Dr. Josh Fox on the latest in lasers making permanent hair removal less hair-raising

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According to cosmetic industry figures, laser hair removal is the most popular aesthetic treatment for women under 35 and is second only to Botox for women 35 and older. Dr. Fox offers tips on the newest laser treatments for hair removal with no pain and all gain.

With beach season on the horizon, spring is the time to prep for a smooth summer. Electrolysis used to be the only method available for permanent hair removal, but the advent of lasers offers a more cost and time efficient alternative. According to cosmetic industry figures, laser hair removal is the most popular aesthetic treatment for women under 35 and is second only to Botox for women 35 and older.

With electrolysis, a very thin electrified needle is inserted into the hair follicle so that the heat burns the follicle and prevents regrowth. With laser epilators, a low-energy laser directs light on the target area. “The energy from the laser is absorbed by a pigment in the bulb of each hair called melanin, which prevents the hair from growing,” says Dr. Josh Fox, founder and director of New York-based Advanced Dermatology and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery.

While some hair may grow back in the targeted area, they are usually lighter in color and thinner than before. Permanent removal may take anywhere from four to eight rounds of treatment to ensure coverage of all follicles in their growth cycle. “The number of required treatments varies depending on each client's unique metabolism, hormone level, hair quality and number of hair follicles,” says Dr. Fox. It is usually recommended that treatments not be done on tanned skin, another reason to start the process before summer.

Electrolysis can be time consuming, painful, and expensive since each hair follicle must be treated individually. Laser treatments are faster and in the long run, often less costly because many hairs are treated simultaneously. Also, the hairs don’t have to grow out before treatment as they do with electrolysis, which only works when hair is growing. There is not the risk of scarring which there is with electrolysis.

According to a recent study by Celibre Medical Corporation, 97% of women who removed unwanted hair using lasers have been satisfied with the outcome. This finding is significantly higher than the satisfaction of electrolysis (70%) or adhesions (55%). There are also laser home removal systems, but testers at hairremoval.org found that while those devices can slow hair growth slightly, for permanent and individually tailored results they recommend going to a licensed professional.

“Dermatologists use several kinds of lasers depending on the skin tone and needs of each patient,” says Dr. Barry Silver, a dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery. “An outdated laser can feel like hot pins and needles.”

One common brand of laser is the Alexandrite (which includes the GentleLASE & Apogee devices). The Alexandrite beam has a longer pulse, allowing it to access deeper follicles, and is commonly used for people with very light skin tones. The long pulsed Nd:YAG laser is commonly used for people with dark skin tones because of the reduced melanin absorption of this wavelength. This type of laser includes the Gemini & Lyra device, the first FDA-approved laser for all skin types.

The Soprano is a diode epilator that is appropriate for any hair type. This state of the art device was declared “the Maserati of lasers” on the television show “The Doctors.” Instead of a pulse method, the Soprano treats in a continuous motion of low level pulses that feel slightly warm but painless. The laser energy does not go into the skin as a painful blast, but heats the hair follicles gradually and gently.

“The patient feels less pain because the energy is a lower pulse,” says Dr. Fox. “The doctor is delivering the energy much more quickly.” This system produces faster results than some other options and most patients are hair free within four to five treatments.

Since these procedures usually start with a consult, Dr. Fox and Dr. Silver have a few tips for how to optimize that opportunity:

Know what you’re getting into “Ask if the laser hair removal device they plan to use can safely and effectively treat your hair,” says Dr. Silver. “Ask the specific name of the laser machine in order to research it.” He advises that clients find out what kind of results can be expected, how many treatments they will need, and an estimate of total costs.”

Practice makes perfect Doctors can do a test patch on the skin during a consultation. “A small part of your face and body can be treated by the laser in order to see how the skin will react,” explains Dr. Fox. “If you’re concerned about potential discomfort, inquire about ways they can make the treatment as comfortable as possible.”

Know what to expect “Ask about pre and post treatment instructions and for an information sheet on that, if available,” says Dr. Silver. “Most practitioners have specific recommendations that they want you to follow.” Understand what is expected to do before and after each treatment, as well as in between sessions.

About: Joshua L. Fox, M.D., F.A.A.D., earned his medical degree from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He completed an internship at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, followed by a three-year dermatology residency at the New York University School of Medicine. A Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Fox is a leading authority in the field of dermatology, with an expertise in skin cancer, acne, cosmetic surgery and laser procedures and is the author of many dermatologic publications. He is the founder and director of Advanced Dermatology, P.C. of New York and New Jersey and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery and is on the panel of the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. He is the director of a fellowship program in Laser & Cosmetic Surgery.http://www.advanceddermatologypc.com. Dr. Fox is also the founder and President of New Age Skin Research Foundation, a national, non-profit [501 (C) (3)] health organization committed to improving the quality of life of those with skin conditions through research and education.

About: Barry Silver, M.D. F.A.A.D. graduated magna cum laude from the University of Connecticut and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society. He attended the Medical College of Virginia (Virginia Commonwealth University), where he earned his medical degree and was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. He completed a Harvard University Dermatology residency program at Massachusetts General Hospital and earned his dermatology board certification in 1977. Dr. Silver was an active member of the Summit Medical Group in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey for over three decades. He provides medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology services, with special surgical skills in a wide range of dermatologic procedures. He offers precision treatment of varied conditions, from spider veins to anti-aging treatments, and also has expertise in Botox® treatments and facial fillers such as JuvadermTM, Restylane® and Radiesse®.

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