Laser hair reduction can drastically reduce unwanted hair, making it so you can skip shaving and waxing for weeks or even months. But which laser is best for you? At Palo Alto Laser and Skin Care, we have a large suite of lasers so you can get customized results. This includes the Candela GentleMax Pro, which has a dual wavelength of 1064 long-pulsed and 755 Alexandrite lasers. The Alexandrite is often recommended for lighter skin tones while the YAG is a must-have for darker skin tones. In fact, Cosmopolitan recently listed YAG as the laser for those rich in melanin. For years, darker-toned clients couldn’t get laser treatment because of the risk for hypopigmentation (unwanted skin lightening). That all changed with YAG.
YAG was developed for several reasons, including the increased demand for inclusivity. All laser hair reduction works by emitting a light beam that targets darker melanin—melanin is found in hair follicles. That energy turns into heat, which then damages the follicle and slow or stops the growth. Laser hair treatment is truly a reduction, rather than a complete elimination, but the results are often good enough that clients can skip or stop hair removal efforts for a prolonged period of time. The only way to stop hair growth for good is via electrolysis, a very painful, expensive, and long process (which is why it is rarely offered anymore).
A History of Lasers
In years past, those with lighter skin tones and dark hair were the ideal candidates for obvious reasons: lasers could easily “tell” the difference between skin color and hair follicle color. This meant that these clients weren’t at risk of harming their skin. Obviously, those with darker skin tones, should they use lasers of the past, were going to have an experience where the laser targets both the melanin in the hair follicle and their skin (as melanin is also what gives skin its pigmentation). The result was a painful experience where the hair might be inhibited, but the skin was also affected—hypopigmentation, burning, and scarring were all unfortunate common side effects when lasering hair of darker-skinned patients before YAG.
Today, lasers like YAG are a lot “smarter” and more advanced. They are able to go past the surface melanin on the skin and target only the melanin in hair follicles. In other words, they can tell the difference between skin and hair. YAG goes deeper into the skin than any other laser deemed safe for darker skin tones, so it further bypasses the skin’s upper layer and is deemed the safest laser for these skin tones.
Getting Ready for Laser Hair Reduction
The first step in laser hair reduction is a consultation, which is always complimentary at our medical day spa. This is where you will be matched with the best laser for you, and if you have darker skin then it’s probably going to be the YAG laser. It’s important to avoid waxing or performing any other hair removal before treatment that removes the hair follicle entirely. Shaving is recommended to enjoy a more comfortable treatment (and so the laser doesn’t “see” longer hairs on the surface). Since lasers like YAG delve beneath the skin’s surface to find the hair follicle, as long as the hair has not been removed entirely, laser skin treatments will still work.
Exfoliating before treatment should also be avoided, such as using retinol topicals. Try to avoid such products or treatments for at least one week before your hair reduction session. Shave within 24 hours before your treatment and ensure skin is dry and clean when you arrive for your appointment. Laser hair reduction is most often described as feeling like a rubber band snapping on the skin and is tolerable for most people. However, for sensitive areas or sensitive skin, a numbing cream may be applied to maximize comfort.
To find out more about the lasers available at our office or to schedule your consultation, get in touch with us today. In addition to laser hair reduction, there are a variety of treatments that can help you get swimsuit ready in time for summer break, such as Emsculpt and microneedling. Simply call Palo Alto Laser and Skin Care to schedule your complimentary consult or, for an even faster response, complete the online contact form.