Expert Doctor

Laser Hair Removal

Juan Brou, MD

Oklahoma City, OK

Laser Hair Removal

Want to remove all those unwanted hairs without shaving, waxing or tweezing? Laser hair removal might be the perfect solution to your problem. Read on and learn why this hair removal procedure is so popular and definitely a choice worth considering.



Laser hair removal, as the name suggests, is a commonly performed cosmetic medical procedure that involves the use of lasers to remove unwanted hairs on any part of the body. It works by utilizing the highly concentrated light beam produced by the laser device. The energy from the light beam, or any similar light device for that matter, passes through the skin and gets absorbed by melanin. Melanin is a pigment found in the skin and hair. The greatest concentration of melanin is found in the hair follicles. In the hair removal procedure, the energy of the laser beam is focused on the hair follicles. The follicles absorb all the light energy then heat up, and eventually burn off, thereby destroying the hair in the process.



IPL or intense pulse light treatment, works in a similar manner as laser hair removal. The two are technically different in the sense that laser is a collimated light. The word laser is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The light produced by a laser device is magnified and comes out in a stream. It is “collimated” because the light rays have the same wavelength and are aligned in the same direction.

On the other hand, IPL is not like that at all. It is essentially a light pump that pushes out a lot of light. All of that light is put in a crystal that absorbs them all leaving only the wavelength that you want to use. It works in the same way as a laser by using a single wavelength that targets the hair follicle, only the source of light is different.

Although IPL and laser hair removal share some similarities, laser hair removal still proves to be a bit more efficient because the firing can be repeated a lot quicker and at the same time. Each laser pulse has an interval of less than a second and can target multiple hairs at once.



The most important benefit of laser hair removal treatment is that it gets rid of the hardest hair to remove—the unwanted ones. It is especially suited for females who have problems with unwanted hair in the facial, axillary and tummy areas. It is also useful in the legs, arms and bikini line. The ones that benefit the most from laser hair removal are people with dark hair and fair skin.

But cosmetic benefits aside, laser hair removal also offers some medical benefits. For instance, males that suffer from beard rash after shaving can benefit from this treatment by eliminating some of the hair they have to shave in the first place. Laser hair removal is also recommended for males that have very thick hair on their backs or chest.

Laser hair removal can also be an efficient after-surgery follow-up.  For example, in a tummy tuck the cosmetic surgeon cuts through an area of hair growth. Some of the hair will try to grow right through the scar where it can get festered and infected. Laser hair removal can prevent that by eliminating the hairs altogether.



The cost of laser hair removal varies greatly as it depends on a number of factors which include: the amount of area that needs to be treated and the amount of time for doing so, how many sessions are required, the skill level or expertise of the practitioner performing the procedure and where you will be having the procedure.

With regards to the amount of area to be treated, some practitioners do it on a “zone” basis. A zone of 3x3 inches costs an average of $75. For much larger areas such as the entire back, the charge is per hour. In most cases, this is equivalent to $500 an hour. On the other hand, per session charges are usually around $200-250.



As the light emitted by the laser only targets structures that are rich in pigment, the device won’t work on hairs that don’t have that much melanin. The treatment doesn’t work as well on gray and blonde hairs. It works best in the darkest colored hair and hair in the lightest color of skin. When the skin is very fair and light, the laser will go right through it and hit the target hair follicles where the melanin is located.

Laser hair removal produces a limited effect on dark skin because the skin heats up as you try to burn the hair follicle no matter how dark the hair is. Dark skin has lots of melanin so it will absorb the energy and heat up even before the laser reaches the hair follicle. This is why patients with very dark skin are not very good candidates to receive laser hair removal treatment.

Even fair-skinned people who had a tan are not recommended for laser hair removal treatment. Being in the sun can make their skin very sensitive to this kind of light. These people have a higher risk of developing irritation and burns from the treatment. The same goes for people who have diseases that cause the skin to become hypersensitive. These include lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis and porphyrias. This is why it is very important for the practitioner to make a thorough medical history of the patient so if there’s any issues, the safe thing to do is not render laser hair removal.

People who take medications that make the skin very photosensitive or sensitive to light are also not suited to undergo laser hair removal. Such medications include antibiotics like vibramycin, tetracycline and vitamin-A based acne medications. Most patients forget to tell the practitioner about these medications and they start having reactions to the treatment. While some medications are well known for their side effects, there are others that are not so well-known but can cause problems.

Other side effects that may result from the treatment include skin discolorations, blistering, crusting and scarring. These usually happen when too much laser energy is delivered into an otherwise tanned or photosensitive skin. Patients with dark skin are also at greater risk for these side effects. The scarring results from blisters that were not treated properly.

One of the things that practitioners do to avoid these side effects is to stop the treatment once they notice the skin is sensitized. The treatment may also be tried first in an area that can be easily concealed to see what the reaction is. Once confirmed that it’s okay, the treatment can be done on other areas that are larger and more exposed.



After the procedure, the practitioner may recommend using icepacks and/or taking anti-inflammatory topical solutions to relieve any discomfort that can result from the treatment. The discomfort may last for days but it is nothing that can’t be solved by moisturizers or cool compress.

Another thing that practitioners advise is patients who have laser hair removal must not pluck their hair. When you pluck hairs, you throw the follicles into a dormant state called the telogenic phase. When a hair follicle gets dormant, it doesn’t generate a lot of melanin so the laser won’t be able to hit that particular hair.

If the area of the skin that needs to be treated has a large quantity of follicles that are dormant, then that area must not be touched. That’s why practitioners require several treatments—so they can catch all the hair in the active phase. Laser hair removal rarely works with just one treatment.  It is recommended to have 5 to 7 treatments especially if you are among those who have very resilient hair. An interval of 6 weeks per treatment is advised because that’s when the dormant follicles become active enough to produce new hair. Maintenance treatment, on the other hand, must be done at least every six months.



Permanent laser hair removal might seem like a simple procedure for a simple problem but it’s definitely more than that. It is still a medical procedure that carries certain risks. Before opting to undergo this treatment, be sure that the practitioner who will perform the procedure has proper training and credentials.          


Written by Cosmetic Town Editorial Team - AA

Based on an exclusive interview by Dr. Juan Brou in Oklahoma City, OK