We’ve all heard of laser hair removal. But did you know there are actually 4 different types of lasers? (Well, 5 if you include IPL) I didn’t!
But it’s actually kind of important that you understand the different types because it’s not a one-size-fits-all deal with laser hair removal types.
Different lasers are better suited to different skin types so this can impact how successful your hair removal treatment is or how satisfied you are with the outcome.
So, if you’re considering getting a laser hair removal treatment, you’ll want to keep reading to make sure you get the results you want.
This article will introduce you to the different types of lasers, explain why they’re different and help you to choose the best type for your needs.
- What is Laser Hair Removal?
- Pros and Cons of Laser Hair Removal
- Laser Hair Removal Types
- Other Considerations
- What Is Better IPL Or Laser Hair Removal?
- Does Laser Hair Removal Remove Hair Permanently?
- Can You Get Cancer From Laser Hair Removal?
- How Long Does Laser Hair Removal Last For?
- Which Is The Most Painful Laser Hair Removal Type?
- How Many Sessions Are Needed For Laser Hair Removal?
- How Much Should You Wait Between Sessions? Does It Differ For Different Laser Types?
- To Sum It All Up
What is Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal is a method of hair removal that uses the principle of selective photothermolysis, permanently damaging hair follicles enough to prevent them from producing more hairs in the future.
It works by targeting powerful beams of light at the skin which react with the skin’s pigment and heat the follicles enough to denature them without affecting the surrounding skin.
Studies have found that it is an effective and relatively safe hair reduction treatment, provided of course that the physician is experienced and the right laser type is used for the skin type.
Pros and Cons of Laser Hair Removal
There are so many different methods of hair removal out there that it can be overwhelming weighing up the pros and cons of the different options.
Shaving, waxing, epilating, electrolysis and lasers?! If you’re like me, you might just choose to bury your head in the sand and stick with what’s familiar. But laser hair removal comes with some unique benefits that could make it worth considering.
- Scientifically proven to be effective and safe.
- Saves time and money in the long run as it’s a more permanent solution.
- Lasers can be very precise, targeting dark, coarse hairs.
- There is no risk of ingrown hairs.
- Can be used on the whole body.
- No prickly stubble or waiting for the hair to be long enough to wax.
- Did I mention it’s more permanent?
- Can cause burns and blisters on the skin (though this is the worst case scenario and shouldn’t happen if your technician is using the right wavelength for your skin).
- Requires avoiding the sun before and after which may take holidays or beach time off the cards for a while.
- Can be a little painful, like a rubber band being pinged against your skin but possibly more like a tattoo for others.
- Takes 6-12 treatments to semi-permanently eliminate hairs.
- Not effective against blonde or gray hairs.
The side effects you are likely to experience depend on your skin type and the laser used for your treatment.
You may, of course, be lucky enough to experience no adverse effects, but the most common side effects include minor skin discoloration and acne.
Most laser hair removal providers say you can expect your skin to feel a little sunburned and sensitive for a few days after treatment.
I’ve gone to get laser hair removal for a full Brazilian, armpits and a month ago legs. The most painful all of them, shockingly, were the legs, not the Brazilian. I felt the sunburned sensation on my legs as well as a little acne (which disappeared in a couple of days).
Whereas I felt almost nothing for my armpits or Brazilian and had no side effects.
So, not only does it depend from person to person, but it also depends on the area you’re getting treated.
Laser Hair Removal Types
The 4 different lasers, plus IPL, are listed below in the order of wavelength, with Ruby lasers having the shortest wavelength and Nd:YAG having the longest.
Generally speaking, shorter wavelengths are better for paler skin, and longer wavelengths are better suited to darker skin.
But, don’t get muddled between laser types and laser machine brands. For example, Candela laser hair removal machines are a brand that uses different types of lasers in the different models they produce.
The Ruby laser was the first laser developed for hair removal and is also subsequently the slowest so it’s not as commonly used as some of the other lasers on this list.
It is only suitable for very fair skin as it uses short wavelengths which could cause discoloration on darker skin.
If you have really fair skin and only want a small area treated, like your upper lip or underarms, the Ruby could be a good choice.
The Alexandrite laser is much faster than the ruby. It is ideal for olive skin and has a larger spot size which makes it good for large areas of hair removal.
Even though the Alexandrite has longer wavelengths, it still has high melanin absorption meaning that there is a risk of discoloration and possibly burns on darker skin.
