Laser hair removal is the process of removing unwanted hair by means of exposure to pulses of laser light that destroy the hair follicle.
At Karidis we use a pain-free, results driven Soprano XL device to help eliminate almost all hair types from desired areas. The patient will ALWAYS need a consultation and patch test prior to starting treatment to decipher if they are a suitable skin and hair type to carry out a course of the laser hair removal treatment.
A laser is an energy based device using a high-energy beam of light that can transfer its energy through the skin to a specific part of the body. These beams of light can vary in terms of their strength, wavelength and the type of tissue that they can target.
Laser technology has developed over the last few decades to treat patients with a variety of different skin problems including the effects of sun damage, hair removal, thread and varicose veins and, recently, the treatment of psoriasis and acne. In fact, laser treatment for hair removal was developed after they had been used to treat skin problems. Scientific studies in the early 1990's proved that lasers were an effective method of removing unwanted hair, and the first machine approved for use in America was in 1996. Since then, many different types of laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) machines or Light Heat Energy (LHE) devices have been developed and improved to remove hair in all areas of the body (incl. beards).
This hair removal procedure has proved very popular in a short space of time, where according to figures from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (A.S.A.P.S.) indicate that laser hair removal was the third most common cosmetic treatment in 2011 with 1.28 million treatments, down 0.1% on 2010. There has been similar rapid adoption of this technology by many clinics in the United Kingdom.
For those interested in laser hair removal treatment, it is important to note that no manufacturer has been given permission to claim that they can cause 'permanent removal' of hair, as this has not yet been proven. Permanent reduction is more appropriate phrase. According to the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) website: "Several manufacturers received permission to claim, "permanent reduction", NOT "permanent removal" for their lasers. This means that although laser treatments with these devices will permanently reduce the total number of body hairs, they will not result in a permanent removal of all hair. The specific claim granted is "intended to effect stable, long-term, or permanent reduction" through selective targeting of melanin in hair follicles.
Permanent hair reduction is defined as the long-term, stable reduction in the number of hairs re-growing after a treatment regime, which may include several sessions. Moreover permanent hair reduction does not necessarily imply the elimination of all hairs in the treatment area.
The lasers used in Hair removal basically work by targeting the melanin or pigment within the hair shaft and follicle. The melanin absorbs the laser light energy giving rise to a localized heat effect, which in turn damages the hair follicle cells resulting in hair unable to grow. As a result of this principle, darker hairs are most easily treated due to their larger concentration of dark melanin, which allows for maximum absorption and conversion of light energy to heat. Very fair or blonde hair has much less melanin within it, and consequently less heat is absorbed making permanent destruction of the hair follicles much less certain. Moreover, grey (or white) hair, which has almost no melanin, therefore cannot be treated.
Lasers aim to damage the cells that produce hair growth. If enough damage is done, this will prevent the hair altogether from growing any further. This effect however is most productive if the laser treatment is performed during the anagen or 'active' phase of hair growth. The anagen phase is when new hairs start to grow. Other phases include times when the hair is simply resting and no longer growing. During the anagen phase, the hair follicle has increased pigmentation and growth of new cells that makes it more open to damage from light treatment. The amount of time that any individual hair stays in the anagen phase is genetically predetermined and will vary within the area treated, the population (especially with ethnicity) and the different areas of the body.
It works by firing pulses of infrared diode laser energy ten times a second to gradually heat the hair follicles found in the deeper layers of skin until they can no longer produce new hair. However throughout all this, it uses the unique, IN-Motion™ technology and a patented DualChill™ treatment tip, to keep the surface of your skin cool and comfortable. By comparison, other lasers and IPL machines blast the skin with a single flash of light that can potentially cause sudden heating of the skin and lead to stinging and in more severe cases burning. The sweeping motion of the soprano handpiece also eliminates any skipped or missed spots common to other types of laser hair removal. With each pass of this handpiece, the coloured pigment in the hair heats up more and more until, at 45ºC, the root is damaged. The skin however doesn't heat up to the same degree which is why it is relatively painless. The hair is then naturally extruded over the following 2-3 weeks.
