In today’s competitive world, it is very important to look well groomed and professional be it in one’s work life or their social world. It is of essence to be presentable as this guarantees a person an opportunity to create a lasting impression on their peers.
As physical appearances take the front row, a lot of consumers are seeking permanent solutions to their problems, one of them being hair removal. The laser hair removal has gained exponential popularity owing to its effectiveness. However, people need to be better informed about the different kinds of laser treatments that they can choose.
One such treatment happens to be the alexandrite laser treatment. The following sections elaborate on what this treatment is and how it works.
Table of Contents
- What is laser hair removal?
- What is Alexandrite Laser Hair Removal?
- Lasers used in Alexandrite laser hair removal technique
- Clinical Research and Further Specifications of the Alexandrite Treatment
- Comparisons of lasers with different pulse durations
- Benefits of Alexandrite Laser Treatment
- Possible Drawbacks and Side Effects of Alexandrite Laser Treatment
- Which area of body it can be used and how many sessions are required?
- Who are suitable for Alexandrite Laser Treatment?
- In the end..
What is laser hair removal?
The market is filled with products for hair removal, be it wax strips, razors, hair removal creams, tweezers etc. However, these only provide a temporary respite from a recurring problem. Women, specially, yearn for a relatively long lasting method.
Laser hair removal is a cosmetic procedure that removes hair, prevents regrowth or slows down the hair growth cycle with the use of light pulses.
- The procedure’s effects can last from 3 months to a year and this varies from person to person.
- The procedure requires a few sessions of exposure to the laser light depending upon the person’s response to the treatment as well the area to be treated.
- The procedure has a high precision requirement and works fast removing multiple hairs at the same time.
One needs to consult with a dermatologist to get more information about the same and the cost will vary according to the type of laser treatment sought. One of the commonly used laser treatments happens to be called Alexandrite Treatment. The following section enlists the specifications of the procedure.
What is Alexandrite Laser Hair Removal?
The fundamental principle behind this treatment is that “The longer the wavelength is, the deeper the penetration”. Lasers are nothing but light rays and all light rays have a particular wavelength associated with them. It has been observed that when the ray has a longer wavelength, it penetrates deeper into the dermis (skin) and therefore, proves to be more effective for hair removal.
The preoperative requirements include shaving the target region. There are three reasons for this pre-requisite.
- It reduces the treatment induced odor.
- It prevents the long pigmented hairs from lying on the skin surface and conducting the heat to the skin which can cause superficial burns.
- It also provides a clear skin surface so that the laser can be transmitted to the skin and can penetrate deep inside for the maximum removal.
- The dark skinned individuals are also advised to use sunscreen judiciously for the few months or weeks leading up to the procedure so as to reduce the damage caused to the skin cells.
The image above shows the effect of the laser on the skin cells. There is vacuolization or the creation of vacuoles (empty spaces) in the skin cells when the laser comes in contact with the cell.
Lasers used in Alexandrite laser hair removal technique
There are two modes of operation in the alexandrite laser hair removal technique and these depend on the type of laser being used.
The output of this type of laser machine is pulsed. This means that the laser is not emitted from the machine continuously but is rather done so in short pulses at regular intervals of time. The laser which is used in the treatment is typically a solid state laser meaning to say that the source from which the laser draws its power and amplifies it, is a solid substance.
This kind of laser emits a continuous beam of laser ray without any pulses. The advantage that these have over their counterparts is that they cause effectively more photothermal damage which results in the desired long term effects.
In today’s procedures, the Q-Switched lasers are given preference and all discussion about lasers henceforth will imply that the Q-Switched laser is being used. The laser which is used emits light at 755nm with pulse duration varying from 50 to 100 ns in case of the pulsed output lasers.
Common machines used in the treatment
The laser used for this treatment can also be several kinds. The following are some of the lasers in use today:
Clinical Research and Further Specifications of the Alexandrite Treatment
Finkel and group were among the first and dedicated research groups who studied the effects of the alexandrite laser on different types of hair. Their studies yielded various results upon which the treatment has depended to be improved further.
The modern day machines have been designed based on the ongoing research as well as the predetermined results obtained by the researchers. More research in this field gives scope for more improvement. The following are some observations of their experiment.
- It was noted that after the first session the average hair count had reduced to 65% but this number varied from region to region. 50% hair was removed from the side burns, areolar and axillae regions. 30% was removed from the full face, bikini, abdomen regions and the men’s back and chest. 20% hair was removed from the upper lip and chin regions.
- It was observed that there was progressive improvement with each session. The hair count after the final sessions had reduced drastically to a 12%.
- The results stated that 90% of hair was removed from the upper lips, bikini, axillae and areolar regions, 85% from the chins and male’s back and chest area, 95% from the side burns and 75% from the abdomen region. These were quite the promising results that the dermatologists were hoping for.
Conclusions drawn from the studies
The objective of listing these facts was to give an idea about the success rate encountered when going for this treatment. It has been observed that the increase in hair reduction has a direct relationship with the number of treatments.
More hair reduction is noted after cumulative treatments. Also, it is the case that the hair removal from the facial region was more efficient as compared to the other regions of the body.
Comparisons of lasers with different pulse durations
As was mentioned previously, the Q-Switched lasers emit the light in the form of pulses at regular intervals of time which can be as small as a few microseconds. There has been a lot of research that involved comparing the effects of the laser on hair removal and the skin when the pulse duration was varied.
