DR. ROLLINS: Hair today, gone tomorrow | PostIndependent.com

DR. ROLLINS: Hair today, gone tomorrow

Scott Rollins
INTEGRATE YOUR HEALTH
Free Press Health Columnist

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Are you are sick and tired of shaving, waxing or plucking unwanted hair? Summer is here and skin is back in the daylight. Now is the time to consider laser hair removal as advanced technology has made this procedure simple, effective and affordable.

The history of hair removal goes back to the Greeks and Romans who used pumice stones to remove unwanted hair. The Native American Indians used sharpened stones or shells to tweeze or abrade, while the ancient Turks invented the first “Nair” product using a combination of rose water, arsenic, quicklime and yellow sulfate.

Modern men and women continue to desire the removal of unwanted hair for various reasons. Most are simply tired of shaving underarm, leg and bikini areas. Some wish to be rid of pesky facial hair or general body hair. Whatever the reason, it is now available for just about anyone to safely and quickly remove unwanted hair.

Today’s methods of hair removal are much more effective and gentler than those of our ancestors! Removing hair above the skin is called depilation and includes shaving, chemical hair removal (e.g. Nair) and bleaching solutions. Removing hair below the skin surface is called epilation and includes plucking, waxing, electrolysis and laser hair removal.

LASER HAIR REMOVAL – how it works

Epilation is much more effective than depilation for long-lasting or even permanent hair removal and the lasers rule! To know what makes lasers so awesome at hair removal, I need to explain how hair grows and what makes lasers tick.

The hair follicle growth starts 2-6 mm below the skin surface in the bulb, which is surrounded by a nourishing matrix. The bulge, located above the bulb, houses the stem cells that are required for hair follicle regeneration. These critical areas (bulb and bulge) must be destroyed for successful hair reduction.

Laser energy (light) works to remove hair because the energy is selectively absorbed by the melanin (pigment) in hair follicles. The light energy is converted to heat which diffuses to and injures the bulb and the bulge without damaging the surrounding tissue.

WHO SHOULD GET IT?

The best candidates for laser hair removal have dark hair and light skin, and the hair needs to be darker than the skin color. Red hair is difficult to remove and blonde hair is very difficult. White or gray hair lacks the necessary melanin thus laser hair removal is not possible. Since the laser light energy is absorbed by the dark melanin pigment, dark or tanned skin is at more risk of absorbing the energy which can cause burns, scarring and pigment changes.

Terminal hair is the coarse hair that grows on our head, beard, underarm, groin, arms and legs. Velus hair is the soft, downy hair that covers our entire body. Laser hair removal is best for terminal hair because it will absorb the laser energy well due to its more typical thick and dark characteristics.

Hair growth occurs in three cycles: anagen (growth), catagen (transition) and telogen (resting). Laser energy only works to eliminate hair during the anagen phase, which at any given time is occurring in about 70-80% of the hairs on the upper lip and beard, and only about 20-30% of the hairs on the other body areas. Anagen phase lasts several years, catagen a few weeks, and telogen a few months.

How many treatments are needed?

Multiple treatments are necessary for hair removal because only a portion of the hair is in anagen phase at any given time. The different growth phases explain why some body areas can be treated every 4-6 weeks and others every 6-8 weeks, and why some body areas need more treatment than others. Lighter skin types typically need 3-5 treatments while darker skin types may need 6-10 treatments. Beware of clinics that offer hair removal treatments too frequently — the only thing they are removing is money from your pocket.

Laser hair removal is safe and effective only in the hands of an experienced specialist. There are numerous details that go into making laser so effective for hair removal, such as considering skin type, hair color, body area, laser power and wavelength. Making laser safe and comfortable depends on all of the above plus understanding how to cool the skin during and after treatment to avoid burns.

DOES IT HURT?

What does laser hair removal feel like? A good answer is to imagine a light snap of a rubber band on the skin — really not a big deal. The heat generated by lasers can build up and cause warmth in the skin which is why using the correct settings in the first place and adding cooling is so important.

The newest generation of laser delivers energy only in a therapeutic range, precisely heating the target with little or no damage or discomfort. “In-motion” technology is another advance that allows the laser to always be on the move while treating, making it quicker and virtually pain-free. The result is safe, quick and effective hair removal that lasts. Involving no downtime, you can continue with all your regular activities immediately after treatment. See http://www.almalasers.com for more info on hair removal technology.

Also important with hair removal is to consider whether hair growth is excessive and reflects an underlying hormone disorder. I often get referrals from our laser center to investigate the cause of excess hair growth. Removing the hair with laser is great but more important is to fix the original disorder, which makes the treatment that much more successful and also improves the general health of our patients!

Our laser specialists are certified with Alma lasers and have ongoing training in order to stay up to date with the latest in laser technology and treatment techniques. We offer free consultations with any of our specialists. The cost of hair removal depends on the size of area treated and most areas need 3-5 treatments.

Scott Rollins, M.D., is board certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other complex medical conditions. He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com) and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (www.bellezzalaser.com). Call 970-245-6911 for appointments or more information.


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