The concept of laser hair removal is not new. The technology has been around and popular with consumers for well over a decade – becoming available commercially around 1995, though created even earlier than that. Today its uses extend beyond mere cosmetics and into specialized treatments for some skin disorders. The latest approaches are constantly being developed and at SCALE 2019 Music City we will have all of the latest information. In the meantime, we have a summary for you of the history of laser hair removal, its uses, and technological advancements.
The History of Laser Hair Removal
The only technology proven to permanently eliminate hair – laser hair removal was discovered in 1960. As noted in Curious History, a website that documents interesting facts:
The very first laser designed to destroy hair follicles was invented by Theodore H Maiman on July 7, 1960. This ruby laser was inefficient and slow; it was able to minimize hair growth but also resulted in severe damage and burns to the skin. It could only target a few hair follicles at a time making hair removal a very tedious process. The very first alexandrite laser was developed in the 1970’s. Although these lasers were much safer than the first one, it did not provide adequate heat to destroy the hair follicle. As a result it would have taken years to achieve permanent results. The YAG laser was the very first laser approved by the FDA for hair removal in 1964. This laser was able to reduce hair growth but unable to remove hair on a permanent basis. In 1975, Harvard dermatologist Dr Thomas B Fitzpatrick created the Fitzpatrick phototype scale which offers classifications for human skin color. It is used today in order to determine suitable candidates for laser treatment. Not everyone is able to benefit from laser hair removal since darker skin tones can absorb the laser’s heat causing skin damage. In 1983 scientists were able to develop a laser which utilized a pulse duration in order to target the hair follicle. As a result it was possible to target the follicle without damaging the skin.
Basically it took a full 40 years for scientists to develop a laser that worked to actually remove and eliminate hair. When that laser came to the market, it was primed for success. When used properly by a trained professional, it is a game changer. However, it is important to note that if it is not used properly in a clinical setting, it will not destroy the hair follicles, resulting in short term hair removal and long term hair reduction, but not vanquishment.
A recent article in the Huffington Post illustrates where laser hair removal goes wrong.
“The laser light is directed at and gets absorbed by the pigment in the hair itself, which sits in the hair follicle,” said Dr. Robyn Gmyrek, dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City. “When the laser light gets absorbed, it creates heat. If enough heat is generated down the hair follicle, it will destroy the hair growth center in the follicle. If the hair growth center is destroyed, you should not create a new hair.” Gmyrek explained that body hair goes through a resting and growth cycle, which is why a series of follow-up treatments are scheduled every 4-6 weeks. “When the hair is in a resting portion of the cycle, it may not be able to absorb enough laser light or generate enough heat to destroy the hair growth center,” she said. “This means that you have to laser multiple times -– usually about 6 sessions ― to remove a substantial portion of the hair from an area.”
The treatment is extensive, and anything less will leave your clients unsatisfied with the outcome. It is important to make sure that your clients understand the process, how much it will cost, and how much time it will take in order achieve the hair-free results they are looking for.
There is more than just a cosmetic reason that some people seek out laser hair removal – its medical.
The Other Use for Laser Hair Removal – Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), better known by the dermatologists than many others in the aesthetic and cosmetic medical fields, is an inflammatory, chronic, recurring disease that affects the hair follicle. People who present have enormously irritating, or painful, abcesses and/or pustules that can be stubborn to treat. Typically treatment is applied to reduce the symptoms with very few options available to actually treat the disease. As noted by the American Academy of Dermatology, typical treatments include a medical protocol with antibiotics, acne medication, bleach baths, along with the emergent FDA biologic treatment of adalimumab. That said, laser hair removal is “showing promise.” According to a recent study published in Erasmus MC (Rotterdam), “Laser hair removal could be a novel therapeutic approach to prevent disease progression or ameliorate the disease, especially in HS patients with the follicular sub-phenotype.”
Evolving Technologies in Laser Hair Removal
In 2018 we saw the addition of some brand new laser hair removal technology, with Lumenis, one of SCALE 2019 Music City’s sponsors, introducing their Splendor X, which promises to more rapidly and effectively eliminate unwanted hair. This is not the only product that you will see on the market in the coming year. New research, as reported on the Aesthetic Channel, has demonstrated the efficacy of different types of lasers. Look for this to trigger a number of patents and devices that can help your cosmetic and dermatologic clients look and feel their best.