The lowdown on laser hair removal

Monday, 30 November 2015


There are numerous options available when it comes to laser hair removal – how do you know which one is best for you? Here are some guidelines for this popular treatment.

The laser hair removal process involves directing highly concentrated beams of light onto your skin at a temperature that damages hair follicles and prevents regrowth, while avoiding injury to the surrounding tissue. The result is permanent hair reduction. Six to 10 sessions are typically required for total hair removal in the treated area.

There’s a laser for everyone
“Various media can be used to remove hair, including diode, IPL, Nd:YAG and alexandrite,” explains Nicola Steenkamp from Best Lasers, a company in Pretoria that specialises in laser hair removal equipment.

The equipment used depends on your hair density, hair colour and skin type. “The diode laser has a wavelength of 810 nanometer (nm), which is suitable for most patients’ hair,” says Steenkamp. “An alexandrite laser has a wavelength of 755nm, it’s a smaller wavelength used to target lighter hair colour. The Nd:YAG technology has a wavelength of 1064nm, this is usually used for darker skin types and hair colours.” These lasers are generally safe for use on all parts of the body. “Even a full Hollywood can be done with these systems,” says Steenkamp.

IPL and laser – what’s the difference?
IPL, or intense pulse light, is similar to laser, however laser uses one wavelength of light, while IPL uses the full spectrum. “IPL systems have filters in them that block out the wavelengths that are not needed for that particular treatment. For example if the goal is hair removal, we cut out the wavelengths that don’t target the melanin (pigment in hair),” explains Steenkamp.

IPL’s wavelengths are more diffused and therefore somewhat less powerful than laser, however both modalities can be effective. For an understanding of which one is right for you, visit an experienced practitioner.

The pain factor
The good news is that times have changed when it comes to pain with hair removal. “Our systems are pain-free due to the use of In-Motion™ technology, which allows the therapist to move the hand piece freely over the skin and overlap areas,” explains Steenkamp. “The previous ‘Pick & Place’ method involved placing the laser on the person’s skin, firing a shot, then placing it down on the next spot, and zapping again.” Ouch!

The price of smooth skin
“Factors that affect the cost of the treatment include whether the system is Pick & Place or In-Motion™, if it has contact cooling (another feature that helps minimise pain), whether it’s IPL or diode laser, if it’s safe for all skin types, etc,” says Steenkamp. “Make sure you know which system will be used when booking your appointment. After all, why would you want to experience a painful procedure when technology allows us to do it pain-free?”

Other articles you may be interested in:
At what age can my daughter have laser hair removal?
How to: Prepare for your first bikini wax
How can I minimise razor burn and ingrown hairs?
Is my eyebrow waxing damaging my skin?
How to: Deal with ingrown hairs

Written by

Candice is a health and beauty writer who is passionate about wellness, sunshine, macadamia nut butter, good coffee and great conversation. She believes that kindness is a superpower and that the best experiences in life are found in the least likely places.

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  1. DIVA

    I so want to go for laser hair removal. Now how do I know if the practitioner is experienced because every beauty salon offers laser hair removal?

    4 years ago •

  1. Fatima Sader

    Laser is a remarkable way to get rid of unwanted hair! I’ve had great success wth laser hair removal for my facial area. It’s only deteriorated again after pregnancy. I now have to go for regular sessions again.

    4 years ago •

  1. Fatima Sader

    I’ve been having laser hair removal for about ten years. Over the last few years, I’ve only needed to go for touch ups after a year or two for my facial area. However, since having a baby, my hair growth has become bad again.

    4 years ago •

  1. Jodie-lee Tejada

    I have had laser hair removal done about 2 years ago, All my hair is not completely gone. However it is less than what it was before and a lot softer. I stopped going before all my sessions were completed due to burn mark complications.

    4 years ago •


    I’m keen to try laser hair removal because I have sensitive skin that gets irritated quickly from shaving and waxing.

    4 years ago •

  1. Ray-Jessie Hendricks

    Wow, the technology is so sophisticated now.

    4 years ago •

  1. Mark Parr

    I went for IPL treatments on my under arms, legs and bikini line and cost a fortune. What I found out is the IPL only works on dark hair, if the hair is light or blond then one has to use a graphite paste to darken the hair, and what a mess that is. I find the IPL rather sore under the arms. I still have to wax omce a month the fine hair which is still visible.

    4 years ago •

  1. Nixxi

    I have had IPL all over my body so many times before, it didn’t make a difference which is a bit ig a bummer. Luckily I worked at a laser clinic and didn’t have to pay much!

    4 years ago •

  1. Iman Coovadia

    IPL really hasn’t worked for me, i’ve been for many treatments. However with laser i feel it works perfectly after 4 treatments

    4 years ago •

  1. Sarah-Jane Van Heerden

    I have always wanted to do laser hair removal but unfortunately these procedure cost a lot of money and therefore at home hair removal is just so much more affordable. I would love however to go for laser hair removal on my bikini area and maybe on my top lip and underneath my arms but can you imagine the cost of that.

    4 years ago •

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