The Definitive Guide to Laser Hair Removal
We asked two smart people about how it really works, and how much it should cost.
We asked two smart people about how it really works, and how much it should cost.
As we reach the tailend of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Tech Tuesday, and whatever the hell else people are doing these days, we've seen no shortage of deals. This includes cosmetic packages; the Internet seems to be overflowing with an abundance of botox, lasers, fillers and the like. But when these deals cost south of $100 and are at shady, no-name holes in the wall...are they really worth it? Let alone safe?
We spoke with with the beauty and laser experts from Sweden's Klinike, sisters Johanna and Josefin, about what to expect from laser hair removal as well as how to spot a bad deal. We're always game for a good bargain, but if it means no results, why waste your money? Read our interview with the certified healthcare professionals to learn all about laser's do's and don'ts.
If someone is looking for a place to get laser done, are there any ways of telling from looking online if a clinic is good or bad?
I think the best way is to see if they have any doctors connected to them through the clinic. Next one is, I think, the name of the laser, because you have diode lasers. Diode laser is a standard for hair removal. It’s used for only hair removal, so we don’t do any other things with it. We take away hair, and nothing else. And of course, it’s like a car. You drive with a car, but what kind of car do you have? Is it a Ferrari or a Fiat? You need a strong one, and a safe one. So, the price in Swedish Krona, is between 100,000 SEK ($11,000) to 1,000,000 SEK ($110,000). So, it’s a big difference between lasers. And, one important thing is that you go as deep as the diode laser should go. It’s like 800 nanometer. You need the laser to go exactly the same wavelength the entire treatment.
What’s symptomatic of a bad laser? Is it bad because it’s not even, or it’s not strong enough?
If it’s not strong enough, you won’t get the results. Maybe in the beginning you will, because you’ve scared the hair follicles to not come back. For the lower part of the body, it could take half a year. And then it [snaps]. It comes back even more. And then the hair is laying in the skin, not becoming hair. So it can cause inflammation.
So you can make it worse, basically.
Exactly. So if you don’t use a strong laser, it can cause a reaction of more hair. And then if you have one who shoots on different wavelengths, you can burn the skin. It’s a big difference between IPL and laser. Many patients who come here think that laser and IPL are the same thing.
That’s a big difference because laser has a focused wavelength. It’s called a chromophore and they only react if they have a chromophore. And, it’s meeting. It’s melanin in the skin and the hair and it’s hemoglobin in the blood, and of course black and brown pigments, like if you have tattoos or something. So it’s safer because you know it’s interacting with chromophores. Some of them are making an effect on the surface and some of them are making an effect on the lower part of the skin.
Is there ever a good reason to use IPL?
If you want to take away pigments or pigmentation in the skin, or small vessels.
But not for hair.
Can be good, but there’s also a risk that something else could happen. IPL can only treat really light people safely. And this one [diode] can treat people with darker skin.
I’ve seen a lot of things that essentially say people with darker skin can’t really do hair removal.
It’s really important that you have a difference between the hair and the skin, of course. If you have really dark skin, then you need to have black hair to get a result. And when you either have really light hair or really dark skin, those are the hardest customers to treat because it takes longer and is more risky. And we also like coarse hair; it’s easier if it’s coarse. Because then the laser will find the hair and go down to the end of the follicle and burn it.
Does the hair get less coarse after every treatment?
So, during the sessions, we cannot kill the hair in the transition phase. But, we can make them less coarse, so they’re thinner and lighter. And, often it’s hard in the end to get them.
So you’ll maybe notice more difference the first couple sessions than the last couple because of that?
Mhm. And the key to getting a good result is that you have hair in the follicle. Because the laser meets the hair and the melanin in the hair and when they react it becomes really warm. It gets to be 70 degrees and goes down to the follicle and with the heat, destroys the follicles.
So you shouldn’t wax before you come because you need to have hair.
No, you need hair in the follicle. And you need to have as many as possible. Because if you wax, you will destroy one growth phase at least, and then it’s gonna take time to grow back. So we have to wait at least 30 days before treating if you have waxed.
People get really attracted to low prices when it comes to lasers, but they also get bad results. What’s the typical window one should be expecting
We get some phone calls of people saying [they want to pay] cost [$200 for their whole body. [laughs] That’s a big no no. Because, if you have a machine that costs [$110,000], you can’t take that price. That’s impossible. If you look at the big clinics, if you look at the laser names. Like from Luminous, Candela, Alma lasers, you can trust them. If you have a machine and a good person that can operate it, you should get a result, and if not, then we can’t do anything about it because it’s individual. But it’s gonna cost you.
There’s no cheap way of doing it.
What should someone be wary of if they take a certain medication or have had something before they do laser?
Sometimes, with antibiotics, you can react and be sensitive to the light, and with homeopathic medicines, they can be sensitive to the light. So it’s very important that you know what you can react to, and also, if you have sensitive skin, like having breakouts often when you’re shaving, then you’re of course going to get the reaction of the laser as well, it’s important to know that. But it will disappear of course.
So it’s not necessarily a reason to not get laser, but it’s just to know that that might happen.
