around the vagina, anus and nipples. I have even had requests to shape the pubic hair into a heart shape, triangle or narrow slit. The removal of facial or armpit hair is the most common request.
Only trained physicians or their nurses can perform the treatment, as both IPL and lasers can burn the skin.
Prices vary according to which doctor you visit. And this is further complicated by the prices offered by beauty salons, which may be more attractive. Shop around first and find out how experienced the physician or specialist is before you decide. Be prepared for some redness and soreness of the affected areas for a day or two.