Laser Hair Removal: How many treatments do you need?
If you are considering laser hair removal, you should know how many treatments you will truly need, and what type of a financial investment you will be making. I want to explain how many treatments you may need and why, so that you can make a more informed decision before you invest in laser hair removal.
I have people come in to our clinic after they have had a series of laser hair removal treatments at another clinic, and they are disappointed because they think it didn’t work. The problem is that many laser technicians will over promise and under deliver. The common misconception is that you will only need (let’s say 5) treatments. I don’t care what “they” tell you, this is almost never true! Don’t be surprised if you are told that “they” have the most effective laser on the planet and they can give you better results with only a few treatments. Maybe you will be told that you are perfect candidate, so you will need less than other people. If you buy this, I have a bridge to sell you. I do think that some technologies are more effective than others, however, even with the best technique and most effective equipment, you will still need several treatments. Even if you are the most ideal candidate in the entire world, you will still need several treatments.
Growth Cycle of Hair
Hair follicles go through a cycle of activity commonly refered to as the hair growth cycle. Each active hair follicle will continuously cycle through three phase of growth ( anagen, catagen and telogen). It is also important to understand that each hair follicle acts independently, so not all of the hair is in the same stage of growth at the same time. This is why it is necessary to have a series of laser hair removal treatments, scheduled at specific intervals.
Anagen Stage- Active Growing Stage
Catagen Stage – A Brief Transitional Stage
Telogen Stage – Resting Stage ( hair sheds at end of telogen stage)
With laser hair removal we are most concerned with hair in the anagen stage, because this is when the hair is at it’s maximum depth. The laser energy is absorbed by the melanin or water in the hair and we need to deliver the energy to the maximum depth of the follicle. This means that hair in the catagen or telogen stages of growth may singe and fall out with treatment, but they are not at thier maximum size or depth so they will likely grow back. So…. to reiterate, hair that is in the anagen stage of growth responds the best to laser hair removal.
The length of each cycle will depend on the region of the body, it will also vary from person-to-person and from time-to- time. Unfortunatly, in most areas the number of telogen hairs out number the amount of anagen hairs. For example the axillae (under arm) area is estimated to have about 70% of the hair in a telogen stage and the telogen stage in this area typically lasts for about 3 months. Again, this is not an exact science because there are several variables with the growth of hair and each idividual hair acts indepentaly. This means that the best you can hope for in this area is about 20% reduction per treatment and if by some sort of miracle your personal cycle of hair growth corasponds perfectly with your scheduled treatments you can complete your hair removal process with 5 treatments. However… you probably have a better chance of getting struck by lightining.
We all are born with a certain amount of hair follicals which do not increase with age, however the activity of the follicles do increase. We all have many, many potential hair follicles. Potential follicals are dormant hair follicles that are not active (currently producing a hair), but have the ability to produce a hair if stimulated by the appropriate hormone. Trust me when I tell you that you will likely see new hairs pop up in areas that you have never had them before. This is important to understand because laser hair removal only effects hair follicles that have a hair in the follicle at the time of treatment. Laser hair removal treatments can not prevent potential follicals from having the ability to produce a hair in the future. This is another reason that everyone needs to plan on having maintanance treatments after the intial series of treatments.
How Many Hair Removal Treatments Will I Need?
An initial series of treatments are necessary and occasional maintenance treatments are almost always needed after the initial series. For facial areas, you should expect to do an initial series of 12 treatments (once a month for a year). For body areas, you should expect to do an initial series of 8 treatments (scheduled about 6-8 weeks apart over a year).
There is no way to predict exactly how many maintenance treatments you will need. Some people need one every year or so, while others require several treatments for several years. This is due mostly to genetics and hormones, however other factors include technique, technology, and patient compliance. There are some things you can do to help improve your results. Keep your treatments on the appropriate schedule, avoid tanning, search for an experienced laser technician and a reputable clinic that is known to use better equipment. Do not wax, tweeze, or remove the hair from the follicle before or between treatments. If you have excessive hair growth, you should consult with your doctor to address any medial conditions that may contribute to hair growth.
Questions you should ask before you pay
Who will be performing your treatment?
Will you always see the same person or will you have somebody new each time? Do they have the appropriate certification and training, how long have they been doing laser hair removal and how long have they been at that specific clinic ?
Who is the medical director?
Are you having treatment in a medical practice or a med spa ? What are the credentials of the medical director ? Is it a Nurse, Dermatologist, Plastic Surgeon, Chiropractor, Dentist, Veterinarian? Is the medical director on site? How often are they in the office and are they available to see you if you experience a complication?
What is available for pain management?
Yes, laser hair removal hurts. The good news is that we can do things to help. Usually, we will apply a topical numbing cream before treatment, and in our clinic we use a proprietary formula that is extremely effective. I have a few other tricks that I will not share.
How much will it cost?
Many med spas have tricky packages or “plans”. Find out how many treatments are included in your package and how you are expected to pay. Do you need to pay for a full package all up front, or can you make payments? How much will additional treatments cost after your initial series? Is there a discount? Do you need to buy another package or can you pay as you go? If you are offered some sort of contract or membership, be careful, and be sure to read between the lines! You should also be warned that it is not uncommon for a med-spa to go out of business, and not tell clients or employees. You may show up one day with the doors locked, and, if you prepaid for a package, you can kiss your money good-bye.
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