Generally speaking, people with darker skins are trickier to treat with laser hair removal. In fact providing laser hair removal to dark skin is one of the most challenging tasks for any laser specialist. The aim of any LHR treatment is for the laser's light to be absorbed by melanin in the hair follicle. However this action is not specific and therefore the laser's light energy can also be absorbed by any melanin present in the skin. Ideally we want the laser light energy to be taken up by the hair and not the skin. Thus if a lot of melanin is present in the upper layers of skin(i.e. darker skinned or tanned individuals) the laser light energy will be absorbed more by the skin than by the hair, leading to unacceptable skin blistering and possibly scarring. This is why we protect the skin by cooling the surface prior to, and after treatment through the use of specialized cooling heads and plates and lotions. Furthermore, with the newer technology hair removal lasers such as the Soprano XL, which have advanced pulse delivery systems, darker skinned individuals can now be treated much more safely than before. We may decide to do a small test patch in the area to assess your suitability. In general in our clinic we tend to be more conservative and less aggressive with our treatments in darker skinned individuals. In these individuals it may mean therefore that more treatments might be necessary to reach the desired result. However most of our patients would agree that it is better to be safe than sorry!
When you meet our practitioner, they will then want to know what treatment areas you are hoping to have. They will then clearly set out your expectations of your hair removal treatment as well as tell you whether or not these results are achievable using this method of hair removal. We will also determine your skin type as a matter of course and discuss its implications. We will always take a history to ensure that there are no reasons why you shouldn't have the treatment (see below). Following our explanation and discussion of the treatment we will then ask you to sign a consent form which means that you have understood the potential benefits and risks associated with this treatment (see below). Photographs may also be taken by the practitioner for the purpose of your records. We shall of course also agree in advance on fees. For your information, there are significant discounts for complete packages of laser hair removal treatments.
Thomas B Fitzpatrick, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, developed a grading system for skin types in 1975. This grading was based on an individual's response to sun exposure in terms of the degree of burning and tanning. For a successful laser hair removal treatment, it is important and necessary to determine your correct skin type.
Click here to find out how to determine your skin type.
During the treatment you will be asked to put on protective eyewear to protect your eyes from the light generated by the laser machine. We always do a test patch - which is carried out in each area that you wish to have treatment on. We then will wait 24 - 48 hours to see if you are able to tolerate the treatment without side effects, before carrying out the first treatment to ascertain whether you are able to tolerate the treatment without any side-effects. The practitioner will then use a small hand piece to touch your skin with flashes of light. An optimum gel is applied to the areas being treated, which is used to facilitate the treatment. Most patients describe the procedure as a little uncomfortable, with a tingling or stinging sensation during treatment. The discomfort varies with each person, depending on your individual pain threshold and the type of machine used. If you are having this treatment in a sensitive area, the practitioner will work with how it feels for you, and at times give you breaks and can even apply the cooling tip to ease the heat. In general we never apply anesthetic creams when doing laser, as this could lead to burning of the skin, due to the fact that the patient is numb and therefore unable to provide the necessary feedback to us to allow us to adjust the laser settings.
At your first treatment, our practitioners would like to see the extent of the area that will be treated and therefore the best way to view this will be if the hairs are left to grow a bit - in fact about 1-2 mm long. Once they have observed and marked the area out they will then proceed to shave the hairs short. This is because long hairs take up and 'waste' the energy and prevent all of it reaching the hair follicle or root. This way they will get maximum transmission of the energy. Moreover, you should avoid epilation and waxing 4 weeks prior to treatment. This ensures that as many follicles as possible contain a hair and thus can be effectively destroyed by the laser light. You are however allowed to continue to shave or use depilatory creams if you wish. After your first laser hair removal treatment, you must remember that for any subsequent treatment you will need to close shave the area to be treated the day before your appointment. The Soprano is particularly good at treating folliculitis so it does not matter if you have multiple ingrowers. There may be a temporary flare in the days after treatment but the root will be killed just the same. Patients should avoid tanning 1 month ahead of and during the entire treatment scenario to avoid excessive discomfort and complications from excessive light absorption in the epidermis. Immediately after the treatment the skin is particularly sensitive to UV light and strong sunlight should be avoided for 4-5 days. Please do not apply deodorant, perfumed products or aromatherapy products on any treatment day.
