Things You Need to Know About Safe and Effective Hair Removal Lasers for Fair, Medium, and Deep Skin Tones
Better still, today's laser technology is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was even a few years back. “The biggest innovations are in versatility, speed, and pain—meaning lack of pain,” says Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, a board-certified dermatologic surgeon in New York City. "A few years ago, it would take an hour to treat each leg—and it wouldn’t be comfortable. Now we have technologies that allow us to do a leg in 15 minutes.”What's more, the latest cutting-edge devices, like the Motus AX, allow practitioners to safely treat a wide, inclusive range of skin tones, from creamy alabaster to dark chocolate.
Lasers can eradicate hair all over the body, but the face is actually the most popular blast zone for women, while men commonly seek less hairy backs. Wherever you choose to be zapped, achieving permanent hair reduction—emphasis on the word reduction, since nothing will eliminate every single hair—typically requires six to eight treatments, spaced a few weeks apart. “You have to do once a month for at least a few months, to target the cycle of hair growth,” Dr. Frank says. After a complete round of laser treatments, some maintenance is required (usually annual presummer touch-ups), but between 70% and 90% of hair will be gone.
All this adds up to a competitive edge for laser over its predecessor, intense pulsed light (IPL).“IPL is a nonspecific way to help get rid of hair,” Dr. Tsao says. That’s because it uses a wider, less targeted wavelength of light than laser does, which means it’s less precise—and absolutely not safe for people with medium to dark skin. “In general, it's best reserved for patients with fair skin and dark hair,”Dr. Tsao says. Even so, lasers provide more efficient hair reduction with less discomfort.
When it comes to choosing a provider for laser hair removal, your options will vary, depending on where you live. In some states, like California, only doctors, registered nurses, and physician assistants can administer laser hair removal treatments. In others, like New York, regulations are less strict.“An aesthetician can legally perform laser hair removal in New York state—it's the only laser that an aesthetician can legally use,”Dr. Frank says. But without medical training, he notes, aestheticians may not be prepared to handle serious complications, such as second-degree burns. “Of the laser complications I see in my office, at least half of them are hair removal cases administered by aestheticians.”
The cost of treatment varies by provider and can range wildly depending on your location, but the doctors we consulted charge between $200 and $1,600 per area, per session. Beware of online deals that promise significantly lower prices, because bargains often signal questionable equipment.“You can find laser hair removal online for very, very cheap,” Dr. Frank says. “But if you're going to get your whole body done for $1,000, are you going to be treated with a used laser with 10-year-old technology? Those lasers may be half the price of those at a doctor's office, but you'll need twice the number of treatments because the technology is much weaker.”