Tag Archives: IPL

L.A.S.E.R. (Hair Removal)

15 Sep

Light Amplification (by the) Stimulated Emission (of) Radiation

Whenever someone says “laser” it makes me think of that scene from Austin Powers when Dr. Evil wants “sharks with frickin laser beams attached to their heads.” Ha.

Mr. Bigglesworth. HAAAAA. I digress. Anyways, this post isn’t about sharks… it’s about laser. Specifically, about Laser Hair Removal.

I was lucky enough to sit in on a class at Catherine Hinds Institute of Esthetics in Woburn, MA. It was a very informative and interesting class. The teacher was very knowledgeable and interesting. So I’m going to pass on that knowledge to you! Yeah!

First and Foremost…

The most important thing I can tell you about laser hair removal is BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU GO. Laser’s are a class 4 medical device, that, unfortunately, can be used by anyone under current state law (Massachusetts). If you go to a laser factory (i.e. Sleek Medspa, or American Laser Co.) the odds are you are being lasered by someone who has no idea what they are doing. Getting burned is not worth saving $50. I assure you. It’s painful and can leave scarring, and you especially don’t want this on your face.

Next. The second most important thing to ask is “do you have a laser or an IPL?” Many people are offering laser hair removal and it’s actually an IPL (Intense Pulse Light).

What is the difference between IPL and Laser?
A lot.

A Laser is Monochromatic.

Monochromatic: One color, red.

An IPL is Polychromatic.

Polychromatic: Every color in the rainbow. And then some!

A Laser is Collimated.

Collimated: Laser light energy will form a bond and stick together.

Think of a laser pointer.

An IPL is non-Collimated.

The bonds don’t stick together. They kind of spray all over the place. There is no focus to the energy. Think of a flashlight.

A Laser is coherent.

Coherent: The bonds of the laser light all travel together on the same wavelength.

An IPL is non-coherent.

The wavelength of energy is all different and erratic. Some are short and some are long. Some are straight and some are squiggly. It’s chaos I tell you. Chaos.  Yes, I spelled Chaos wrong below.  Shhhh.

What does this mean?!?!?!

A laser is focused energy that is attracted to dark color (hair follicle) and burns and kills the follicle.

An IPL tricks the hair into shock to release the hair follicle, but does not kill it. It will come back! (IPL’s do have a purpose, however, they are great for pigmented lesions! Like hyperpigmentation from the sun).


  • Do not wear creams or lotions to your appointment.
  • Do not wear deodorant if you’re getting your underarms treated.

Before Your Laser Hair Removal Starts

Before any treatment is started you should fill out a health history. You are NOT a candidate for laser IF:

  • If you have been in the sun in the last two weeks (this INCLUDES a tanning bed). You will get burned by the laser. And don’t even think about lying to the laser tech. You get burned and it’s YOUR fault.
  • You are on photosensitive medications.
  • You have EVER had gold therapy.
  • You have used retinol the night before (on your face, and you’re getting your face lasered).
  • You have Lupus.
  • You are on immunosuppressive drugs.
  • You can’t stay out of the sun. This is IMPERITIVE.
  • Taken Accutane within the last six months.
  • Have an open wound.
  • Are pregnant.

After it has been confirmed that you are a candidate for laser, the tech will choose which laser is the best for your skin. This is based off your skin type.

Alexandrite vs. ND Yag



Laser’s are named after the gemstone that is used to produce the beam. The two most popular laser’s on the market right now are the Alex and the Yag. What’s the difference?






NeoDymium Yttrium Aluminum Garnet

Alex and ND YAG

Energy Wavelength



Fires both at same time

Skin Types


I, II, III, IV, V, VI (all)


Sun Exposure


(at least 4 weeks)

No recent exposure

(5-7 days)


(at least 4 weeks)

Attracted to

Melanin only

Melanin deeply



Melanin deeply and superficially (best for Asian skin)

How Laser Hair Removal Works
Laser hair removal treatment works through a process called selective photothermolysis. The laser energy works it’s way down the stem of the hair to the bottom of the follicle, destroying the cell. The process is selective in the hair through pigment and not the skin around it. Very light colored blonde or white hair cannot have a laser treatment because there is not enough pigment for the laser to select from.

In the diagram below the picture is of a laser, not an IPL. The pulsed red light is referring to the type of firing of the laser. In aesthetics, it fires in a pulse.

During the laser hair removal treatment a cooling system is used to cool the s is usually applied to the skin, this prevents the area being treated from getting too hot or burning under the heat of the laser. There are three main cooling systems:
Cold air

  • Contact cooling
  • Cryogen spray

How Many Treatments Will You Need?

Hair grows in cycles, which is why you can’t kill all the hair in one treatment (although it will reduce the growth for every treatment you have). The face typically takes more treatments than the body.

Body Part

Avg. Number of Treatments

Treatment Interval








4 weeks





4-6 weeks

Bikini Line




4-6 weeks





4-6 weeks





4-6 weeks





4-8 weeks





6-8 weeks

**Remember, this is an AVERAGE.

What Does It Feel Like?

The laser pulse is often described as a wave of heat with a sensation of a pinprick. Everyone has a different pain tolerance, and some areas hurt more than others. If it is too painful, the laser tech should have numbing cream on hand.

What Should It Look Like Post Treatment?

There are 3 goals in laser hair removal:

  1. Peri follicular edema (swelling around the hair follicle)
  2. The smell of burning hair
  3. Erythema (redness)

ßperifollicular edema

Redness should subside within 24-48 hours. Within 7-10 days the hair follicle which was killed will be expelled through the cell cycle.

Post Treatment Care

  • Apply aloe or lavender cream to the area for rehydration.
  • If blistering, apply an antibiotic cream.
  • Contact the office if you think you have a burn.
  • Normal skin care regiments can be resumed the day after treatment if there are no signs of being burned.

Laser Hair Removal Side Effects

There are usually few side effects with laser hair removal but you should always check with the person who is giving you the treatment to make sure they are qualified. The side effects which can be experienced in some individuals include pigmentary changes in the skin which include darkened or lightened areas, these changes are usually temporary. Rarely some people experience blisters or burns.

What it should not look like:

The evenly spaced circles are from the head of a laser as it pulses along.

If it’s tracked burns, it’s from an IPL.

Does it work?

Yes!!! LASER Hair Removal works when done correctly (with a LASER and by someone who knows how to use it!). The Boston Globe did a great article over the summer. Check it out. http://www.boston.com/news/health/articles/2010/07/05/are_laser_hair_removal_treatments_effective_and_safe/


Infrared LK


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