Laser hair removal is the process of hair removal by means of exposure to pulses of laser light that destroy the hair follicle. It had been performed experimentally for about twenty years before becoming commercially available in 1995 and 1996. One of the first published articles describing laser hair removal was authored by the group at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1998. Laser hair removal is widely practiced in clinics, and even in homes using devices designed and priced for consumer self-treatment. Many reviews of laser hair removal methods, safety, and efficacy have been published in the dermatology literature. R. Rox Anderson and Melanie Grossman discovered that it was possible to selectively target a specific chromophore with a laser to partially damage basal stem cells inside the hair follicles. This method proved to be successful, and was first applied in 1996. In 1997, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved this tactic of hair removal. As this technology continued to be researched, laser hair removal became more effective and efficient; it is now a common method in removing hair for long periods of time. Procedure The primary principle behind laser hair removal is selective photo thermolysis, the matching of a specific wavelength of light and pulse duration to obtain optimal effect on a targeted tissue with minimal effect on surrounding tissue. laser hair removal benefits Lasers can cause localized damage by selectively heating dark target matter, melanin, thereby heating up the basal stem cells in the follicle which causes hair growth, the hair follicle, while not heating the rest of the skin. Light is absorbed by dark objects but reflected by light objects and water, so laser energy can be absorbed by dark material in the hair or skin, with much more speed and intensity than just the skin without any dark adult hair or melanin. Melanin is considered the primary chromophore for all hair removal lasers currently on the market. Melanin occurs naturally in the skin and gives skin and hair their color. There are two types of melanin in hair. Eumelanin gives hair brown or black color, while pheomelanin gives hair blonde or red color. Because of the selective absorption of photons of laser light, only hair with color such as black, brown, or reddish-brown hair or dirty blonde can be removed. White hair, light blonde and strawberry blonde hair does not respond well. Laser works best with dark coarse hair. Light skin and dark hair are an ideal combination, being most effective and producing the best results, but lasers such as the Nd:YAG laser are able to target black hair in patients with dark skin with some success. Hair removal lasers have been in use since 1997 and have been approved for "permanent hair reduction" in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration. Under the FDA's definition, "permanent" hair reduction is the long-term, stable reduction in the number of hairs regrowing after a treatment regime. laser hair removal brod Indeed, many patients experience complete regrowth of hair on their treated areas in the years following their last treatment. This means that although laser treatments with these devices will permanently reduce the total number of body hairs, they will not result in a permanent removal of all hair. Laser hair removal has become popular because of its speed and efficacy, although some of the efficacy is dependent upon the skill and experience of the laser operator, and the choice and availability of different laser technologies used for the procedure. Some will need touch-up treatments, especially on large areas, after the initial set of 3–8 treatments. Comparisons with other removal techniques Intense pulsed light A 2006 review article in the journal Lasers in Medical Science compared intense pulsed light epilators and both alexandrite and diode lasers. The review found no statistical difference in short-term effectiveness, but a higher incidence of side effects with diode laser-based treatment. Hair reduction after 6 months was reported as 68.75% for alexandrite lasers, 71.71% for diode lasers, and 66.96% for IPL. Side effects were reported as 9.5% for alexandrite lasers, 28.9% for diode lasers, and 15.3% for IPL. All side effects were found to be temporary and even pigmentation changes returned to normal within 6 months. IPL, though technically not containing a laser, is sometimes incorrectly referred to as "laser hair removal". IPL-based methods, sometimes called "phototricholysis" or "photoepilation", use xenon flash lamps that emit full spectrum light. IPL systems typically output wavelengths between 400 nm and 1200 nm. Filters are applied to block shorter wavelengths, thereby only using the longer, "redder" wavelengths. IPLs offer certain advantages over laser, principally in the pulse duration. While lasers may output trains of short pulses to simulate a longer pulse, IPL systems can generate pulse widths up to 250 ms, which is useful for larger diameter targets. Some current IPL systems have proven to be more successful in the removal of hair and blood vessels than many lasers. Electrolysis Electrolysis is another hair removal method that has been used for over 135 years. Like newer laser technology used properly and with several treatments, electrolysis can be used to remove 100% of the hair from an area and is effective on hair of all colors, if used at an adequate power level with proper technique. But the treatment is slow and tedious compared with typical newer laser hair removal. More hair may grow in certain areas that are prone to hormone-induced growth based on individual hormone levels or changes therein, and one's genetic predisposition to grow new hair. A study conducted in 2000 at the ASVAK Laser Center in Ankara, Turkey comparing alexandrite laser and electrolysis for hair removal on 12 patients concluded that laser hair removal was 60 times faster, less painful and more reliable than electrolysis. It is important to note that the type of electrolysis performed in the study was galvanic electrolysis, rather than thermolysis or a blend of the two. Galvanic current requires 30 seconds to more than a minute to release each hair whereas thermolysis or a blend can require much less. This study thus did not test the capability of all forms of modern electrolysis. Shaving Shaving is a technique in which one removes hair from the skin with a razor. Shaving has been popular as a temporary hair removal technique since at least the 1700s. In 1895, American businessman King Gillette invented a razor blade that was sharp, thin, disposable, and cheap to make. This system was a widespread success and has evolved into the modern disposable razor. Shaving, however, is only temporary and can lead to irritation of the shaved area. Waxing Waxing is another option for hair removal. This method is an efficient way of removing hair; it is longer-lasting than shaving but not permanent. The ancient Egyptians developed a similar mechanism, sugaring, in which one would mix oil and honey then apply it to the skin. As waxing has evolved, there are two types of waxing. In one, the strips are already ready to use, and one can apply it to the skin and peel it off in the direction opposite to the hair growth. Another one involves heating up the wax, applying it to the skin, and then placing a cloth on it and pulling away from the hair growth. Regulation In some countries, including the U.S., hair removal is an unregulated procedure that anyone can do. In some places, only doctors and doctor-supervised personnel can do it, while in other cases permission extends to licensed professionals, such as regular nurses, physician assistants, estheticians, and/or cosmetologists. In Florida, the use of lasers, laser-like devices and intense pulsed light devices is considered medicine, and requires they be used only by a physician, a physician assistant under the supervision of a physician, or an advanced registered nurse practitioner under a protocol signed by a physician. An electrologist working under the direct supervision and responsibility of a physician is also allowed to perform laser hair removal in the state of Florida. Types Several wavelengths of laser energy have been used for hair removal, from visible light to near-infrared radiation. These lasers are characterized by their wavelength, measured in nanometers : Pulse width is one of the most important considerations. The length of the heating pulse relates directly to the damage achieved in the follicle. When attempting to destroy hair follicles the main target is the germ cells which live on the surface of the hair shaft. Light energy is absorbed by the melanin within the hair and heat is generated. The heat then conducts out towards the germ cells. As long as a sufficient temperature is maintained for the required time then these cells will be successfully destroyed. This is absolutely critical – attaining the required temperature is not sufficient unless it is kept at that temperature for the corresponding time. This is determined by the Arrhenius Rate Equation. To achieve these conditions the laser/IPL system must be able to generate the required power output. The main reason why hair removal fails is simply because the equipment cannot generate the desired temperature for the correct time. Spot size, or the width of the laser beam, directly affects the depth of penetration of the light energy due to scattering effects in the dermal layer.