Having body hair is a normal part of our anatomies. Those who wish to get rid of it are not short of options.
Between shaving, waxing, electrolysis, sugaring, IPL and laser, removing unwanted body hair is easier than ever.
But if you’re looking for a long term solution, you might want to look further than shaving and waxing, as these hair removal methods typically do not provide longevity. While permanent hair removal depends on factors like the thickness and colour of hair being treated, the colour of your skin and other genetic factors, permanent hair reduction is definitely achievable. This is done through hair removal methods like laser and IPL, which directly target and damage hair follicles so hair can no longer grow.
Yet, some clients might find that despite undergoing hair removal treatments that claim to entirely remove hair, unwanted hair still grows back after an extended period of time. This is because the majority of hair growth is driven by hormones, so any hormonal changes can lead to the stimulation of hair follicles, resulting in new hair growth.
As beauty professionals, we’re not in the position to control your hormone levels — but what we can do is to come up with the best solutions to help you achieve smooth, hair-free skin for as long as possible.
Types of permanent hair removal
Generally, permanent hair removal right now is limited to electrolysis, IPL and laser hair removal. Which works the best? Here’s our take.
Electrolysis for permanent hair removal
Electrolysis uses an epilator device to harness shortwave radio frequencies on individual hair follicles. This damages hair follicles and roots completely, causing existing hair to fall out and preventing future hair growth. Currently, electrolysis is the only hair removal method considered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give permanent hair removal.
However, electrolysis is known to be one of the most painful hair removal methods around as hair is removed individually. This also means that electrolysis is a lot more tedious and would require many sessions to treat larger areas like the legs and back. On average, about 15-30 sessions every 1-2 weeks are required for optimum results, which may not be the most cost-efficient in the long run. As such, while most areas of the body can be treated through electrolysis, this hair removal method is more often used for facial hair removal since facial hair is smoother and requires less work.
IPL for permanent hair removal
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is a broadband pulsed light source that uses a broad spectrum of light wavelengths. These wavelengths range from 500-1000nm and targets melanin in hair, which thus destroys hair follicles. Due to the broad spectrum of light, IPL is a lot more efficient than electrolysis; however, it is this broad spectrum that makes destroying certain deeper targets challenging. There is no ability for the light energy to discriminate between chromophores within the skin, thus smaller and more superficial targets like pigment take in most of the energy. This increases the risk of blisters, burns, hyperpigmentation and potentially scars.
IPL is also said to only be effective for hair in the anagen phase (active growth phase). Thus, IPL might be best suited for areas with a higher percentage of anagen hair like the underarms or in the bikini area. Otherwise, it’s a lot of treatment sessions you’ll be potentially wasting.
Finally, since IPL is not recommended for individuals with dark skin, the ideal candidate would be someone with fair skin and dark hair.
Lasers for permanent hair removal
Like IPL, lasers utilize light energy that converts into heat, which then damages hair follicles and reduces hair growth. Compared to IPL and other hair removal methods, lasers have three unique properties:
- Lasers utilise only one wavelength of light, and this wavelength selectively targets one chromophore, which is melanin. This means that not only can lasers work on darker skin types, it allows for specific targets and deeper penetration without causing harm to surrounding tissues. Chromophores in the path of the beam will not be affected.
- Lasers are “collimated”, meaning that the light waves are parallel. This makes lasers very powerful, as the treatment area can receive nearly 100% of the light for hair reduction.
- Lasers are not limited to just one type of device and technology. Currently, there are three primary types of laser technologies, ranging from 735nm to 1064nm. They’re able to deliver pulses at different repetition rates, and some even come with anti-reflective sapphire technologies to cool skin. Settings can be adjusted to suit your specific hair color and skin tone.
Most clients report a 90% permanent reduction in their treated areas after consistent treatments. Results can be seen as soon as after 2 treatments — full results will take about 12 weeks.
Can I employ these permanent hair removal methods at home?
There are plenty of DIY home devices that promise permanent hair removal. However, the results can differ greatly from treatments done by a professional. While most at-home devices are considered safe, they’re not quite as powerful as in-office treatments.
For instance, most at-home devices tend to be optimized for individuals with fair skin and dark hair. Energy settings are also capped for safety reasons. In inexperienced hands, complications like burns, blisters and adverse skin pigmentations may happen. Hence, we do not recommend at-home devices for permanent hair removal. Always go to a professional for such treatments in order to ensure safety and efficacy. If you’re in the middle of treatments and unable to resume them for any reason, shaving is the safest current option before resuming your next course of treatment.