As mentioned previously, the hair follicles most successfully treated by laser early on, are the ones in the growing (anagen) phase. The number of hairs in this phase varies from 10% to 70% depending on the body site. After the first treatment therefore, the laser will only damage some of the follicles. Several treatments are therefore required at the start of hair removal treatment because of the varying nature of the growth cycle of hair. It is important to understand that the first treatment is also believed to synchronize the anagen (growth) phase of the non-anagen hairs. This may cause what seems to be re-growth but in fact are actually just the resting hairs all beginning to grow at the same time (new growth). This in turn of course makes the next treatment(s) more effective. Ultimately after a few weeks, all previously resting hair follicles break into their growth phase, which then need to be treated. For most patients (unless there is a hormone imbalance or in very dark skin) up to eight treatments is sufficient to reduce most hairs on the body. Treatments can be repeated at approximately monthly intervals. In this way, after 4 - 8 treatments, most of the hair follicles in any particular site can be successfully treated and therefore reduce the number of regrowing hairs by more than 80%, six months after the last treatment. We will of course advise you accordingly. After this series of treatments, any further hair growth can be treated as and when it’s necessary.
There are a number of factors that can affect the success of a series of hair removal treatments, but generally, after each treatment, you'll see a noticeable, permanent reduction in the number of hairs that regrow in the treatment area. Due to the increased natural activity of Facial hair, this area may require more treatments.
A treatment for a facial area can take as little as a minute whereas both legs and/or an entire back can take approximately up to an 1 hour. Treatments therefore for an upper lip can take less than a minute, whereas approximately three minutes for each armpit, 15 minutes for a complete 'Hollywood', 20 minutes for a whole leg and thirty minutes for a man's back. A follow-up appointment will be arranged between three and six weeks later.
As already stated, laser hair removal can sometimes be uncomfortable and many people often describe a hot or stinging sensation or a feeling of elastic bands being flicked at the skin. Some patients have also described it as feeling like mild sunburn, but this is a reaction that usually disappears within a day or so. Of course with the Soprano laser hair removal system, the treatments are usually very well tolerated with only minimal discomfort. Patients with darker skin tones however, will probably notice discomfort more than others. In order to lessen the discomfort in these situations, we adjust the settings and protect the skin by applying the patented chilled tip on the Soprano device. Immediately after the procedure, you may also notice some mild swelling, and the skin may become pink or red and a little uncomfortable.
Yes. Over a period of 6-12 months and following 6-8 treatments, the majority of clients will see a 90% reduction in hair growth. Any one laser session targets the actively growing hair root killing the stem calls around the bulb that create the hair. So although each treatment will damage a large number of growing hairs, some will survive and be dealt with at another treatment session.
Patients seek hair removal treatments for almost any part of the body, from facial or bikini line treatments to leg, arm, neck or back hair removal.
In a word, yes. The Soprano® XL laser has provided permanent hair reduction for thousands of patients worldwide, safely and successfully since it was cleared by the FDA in 2005. In fact hair removal, being one of the aesthetic medical industry's most used devices, has been extensively and well researched over the last 16 years. The wavelength that is currently used in these devices is safe and well away from the harmful UV spectrum that can damage DNA in our cells causing ageing and skin cancer. As a side-effect, it has been observed that the minor heat effects that occur within the skin following laser hair removal can actually be good for collagen. This is one of the reasons why so many infra-red treatments have been developed for skin rejuvenation in the last 12 years. Of course with the Soprano XL being a Class 4 laser, eye protection with appropriate filters will be used in order to eliminate any possibility of eye damage.