- One such research was carried out by Narurkar which observed the effects of 20msec and 5msec laser. It was observed that the 20msec laser was more effective for darker complected individuals. This observation yielded way to the fact that longer wavelengths are more effective on a darker skin tone.
- Another similar study of comparison was done by Nanni and Alster which compared the 5, 10 and 20msec lasers in 1999. The exposed hair was instantly vaporized on coming in contact with the laser and only the shaft remnants could be witnessed.
- There was redness of the skin where it had been irradiated. They came to the conclusion that there was no significant difference between the hair removal effects between the three. A 66% hair reduction was observed after the first month, 27% after the third month and 4% after the sixth month. It was also observed that blond and gray hairs did not respond as well to the treatment as black and brown hairs because of their low melanin content.
- One more study was conducted by David J. Goldberg and Rosaline Akhami which compared the 2msec and 10msec laser and they concluded that there was no significant difference between the two. One can read more about the same here.
Although, all the researchers ended up at the same conclusion that there was no significant difference between the hair removal efficiency of the lasers, it has been theoretically proposed that the 20msec laser might be safer to use.
This is so because the skin cells and the small targets like melanosomes are capable of absorbing the light of shorter wavelength relatively faster and this can cause spatial damage. Hair will take more time to absorb these wavelengths because of its bigger structure and hence, the target area will have to be exposed to the laser for a longer duration of time.
This can result on damage to the surrounding areas. Whereas, if the longer wavelength is used, it will take a longer time to be absorbed.
An independent study by Nanni and Rogers however, concluded by saying that using 2msec laser would ultimately be more practical because keeping all the other parameters same, it acts faster.
The following points highlight the benefits of this treatment as compared to the other options.
- The laser emits light with a longer wavelength which penetrates deeper and hence, removes the hair faster and more effectively without causing much damage to the skin because the melanin present in the epithelial cells (skin cells) does not absorb the light at the same rate as the hair does.
- The damage caused to the skin is lower than that caused by other kinds of lasers because the melanin present in the skin is slightly slower at absorbing the particular wavelength of light and hence, no extensive skin damage is encountered. This is a major deterrent for most people.
- The side effects of this treatment are lesser as compared to the other treatments and have the scope of being reduced further if a proper cooling regimen is followed immediately after the treatment and is continued for the recommended time period. The cooling gels are insufficient and further cooling techniques need to be used. One of these cooling techniques happens to be -30 degree Celsius cryogen cooling.
- The pain level reported by the patients was lesser as compared to the other laser treatment options available.
Possible Drawbacks and Side Effects of Alexandrite Laser Treatment
The following points highlight the drawbacks and the common side effects that have been witnessed after the person undergoes this hair removal procedure.
- Many studies that have been pioneered by dermatologists like CA Nanni and TS Alster have reflected on the fact that this treatment only results in short term hair removal . Since, the pulses that are generated are only nanoseconds long, they do not induce enough photothermal damage to have any lasting effects on the hair growth pattern. Non-Q-Switched lasers are relatively better at giving promising results.
- Superficial burns and blistering are the most commonly noted after effects of the procedure because the skin is exposed to lot of thermal energy.
- Transient hypopigmentation is another side effect. This term signifies the temporary discoloration of the skin (loss of skin color). The melanin in the skin may be slow in absorbing the laser light but it does absorb it in small quantities and prolonged exposure can cause depletion of melanin in the epithelial cells (skin cells). This leads to the loss of color as melanin is the component responsible for lending color to the skin.
- One observes immediate erythema (redness of the skin) after the procedure has been completed and there is also mild post-operative pain.
Which area of body it can be used and how many sessions are required?
A lot of research has been done on Alexandrite Laser Treatment and one of them was led by B. FINKEL, Y.D. ELIEZRI, A. WALDMAN, and M. SLATKINE in 1997. The research consisted of 126 patients out of which 116 were female and the rest male who were treated for hair removal in several different areas.
The objective of mentioning this research is that it clarifies the areas where alexandrite laser treatment is used and the following section gives a brief but detailed idea about its effectiveness and success rate.
- The main areas of hair removal included the underarms (axillae hair), facial hair (full face, side burns, upper lip and chin), bikini region, leg hair, areolar hair, abdominal, back and chest hair.
- The number of sessions varied from 3 for side burns, bikini region, legs and areolar to 5 sessions for the upper lip.
- The intervals between the treatments varied from 1 month on the upper lip to 2 ½ months on the side burns and chin. The interval was 1 ½ to 2 months for bikini region, axillae hair, men’s back and chest, areolar hair and abdomen.
Who are suitable for Alexandrite Laser Treatment?
The best candidates for this sort of laser treatment are people with fair skin and dark hair color (brown or black). These candidates are typically characterized by the Fitzpatrick scale of skin phenotypes from I-IV. One can refer to this page to understand more about the scale and the skin types.
As the skin shade grows darker, there is an increased risk of side effects. Also, it has been noted that blonde, red and white are almost completely non-responsive towards the treatment.
In the end..
As with all treatments, one can conclude that this treatment also has its benefits and drawbacks. One just needs to be well informed about the procedure and the treatment mechanism and a consultation with the dermatologist also helps in gaining a clearer perspective about the same.