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The History of Laser Hair Removal

Aug 18, 2007
Are the words tweezing and waxing a regular part of your vocabulary? If so, you are likely one of the millions of people out there who struggle with unwanted hair. The removal of hair as a cosmetic enhancement or purely as a matter of hygiene has been a battle fought by many for centuries. The available methods have for many decades been simple, but only temporary. Shaving, tweezing, and waxing certainly get the job done, but there has long been a need for a more effective and more permanent method of achieving the desired result.

For quite some time, electrolysis has been the best answer to the fight against unwanted hair. Electrolysis involves the use of electrical currents to damage and diminish hair growth. It provides momentary relief from undesired hair, and can, in time, diminish or thin recurring growth. As a result, electrolysis is for many a lifelong pursuit that often does not meet the clients expectations. It can be quite an uncomfortable process as well.

Nearly ten years ago, however, technology began to meet consumer demand when laser hair removal was born. A laser is a very pure and very specific form of light energy. A byproduct of light is heat, which made the laser an ideal tool for the pursuit of permanent hair removal. Laser energy can be applied in a specific way in order to heat and thus damage hair follicles and their surrounding support structures. Once the follicle is heavily damaged or destroyed, it no longer has the ability to grow hair.

This concept became a reality with the advent of a new breed of ruby lasers. Ruby lasers produce a very precise red light output that is ideal for hair removal. It is ideal because red light is drawn to the dark coloration of a hair follicle as a result of a principal known as selective absorption. This is the same phenomenon that may cause you to be warmer on a hot summer day if you wear a dark colored shirt rather than a light colored shirt. Dark colors absorb light and, consequently, heat while light colors typically deflect light energy.

The development of a ruby laser with specifications needed to produce an effective removal of unwanted hair without resulting in side effects or incredible discomfort worked relatively well in the infancy of these technologies, but they clearly proved to provide an optimal result if you had dark hair and light skin. The reason for this was selective absorption. The ruby laser red light was attracted to the dark color of the hair follicle. If a client had tanned or darker skin or light colored hair, the quality of the end result of the treatment was greatly diminished. Dark skin absorbed the energy, which prevented the energy to reach the desired target. Heating the melanin in the skin with a laser like this also led to hypo pigmentation and hyperpigmentation, which is the darkening or lightening of the skin.

A tool that could provide predictable and consistent hair removal for those with fair skin and dark hair was a great thing, but this likely represented the minority of the potential buying public tat could benefit from this service. The next advancement in laser hair removal came in the form of an alexandrite laser. An alexandrite laser is another red light laser, but it was a bit more efficient. Laser engineers and technicians then learned about the benefits of cooling the skin during and after treatments to minimize the discomfort of the patient, as well as the ability to stretch out the length of time for which each laser impulse was delivered in order to avoid potential heat related side effects.

During the late 1990s, many laser engineering groups began to turn their focus to new laser frequencies, or colors of light, in order to further improve the efficiencies or laser hair removal treatments. This led to the use of infra-red light frequencies, or those that are not visible to the naked eye. This meant that the laser light was no longer seeking out specific colors to target when applied to the body, but they were designed to penetrate the skin and to deliver energy that would create the changes and reduce the occurrence of potential side effects such as burning or blistering.

These lasers include nd:YAG lasers and diode lasers. These modalities are among the most popular in use today, and appear to likely be the mainstay in laser hair removal for the foreseeable future.
About the Author
Jason Begley has been a contributed to the medical spa industry for more than 15 years. Jason Begley is also one of the founders of the nations premier esthetician schools as well as the internets top cosmetic dentist directory.
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