The short answer is no. Once the hair follicle is damaged, it cannot grow new hair. However, there are invariably a few hair follicles that manage to partially escape the laser during each treatment. Some of these follicles may be only stunned and thus will need to be retreated. Although rare, it is also possible to have new hair growth if you go through dramatic hormonal changes such as pregnancy, menopause, the start or stop of birth control pills.
No. Hair removal with the Soprano hair removal system requires no 'down time' or recovery time. You can therefore have a treatment and return to your normal activities immediately.
Most people in general find laser hair removal with the Soprano XL very comfortable. Whilst pain tolerance is obviously very subjective, one person's pain being another’s mild sensation, many patients often describe the treatment with the Soprano XL as soothing as a 'hot stone massage'. You are likely to feel an increasing warming sensation as the head is moved and stroked back and forth. There is sometimes a slight pricking sensation at the end of the treatment when the hair roots suddenly reach target temperature. In some areas however, where the skin tends to be naturally somewhat darker (i.e. deeper bikini area) you may experience a slightly stronger burning sensation. In this instance we will endeavor to cool the area immediately to lessen any discomfort. When large areas of the body are treated, i.e. men’s back, a faster setting is often used. Due to the speed of the pulse delivery in this setting, many patients can experience a somewhat more intense pricking sensation. Despite this however, many patients still find it quite tolerable. An armpit can be done in under a minute in this setting!
It will depend on the areas treated. Please therefore call our clinic and ask for a quotation. Compared with a lifetime of shaving, waxing or plucking, Soprano laser hair removal can be a worthwhile investment in both time and money savings.
Basically it all comes down to the cost of the equipment and the training needed to perform such treatments. The sophisticated technology used in the Soprano XL means that its capital cost is very high. Also accordingly, the cost of training and qualifying suitable practitioners is high. This of course is imperative because the results achievable from these devices are to a significant degree dependant on the adaptability and skill of the operator.
It is very important that you follow the instructions and advice of your practitioner carefully following laser hair removal to reduce the risk of any complications. Post-treatment advice may include - Applying an antiseptic cream after treatment; Not exposing yourself to the sun without applying a high factor sun block to the treated area; Contacting your practitioner immediately if you notice any signs of blistering, infection, persistent pain or pigment changes in the treated area.
Laser and Intense Pulsed Light or IPL systems used for hair removal, are used by trained doctors, nurses or aesthetic practitioners. Some manufacturers also produce lower energy devices that can be used safely by trained beauticians or aestheticians. These in general are less effective than the laser based energy devices. Before any treatment therefore it would be wise to confirm that a properly and suitably qualified practitioner is treating you. Please also note that as of the 1st October 2010 all clinics offering laser and light treatments for purely cosmetic indications such as hair removal are no longer required to be registered with the Care Quality Commission in England (regulations still apply in other countries). Previously, clinics needed to follow certain standards for the safe operation and maintenance of these machines, and receive regular inspections by the CQC to ensure that national minimum standards were followed. As mentioned this is not necessary anymore. In some English regions clinics and salons will still be regulated by local councils under health & safety regulations. However, many clinics who offer laser & IPL hair removal also offer other light based treatments that do not require CQC registration. The Karidis clinic is registered and conforms with the Care Quality Commision of England.
