What’s the Difference Between the Lasers Used in Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal is sweeping the nation. It’s so popular that it ranks second in the United States only to wrinkle-relaxing injections. Why all the love? Let’s just say that laser hair removal is the only safe and effective way to permanently remove unwanted hair anywhere on the body. From the bikini line to chin hair and back hair, laser hair removal does it all.
Laser hair removal seems like magic, but the science behind it is simple. Laser hair removal uses laser light pulses that selectively destroy hair follicles by targeting the melanin in them. The follicle’s pigment absorbs the laser’s light pulse, damaging the follicle enough to significantly slow down hair regrowth. Since the lasers target melanin, coarse, dark hair and light skin combinations tend to respond best to treatment.
What is a laser hair removal session like? The length of a laser hair removal procedure depends on the size of the treatment area, meaning a session can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Before the actual laser hair removal session, you’ll be given protective eye gear and an elective topical anesthetic. Once the session begins, you’ll feel a stinging sensation, indicating that the laser has been activated. The actual session involves a series of laser pulses that results in a prickling and burning sensation. But don’t worry; the pain isn’t too bad. In fact, it’s similar to that of a rubber band snapping against your skin.
It’s the Laser That Matters
Four different lasers are typically used for hair removal – although many more patented ones do exist. The four most common lasers – Ruby, Alexandrite, Nd:YAG, and Diode – each boast distinct advantages.
Ruby Laser Hair Removal
In the world of lasers, Rubies can be considered relative old-timers, having been in use for laser hair removal for quite some time. Ideal for people with dark hair and light skin, the Ruby produces a small beam of light. This means laser hair removal sessions are oftentimes longer, with more pulses of light targeting the treatment site. Lasers like the Ruby have become less popular with the advent of newer, more effective laser technologies.
Some of the advantages of the Ruby laser include:
- Long term hair removal can be achieved
- Comparatively pain-free than any other laser hair removal procedure
- If hair grows back, it tends to be sparser and finer and thus less noticeable
- The laser has cooling built-in equipment, thus minimizing the chance of burns and any other side effects of laser hair removal
Some of the disadvantages of the Ruby laser include:
- Ruby lasers cannot be used on tanned or dark skin and on white or light hair
- Treats a relatively smaller area
- The laser has a slow repetition rate which may increase the time for treatments
- There is some risk of burns, scars, redness, swelling, and skin discoloration
Alexandrite Laser Hair Removal
The Alexandrite laser produces a longer beam of light than the Ruby, requiring fewer pulses during a laser hair removal session. This has the benefit of lessening patient discomfort. What’s more, the Alexandrite laser effectively removes hair on people with a wide range of skin tones and hair color combinations and is especially effective on coarse hair.
Some of the advantages of the Alexandrite laser include:
- The laser has a very good skin penetration rate
- It is known to be effective on finer, thinner hairs that stymie most other lasers
- The laser is very effective on light skin tones
Some of the disadvantages of the Alexandrite laser include:
- The laser may cause pigment changes (darkening or lightening) of the skin
- It is not that suitable for darker skin tones
Nd:YAG Laser Hair Removal
The Nd:YAG laser is one of the most innovative lasers on the market. It has the incredible ability to distinguish between subtleties in pigmentation, effectively removing hair on any skin tone. Because the Nd:YAG laser produces one of the longest beams, fewer pulses are required to get the job done. This means shorter laser hair removal sessions, minimal patient discomfort, and reduced risk of complications.
Some of the advantages of the Nd:YAG laser include:
- Works on almost all skin types, including tanned or darker skin tones
- Nd:YAG 1064 nm system is recommended for darkly pigmented skin
- Many studies have shown that these lasers are able to achieve a significant delay before hair grows again in the treated area
- Larger body areas can be treated rapidly
Some of the disadvantages of the Nd:YAG laser include:
- This laser is not that effective on white or light hair, and it is also less effective on fine hair
- The laser may be more painful than other lasers
- There exists a risk of burns, scars, redness, skin discoloration, and swelling
- Has not been proven to be effective in achieving long-term results
Diode Laser Hair Removal
Last but not least, the Diode laser offers a gentler touch, removing hair while protecting the skin. This ensures you experience minimal damage to the surrounding tissue. The Diode is typically most effective on light-to-medium skin tones but also works on nearly every skin tone.
The advantages of the Diode laser include:
- The Diode laser features a longer wavelength and thus is able to provide better results among dark-skinned people
- This laser provides safer and deeper penetration into the skin layer
- Large areas of the body tend to recover faster
The disadvantages of the Diode laser include:
- There may be some scars, burns, skin discoloration, redness, and swelling
- In some patients, it can cause a condition called urticaria
Which Lasers Are Right for Your Skin Tone?
Because laser hair removal works by preferentially targeting the melanin in hair follicles, people with high-color contrasts, such as those with dark hair and light skin, tend to respond best to treatment. That being said, there are still laser hair removal options for other hair and skin color combinations. People with light hair and skin, for example, can achieve good results by first dying their hair a darker shade before a laser hair removal session.
For those with darker skin and hair, certain lasers, such as the Nd:YAG laser or the Diode laser, have proved highly effective in eliminating unwanted hair. Both lasers have longer wavelengths and are highly sensitive to all color and melanin. This means they can more precisely penetrate hair follicles without damaging surrounding tissue.
It should be kept in mind, though, that people with darker skin tones tend to experience a higher risk of complications associated with laser hair removal. They can suffer hypopigmentation, keloid scarring, and folliculitis.
LaserAway Brings You the Industry’s Best Lasers
Want to learn more about lasers? Then contact your local LaserAway.
LaserAway is proud to offer the most medspa service options of any national skincare provider. We hire only the most highly trained staff experienced and certified in administering laser and other dermatological procedures. What’s more, we use only innovative techniques and cutting-edge laser technology. We aim to make your medical spa experience comfortable, enjoyable, and satisfying. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today by emailing LaserAway.com or calling the staff at LaserAway at (888) 965-2737.