Neil J. Zemmel, MD FACS* † ‡
Steven J. Montante, MD* †
Megan Russell, PA-C
Erin Stratton, NP-BC
Richmond Aesthetic Surgery
611 Watkins Centre Parkway Ste 350
Midlothian, VA 23114

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Laser Hair Removal

Unwanted hair is an embarrassing problem for both men and women. Noninvasive laser hair removal has become the gold standard for permanent hair removal with no down time and little maintenance needed. Shaving, waxing, and electrolysis are not only painful, but must be repeated indefinitely. Our plastic surgeons and skilled team have the experience and knowledge to safely help reduce and possibly eliminate unwanted hair from any part of the body or face.

How Laser Hair Removal Works

At Richmond Aesthetic Surgery we use an Alexandrite laser that is shown to provide excellent results for all skin types. It is proven effective on all parts of the body including bikini, armpits, legs, arms, face, stomach, chest, and back. The laser targets the pigment chemical called melanin of the hair follicle and sends a heated beam of light to permanently alter the hair follicle and eliminate growth. Patients with darker hair and fair skin are the best candidates, but it is safe and effective in darker skin tones at lower settings. Unfortunately, the laser is not effective for blonde, grey, or white hair because the laser cannot differentiate between the skin and the hair due to the lack of pigment. Patients should expect to have approximately 6 treatments, each one 4-6 weeks apart, for the maximum results. Hair grows in three different cycles and in order to have permanent hair removal you must treat the areas when the hair is in the active growth phase. In any one area you will have hair in all three stages which is why multiple treatments are required for the best results. Most patients can expect 50% reduction of hair after the first treatment.

What to Expect from Laser Hair Removal Procedure

Laser hair removal should always be performed by a licensed and knowledgeable practitioner. At Richmond Aesthetic Surgery laser hair removal is always performed by a Physician Assistant or a licensed Master Esthetician. Our surgeons ensure patients receive the highest quality treatments that yield the highest quality results. There is very little preparation required, making it easy to do during a lunch break or before work. Most appointments only take 15-60 minutes depending on the size of the area to be treated. Laser hair removal is a virtually painless procedure and no local anesthetic is required. Patients should expect to feel a warm sensation during the procedure due to the heat produced in order to damage each hair follicle. The laser blows cold air onto the treated area for additional comfort.

Patients should shave approximately 2 days prior to the procedure to ensure hair is about 3mm in length. When the hair is too long, more of the laser energy is expended eliminating hair external to the skin and not at the hair root sheath. This will lessen the efficiency of the laser and reduce that total amount of hair removed per session. It is best not to wax or use depilatory creams for at least 4 weeks prior to the treatment to increase efficacy. Our plastic surgeons also recommend that patients not tan the areas to be treated, as this will reduce the amount of hair eliminated per session.

Every patient responds differently to laser hair removal. There is always a small chance that the hair will not be completely eliminated within the six treatments. In most cases, hair production is eliminated by approximately 90% and the hair that remains is much finer than prior to treatment.

After Care for Laser Hair Removal

There are very few complications related to laser hair removal. The most common side effects include redness and mild swelling of the treated areas that resolve in about two days. This can be treated with Aloe Vera gel and cold compresses that will be given to you immediately following the procedure. There is no down time for activities with laser hair removal. We recommend avoiding the sun or very hot showers for the first 48 hours to avoid aggravation to the skin. Dr. Zemmel and his team will provide you with detailed instructions prior to the procedure.

Stages of Hair Growth

Hair is present on almost all the surfaces of the body in both men and women. There are many factors that contribute to the growth of hair, including exercise, diet, genetics, hormones and hair type. It is also known that hair grows the quickest during the winter making it the best time to begin permanent laser hair removal treatments. Hair growth occurs in three cycles: anagen phase, catagen phase, and the telogen phase. Once a hair goes through all of the phases it then starts all over again.

The Anagen Phase

This phase is the active growth phase of hair and is the longest of all three. Genetics is the main factor that influences this stage of hair growth. The hair continues to lengthen as dead cells of keratin are continually pushed to the surface of the skin. As a long as a hair stays in this phase, it will continue to grow for up to eight years. The average rate of hair growth is 1.25 centimeters per month and 85% of hair on the head is in the antagen phase at one time. It is during this stage only that permanent laser hair removal is effective.

The Catagen Phase

After the anagen phase is complete, hair then enters the catagen phase, also known as the transitional phase. During these two weeks, the papilla detaches from the hair follicle and does not allow any more nutrients to reach the hair. The sebaceous glands, which provide oil to the skin, also secrete less sebum, and in return hair growth ceases and the hair follicle shrinks in size. The hair is dormant during this phase but is not shed.

Telogen Phase

The telogen phase is the final stage of hair growth and lasts approximately three months. During this time the hair is still attached to the follicle but does not grow. A new hair begins to grow in the anagen phase and the existing hair strand is pushed out by the new growth. We lose almost 100 hairs in a given area when the telogen phase is complete. Fortunately for humans, only 15% of our hair is in the telogen phase at a given time so the shedding goes unnoticed.