Whatever you opt to do with your body hair — whether you want to wear it proudly or laser it off for smooth skin head-to-toe — we support you 100 per cent. If you do decide to move ahead with the latter, there are numerous things to consider — crucially, your method of removal. There are a few professional options; electrolysis, IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and Laser hair removal.
When it comes to permanent hair removal, deciphering all the myths and technical jargon can be daunting. Cue: Dr Giulia D’Anna, founder of Dermal Distinction, she's breaking down everything you need to know about the treatment and process. Here, we take you through the pros and cons of each permanent hair removal option.
Let's clear up the most common hair removal myth before we delve into the nitty-gritty: True permanent hair removal does not exist. While the majority of hair growth can be successfully zapped, there is always a few active follicles left behind. What’s more? Hair patterns can change as a result of lifestyle factors; certain medications, hormonal changes and health conditions can stimulate new hair growth. For this reason, the term 'permanent hair removal' should be interchanged with 'permanent hair reduction'.
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light)
Uses light energy - to target the travel through the skin - and target the pigment in the hair. As the light is absorbed, the hair follicle is heated and destroyed. However only hair that is in the growing phase (anagen Phase) is destroyed, as the hair follicle or root of the hair is not subject to heat damage unless the cells are actively dividing.
The process: Usually, clients shave the treatment area before their appointment. Next, an ultrasound gel is spread over the skin to conduct the IPL light through to the skin. While the client is wearing protective glasses the IPL head is passed over the skin, firing shots as the therapist goes. This covers a large area in a short time.
The cons: The treatment isn't suitable for all skin types and skin tones. Clients' can't be tanned (yep - including fake tan) or you risk getting burnt as the laser will target the pigment in your skin rather than the hair follicle.
The pros: IPL is best suited to anyone who has unwanted hair and can be seriously life-changing for some people.
Laser treatment works in a similar way to IPL, except that the light is much more intense and focussed, and tends to be more effective as a result. Each hair follicle is precisely heated and destroyed whilst it is in the active phase of growth which equates to about 20% of hair follicles at any one time.
The process: Just like IPL, it's preferred that clients shave the treatment area before their appointment. After being given protective glasses; the client's skin is marked in a grid pattern if doing a large area such as the legs. The laser is passed over the skin, firing shots as the therapist goes. This covers a large area in a short time.
The pros: Offers a more direct delivery method that is more precise than IPL which can sometimes cause light to scatter and be less effective.
The cons: Just like IPL, this treatment isn't suitable for all skin types and skin tones. Clients' can't be tanned (yep - including fake tan) or you risk getting burnt as the laser will target the pigment in your skin rather than the hair follicle.
Electrolysis is a process that targets a single hair at a time with an electrode - unlike other hair removal methods, this works on all hair types and colours. The electrode is carefully guided into the hair follicle, and a single blast of energy (heat and current) are directed at the hair follicle causing the hair follicle to shut down.
The process: After the area is properly cleansed, a fine probe is inserted into the hair follicle and the technician holds the hair tight with tweezers. A current is passed through the probe and the hair will release from the probe. Multiple treatments may be needed to weaken the hair causing the hair follicle to cease function.
The pros: Better suited to darker skin types and anyone with grey or white hair, which can spring up around the chin in menopausal women.
The cons: It’s a slow process so be prepared to invest a decent amount of money and time for this hair removal treatment. Dr D’Anna explains "this is a very laborious and tiresome procedure as each hair needs to be treated one at a time." Most people will require approximately 15 sessions.
Frequently asked questions
Is it safe? As discussed above, make sure your chosen hair removal treatment is suited to your skin and hair type. "Laser mishaps can definitely happen. In Australia, the use of Lasers is not regulated (with the exception of QLD and WA).
"This means that literally anyone with enough money to buy a laser can buy one and use it. This also means that non-legitimate operators can purchase their equipment online and start working without a licence. This is indeed a concern. So there a number of checks that you should consider prior to undergoing treatment."
Dr D’Anna says that you should always make sure your therapist has a laser license and if it's not on display - ask to see it!
Does it hurt? Generally speaking, IPL and "laser hair removal is mildly uncomfortable but very tolerable. Most people would consider that the discomfort level is no greater than having their legs or arms waxed," advises Dr D’Anna.
Adding, "Given that most people need between 6-10 treatments to get almost no hair growth this is very manageable when compared to a lifetime of waxing."
Furthermore, electrolysis is generally no more painful than laser hair removal (read: expect mild discomfort). You may feel heat or a tingling sensation as each hair is being treated.
What about facial hair?
72-hours before any laser hair removal treatments, you should cease using Retinol or products formulated with vitamin A products for at least three days prior. Additionally, refrain from applying any active serums. "Do not apply vitamin c, or any chemical exfoliant as these can sensitise the skin. You should stick to a mild cleanser, use a simple moisturiser and a sunscreen every day," Dr D'Anna says. "Sometimes, some clients will also be asked to use soothing products containing aloe vera gel on their skin afterwards to cool and soothe the skin."
Is it true that you shouldn’t go into the sun while getting laser and is it ok to just wear sunscreen instead?
"Avoiding the sun completely is the only way to go. Even with an SPF50, about 3% of the UV rays are still hitting the skin. This means that although you may not be burnt, the pigment-producing cells have still become active and some level of melanin has been produced.
"Sometimes this tan is not immediately apparent, and unexpected negative results can occur where skin can redden or burn due to the energy being absorbed in the skin. This generally makes winter the best time to have laser and IPL treatment as most people cover up."
What are the most common side effects?
"Thank goodness burns are particularly rare. When the skin burns, a blister can occur which will take time to heal. Afterwards, this can lead to a temporary darkening of the skin, or a more permanent whitening of the skin as the cells that produce melanin in the skin are also damaged during treatment. Having test patching can eliminate these side effects."