And also your skin type, it’s important to know that. If you have a dark skin type, from 3 or 4 and up on the Fitzpatrick scale, then it’s very important to get a laser that can treat your skin type. So maybe it takes a bit more sessions to get a result. If you have a skin type 2, and you go out in the sun, you can go up to a skin type 4. So, don’t get sunburnt. Not before, because then we need to lower the energy, which is less efficient. And if you have dark, coarse hair, that’s not a problem, but if you have like, Swedish, fine, light, and ash brown hair, that’s not a good combination because it’s not a big difference between hair and skin color. But it’s very important to not go into the sun for like 2 weeks after the treatment because it may cause some inflammation in the skin and the melanin, the cells that make you brown could cause pigmentations around the treated area. So don’t go out in the sun before or after the treatment.
What are the other do’s and don’ts for before and after?
No medication that is photosensitive, and we don’t treat any pregnant women, of course.
Should you shower right after?
When you treat the skin, it’s getting warm. And when it’s warm, the pores open up and that’s why you don’t want to get really sweaty, that’s not good. But taking a shower, that’s okay. That’s clean. You shouldn’t go to a big swimming area.
What type of hygiene should you be looking for if you go somewhere to get laser? How do you know it’s “clean?”
That’s really important. That’s really, really important. If they have personal nurses or doctors, a medical staff.
It’s like a degree?
Yes. In our degree, you need to follow some standard in your profession. So when you come here, we’re nurses, we are doing all we can to protect you from bacteria and viruses. We have a hygiene standard. But if you don’t have any nurses or doctors, they don’t need to follow those kinds of rules.
But you don’t necessarily need to have a degree to do laser, right?
In Sweden, we have no rules about it. Hopefully we will get a new law that will change the whole beauty industry. But, nowadays, now it’s free for everyone to buy a laser and just start.
How often should one expect to have to come back after “finishing” their treatment?
So, if you treat the face, it’s the hardest part of the body, they have a lot of seeds. So, we always say that you should come to at least 10 sessions, and then it’s gonna grow back or you’re gonna get new hair after 5 years or 10 years.
You mean it lasts for five or ten years?
Yes. Because the ones that we destroy with the laser, here, they are destroyed. But the new ones, they will come back. The reasons they often grow back is often hormones. So, when you’re a guy, testosterone, or for a woman, estrogen. So if you give birth, it causes hormone changes.
So, it’s not permanent.
It’s not permanent, when you take away what you have now, but there will be more because of the hair seeds.
The information we give to everybody who comes here is how we do it, what the laser does to the hair, how often you need to come back. So for the face, you need to come back every six to eight weeks, and the legs, 10 to maybe 16 weeks; it’s a longer growth period on the legs than on the face. But, when you finish the treatment on your legs, it can have a good result for like 10 years at least.
What do people mostly come in for? Like what parts do you mostly treat?
Face and bikini line. We do treat faces on both females and males.
I’ll hear from friends who’ve done laser that they have one complaint, which is that it grows back a little patchy. Why does that happen?
It’s because of the growth phase. We cannot see which one of the hairs was in the growth phase. So, that’s the reason why we treat the whole area, to find the ones who are in the growth phase.
So, it’s not all in the same growth phase all over your arm.
No, you can count. Around 30% [of hairs] are in the growth phase, 30% in transition phase and 30% in resting phase, and then we wait, for example, in the face, for six to eight weeks, and then, hopefully, as many as possible are back in the growth phase who were in the transition or resting phase. Then we do the new hairs in the growth period. So you can’t get rid of all the hairs in one session. You’re working against a body that wants to have hair.
What’s something else a lot of people ask?
If it hurts.
You have hair that’s getting warm, 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and you’re going to get a reaction during the session and also around the hair. There was one doctor that said that if you don’t get any smell or burned hair, or really swollen on your skin around the hair and general redness, it’s not going to happen. And, I think that’s true. The ones that get a strong reaction afterwards…
Yeah. It’s important. And, with a good laser, you have a good cooling system that cools the surface of the skin.
That it’s very different between every person. So it’s very important that you have, in your mind, that it’s going to take time. Like one to two years. It’s normal, depending on who you are. And the price. If it’s higher, you’ll get a better, longer result. The best results is like five to 10 years after you’ve done the treatments, and then, of course, the few sessions after that are just like checkup sessions. Like every year, one to two times just to have all the hair away. Sometimes, it collects.
Do you guys do a lot of full body? Does it take a long time? Does the actual session take a long time?
Yes, two, two and a half hours, but most of them [who come to us] are hairy people, in one way or another, so it’s not that uncommon that you treat the face, the auxiliaries, the stomach, the bikini, the calves.
The most important, also, is not waxing before you come. You need the hair, it’s like the key. So just shaving. We have some [people with] medical [issues] with hair. You have an aesthetic part of it - some people don’t want to have hair and some have problems with the hair. So you’ve waxed a lot of years, so sometimes the hair doesn’t reach the surface, it goes underneath.
So, it looks ingrown.
Yes, so it’s like a prevention from inflammation in the skin.
We also treat some hormone problems, PCOS. As females, you could get black, coarse hair in the face. And it’s quite common, so many ask if it’s possible to treat because they are afraid of more. And we have some males who want to take away the beard, but often they have low testosterone, so it’s not a strong, hairy, beard. So if you’re going to treat someone with PCOS you really need to have a strong laser and a lot of sessions, of course.