Which Laser is Best for Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal for men (and women) is growing in popularity and, as a result, the laser technologies are growing along with it. New lasers continue to be introduced or re-adapted for hair removal. Let’s take a look at the most common lasers and their effectiveness for removing unwanted hair.
Laser hair-removal systems are typically grouped into the following 3 categories on the basis of the type of laser or
light source each uses:
- red-light systems: 694-nm ruby (no longer used for hair removal)
- infrared-light systems: 755-nm alexandrite, 800-nm diode, and 1064-nm Nd:YAG
- Intense pulsed-light sources: 590- to 1200-nm.
The Alexandrite laser was the first to be used for hair removal and is still widely used today. It operates on a shorter wavelength system than other lasers. It is effective in removing relatively large amounts of hair but is generally limited to dark haired individuals with white skin. This made it easy for the laser to target the pigment in the hair follicle vs. the pigment in the skin. Dark skinned or light haired individuals are not good candidates for this type of laser.
The along came the Nd: Yag laser ( the marketers were left out of the naming decision). The Nd: Yag laser can operate in short (Q-switched) or long pulse mode. The long pulse mode was the most effective for hair removal on darker skin types and colors. Unfortunately, the longer pulse durations were not as effective for long term hair removal as the occurrence of regrowth was significantly faster using this laser.
The Diode lasers are a compromise between the Alexandrite (short) and Nd: Yag (long) lasers with respect to wavelength duration. Thus, they can be used for darker skin individuals without too much harm to the surrounding skin. The longer wavelength allows the light to target the pigment in the hair follicle without as much adjacent skin damage as the Alexandrite lasers. It is very effective and can clear large areas of unwanted hair usually in one treatment.
IPL lasers are not really lasers at all because they operate across multiple wavelengths of light (lasers typically use a single wavelength). However, these machines have the advantage of being flexible with the amount of light delivered and duration i.e. length of light pulse delivered. This flexibility makes them effective across a broad range of skin types and colors. Also, the more dispersed light beam means less pain and discomfort for the patient.
Lasers are constantly evolving to support unwanted hair removal. As the market continues to grow, I expect IPL in particular to continue it’s popularity and expand it’s utility with more and more improvements making it the standard for laser hair removal.