So, if you’re an olive-skinned goddess looking to laser your legs, this could be the laser for you.
Diode laser hair removal, also known as a Pulsed diode array, is a newer hair removal technology that is well suited to the medium range of skin tones and not suited to very light skin types.
It is touted as being more effective but as the lasers are targeted on a small area, the process takes longer and can be more painful.
Also, while diode lasers may have superior hair removal capabilities, they have been found to have a higher likelihood of side effects than other laser types, so it is a case of balancing risk versus benefit.
The Nd:YAG laser type uses longer infrared wavelengths which are only suited to darker skin tones. These wavelengths bypass the melanin in the surface of the skin and seek the more concentrated melanin in the hair.
The Nd:YAG is the go-to laser for dark skin types and is effective on all but fine, light-colored hairs.
Unfortunately, it requires more treatments than other lasers and can be more painful, but, if you have dark skin, this is really the only option.
IPL Hair Removal
IPL is not actually a laser but intense pulsed light therapy. It is not as intense as a laser, as it uses a range of wavelengths whereby the light is less focused on the hair follicles.
It is cheaper than other laser hair removal technologies but only really suited to fairer skin and hairs.
Optimal Pulse Technology (OPT)
OPT is another technology that gets lumped in with laser hair removal but doesn’t actually use lasers.
It is described by some as being an advanced type of IPL, and while it is used for hair removal, it is also used for other cosmetic treatments such as minimizing the appearance of large pores, veins, and blemishes.
This is the one I got done on my legs, will see the effect on it in a month.
Now that you’ve been introduced to the different laser types, you should know which type is going to be best for your skin tone. But it’s not just the laser that matters.
You should also check that the machine itself is an FDA approved model and that there is some kind of cooling mechanism included.
Choosing a reputable clinic is also really important. A laser used in the wrong way could be incredibly harmful so it’s essential that only the most experienced and knowledgeable technicians carry out the treatment.
The facility also needs to have top hygiene standards and do its best to keep you comfortable.
What Is Better IPL Or Laser Hair Removal?
IPL takes more treatments to achieve longer lasting hair removal than laser technology, but there is actually no scientific evidence that one is better than the other.
Both can be equally effective. It depends on the machine used and the other settings applied.
Does Laser Hair Removal Remove Hair Permanently?
Eventually, after enough treatments, you can achieve significantly reduced hair growth with laser hair removal. It basically depends on enough hair follicles being put out of action.
As hair has different growth stages, you’ll need enough treatments to target all of the follicles when they’re in their active growth stage.
But laser hair removal is not permanent.
It’s a very long lasting hair removal method, but not permanent as in – no more hairs for the rest of your life. You may need a check-up every few years, to keep the hairs at bay and not let them grow out.
Can You Get Cancer From Laser Hair Removal?
Currently, it is believed that laser hair removal does not increase your chances for cancer. However, this is a hard question to answer as the technology is still relatively new.
How Long Does Laser Hair Removal Last For?
This depends on how many treatments you’ve had and how many hair follicles the lasers have been effective on.
Which Is The Most Painful Laser Hair Removal Type?
This depends on your skin type and hair color. If you have fair skin and dark hairs, you will likely experience less pain than someone with olive skin and hairs that are not significantly darker than the skin.
How Many Sessions Are Needed For Laser Hair Removal?
This varies depending on your skin, hair type and the part of your body you’re getting done. For example, I saw improvements for my armpits after the first session, whereas with the bikini and legs – zero, nada, zilch improvement was made!
Short answer: it can be anywhere from 6 to 12 treatments.
How Much Should You Wait Between Sessions? Does It Differ For Different Laser Types?
The length of time you wait between sessions is related to the hair growth phases, not the type of laser.
As the laser technology is only effective on hair follicles in their active growth phase, each time you receive treatment, all of the hair follicles that are in a different phase (ie. Intermediate or resting/shedding) will not be affected.
Waiting about a month between IPL treatments and 6-10 weeks between laser hair removal treatments is an effective way of catching different hairs in their active growth phase.
To Sum It All Up
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that your questions surrounding laser hair removal types have been answered.
Remember that you have the right to ask a potential clinic as many questions as you need in order to ensure that you and your skin are going to be safe and well looked after.
Have you used laser hair removal? What was your experience? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments below.