In recent years, laser clinics, medical spas, and plastic surgeons’ offices have been somewhat loose with their use of the term “permanent hair removal.” While lasers have been widely approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the removal of unwanted hair, the FDA has also been strict about the marketing of these treatments as permanent hair removal solutions. The reason for this restriction isn't so much a statement on quality as much as it is about quantity. Scientific studies on Laser Hair Removal success rates have proven that the treatments can, in fact, permanently remove hair, with hair regrowth reduced by 80% or more with many patients. However, because some hair will typically grow back, the procedure must be identified as “permanent hair reduction,” rather than “permanent hair removal.”
So, is laser hair removal permanent? It is not 100% permanent in all cases. But, semantics aside, laser hair removal still delivers the closest thing possible to permanent results for the treatment of extensive areas like the back, arms, chest, legs, and bikini line. Even for the few hairs that might return during the cycles of hair growth, most will usually appear lighter and finer after a laser treatment. Stack those results head-to-head against shaving and waxing, and the idea of “permanent hair reduction” sounds all the more miraculous in its own right.
The simplicity and appeal of smooth, hairless skin leads millions of people to explore their options in permanent body hair removal every year. Today, there are numerous choices of products and treatments that promise minimal to substantial levels of permanent hair reduction. Choosing the right one can depend on everything from the area of the body being treated to a person's tolerance for pain.
Electrolysis: When it comes to a permanent hair removal as the FDA defines it, Electrolysis is the one hair removal procedure that generally fits the bill. This is because Electrolysis treatments function on a follicle by follicle basis, utilizing a small needle with an electrical current to remove individual hairs permanently. Compared to hair removal depilatories, waxing products, or cream treatments like Vaniqa® for hair removal, Electrolysis is a far more effective option. However, permanent hair removal system though it may be, Electrolysis does have some considerable downsides that have prevented it from dominating the industry.
Perhaps most significantly, Electrolysis is simply impractical for the treatment of larger areas of the body like the legs or arms, and it proves particularly tedious for a major undertaking like permanent back hair removal. While it may be a better option for the upper lip, chin, and brows, Electrolysis sessions are still very time consuming and consistently uncomfortable and even painful, leading many people to quit their treatments before completing the necessary sessions. Some patients with darker skin also complain about occasional Electrolysis side effects like scarring or permanent discoloration. These are risks that have been better addressed by laser hair technology, which had advanced to the point where obstacles between laser hair removal and dark skin patients have all but been eliminated.
All things considered, as laser hair removal alternatives go, Electrolysis is a procedure worthy of consideration, but also hampered by issues that regularly balance out its position as the only permanent hair removal system.
Today's Hair Removal Lasers: It's difficult to overstate the advances that have been made in Laser Hair Removal over the past decade. In the past, the effectiveness of some hair lasers was limited by a patient's skin pigmentation. Many of the original lasers for hair removal, such as the Ruby, were simply not compatible with the melanin present in darker skin, and others, like early Alexandrite and Diode lasers, could require ten or more sessions to achieve permanent hair reduction for people of color. But newer developments like the Nd:Yag and the IPL or “pulsed light” systems have proven to be more effective lasers for African American skin, delivering quick, efficient results without the risk of serious pain or scarring. Along with effectively solving the issue of dark skin and laser hair removal, today's advanced hair lasers also work on previously incompatible hair pigments, as well, including blonde, red, and even gray hair!
So, with people of many skin and hair types now eligible for laser treatments, and with the procedure becoming increasingly effective and safe, it's no surprise that laser hair removal prices have also been dropping accordingly. It's the old supply-and-demand theory from your economics class, and it's making laser hair removal a viable option for anyone seeking the nearest, practical thing to permanent hair removal. As far as your own laser hair removal cost considerations go, there are many factors that come into play, including area of the body being treated, what part of the country you live in, what clinic you're attending, and what type of laser technology is being used.
As mentioned earlier, there are several types of lasers in use for permanent hair reduction, and dozens of different hair laser manufacturers. Some of today's more popular and most advanced brands include the Aurora (IPL) by Syneron, the LightSheer (Diode) by Coherent Star, the GentleLASE (Alexandrite) by Candela, and SoftLight (Nd:Yag) by Thermolase. You can learn more about these brands and many more in our hair laser manufacturers section. And there's a wealth of extra laser hair removal information on the Frequently Asked Questions page.
If you're not convinced that laser hair removal is right for you at the moment, there are other hair removal options out there. Unlike laser treatments and the aforementioned Electrolysis, however, none of these alternatives can accomplish permanent hair reduction, let alone permanent hair removal. Nonetheless, many people still stand by traditional techniques like hair waxing. There are countless salons that offer waxing, and many waxing products allow people to remove hair at home. The problems with this method, however, are obvious: it's extremely painful, the results don't last, and there are plenty of regions that are impossible to treat on your own. To avoid the pain, some people turn to hair removal depilatories like Nair or Veet, which are chemical creams that basically melt hair off. Again, this only gets rid of hair for a matter of days, and it's rarely effective on particularly coarse hair. Another popular product, Vaniqa®, is also a cream treatment, but is not a depilatory. Instead, using Vaniqa® for hair removal involves the chemical reaction of an enzyme inhibitor, which is applied to the skin to slow down the regrowth of hair. It's approved by the FDA, but is not considered a viable replacement for procedures like Electrolysis or laser hair removal.
Another one of the hair removal products getting a lot of attention lately is the new at home hair laser hair removal system, TRIA. Developed by SpectraGenics, the TRIA hair removal system is the first diode laser to get FDA approval for at-home use. Many experts believe the TRIA is just the first in what could be a series of home-based laser hair removal systems likely to enter the market in the next few years. While approved by the FDA, the long term success of the TRIA and other at-home hair lasers remains in question. The idea of an easy, DIY permanent hair removal treatment is a great one that is certainly plausible in the future, but for now, the better option is still to put your laser hair removal treatment in the hands of an experienced laser technician.