There will be very little to see at first. You may in fact think it hasn't worked and feel disappointed! You must remember however that hairs are not vaporised or burnt away by the Soprano treatment. It's the hair follicles that are killed by the heat but the hairs themselves will remain in the skin and often become attached to the outer layers of the skin (epidermis). They will however fall out after 1-4 weeks as the epidermis is renewed. Moreover, during this period it will also seem that the hairs are in fact growing as the epidermis pushes them out. Some patients can get a bit of redness around the hair follicle and occasionally some small spots may form during this time. In the first 2-3 weeks it is advised that the area is treated with something soothing like tea tree oil or aloe vera. Furthermore it is also advisable that you exfoliate daily, from 4 days after your treatment, as this will help shed any lasered hair. During the next two weeks the hairs will have worked their way to the surface and will simply wipe off. We tell our patients that each treatment will bring about a 30% reduction in hair - most however see much more than this. Very occasionally however there is no response. In this event, due to the flexibility and adaptability of the Soprano XL the programming and settings of the fluence (power) will be adjusted to suit the non-responder in a way that might otherwise cause burns with a less sophisticated machine. In any case hairs that do regrow tend to be much thinner and less likely to ingrow.
Patients who have any active infection at the site or area to be treated should not have treatment. Furthermore patients who have used the drug isotretinoin / Roaccutane (for acne) in the last year should also avoid treatment. Also patients who are Pregnant or have a history of sensitivity to light with any drug based treatment (photosensitisation) may not be suitable for treatment. This will be discussed with you at your consultation. Laser hair removal will not work on blonde, white or grey hair because that type of hair lacks melanin. Redheads also have a different sort of melanin called phaeomelanin that makes it much less responsive and requires specialist lasers. There is also a very small group of patients with highly resistant hair follicles that necessitate the use of two or three different laser wavelengths to achieve anything like a satisfactory result. This situation is much less likely to be encountered with the Soprano XL laser than other 810 nm lasers or IPL machines because of its different method of action. As also stated previously, darker skinned individuals such as mediterranean, Middle and Far Eastern skin types may need to be treated with care (see Will it work on people of all skin types?). Similarly, patients who have recent sun tans should wait until their tan fades.
Like any medical treatment, risks and complications can occur with Laser hair removal. However with careful assessment followed by treatments conducted by qualified individuals, these risks can be minimized. Occasional hyperpigmentation or skin darkening can occur following laser hair removal. It has the same effect as a suntan, but because it is only visible at the points at which the laser has landed on your skin, it can look somewhat patchy. This usually fades in the vast majority of individuals where it happens, however in some instances it may take a few months to do so. Conversely, in rarer situations, if the naturally occurring melanin containing cells in the skin absorb too much laser energy, then these cells may be damaged and unable to produce their natural melanin, leaving pale patches on the skin. Although rare in itself this may be permanent. This same process can also cause the skin to overheat, resulting in blistering and possibly scarring. These effects are unlikely to occur on pale skin, but can occasionally occur with darker skin. In these instances care will be taken to minimize this. A test patch of your skin will also be performed in order to determine suitability before going ahead. There is also some evidence that the use of light based systems for hair removal can cause hair to grow in areas adjacent to the treated area in a very small proportion of patients. Should this occur we would endeavor to treat this.
They do indeed work for some people, especially where the hairs are superficial, the skin pale and the hairs are black and not too thick. They have to be used however every week for several months. They are time consuming and have a limited lifespan. They are excruciatingly uncomfortable on sensitive areas such as the genitals. They merely stun the hair follicle and regrowth nearly always occurs. They are heavily marketed by the big brand names to compete with the increasing number of unregulated and excessively priced IPL and laser salons. However they do have their limitations and will not be suitable for everyone.
Having a sun tan will increase the risk of side effects such as blistering, burning, discoloration and scarring of the skin. This is due to more of the light energy being absorbed by the skin rather than the hair. This is why we recommend you stay out of the sun before and during your treatment so that you are as pale as possible before having the treatment.
The process was smooth and painless and actually kind of relaxing. Most importantly, I can already see a MAJOR difference on the cellulite on my legs and butt. I am seriously impressed!
Karolina is always a joy to work with - kind, considerate and very professional and creating an aura of trust. She makes the Ulthera treatment painless and that's not an easy task!