Just How Permanent Is Laser Hair Removal?

Want to get rid of hair once and for all? Then there’s no better option than laser hair removal, which uses select wavelengths of light that are absorbed by melanin in the hair and its follicle, destroying the hair in its entirety. “Because the energy heats the hair so selectively, the normal skin structures are not injured (and side effects like scarring and unwanted pigment changes are avoided),” says Washington D.C. dermatologist Tina Alster, MD.

While we know that laser hair removal is effective—it has improved with the advent of the use of various different wavelengths that are now compatible with more skin tones and types over the years—one question still stands: Just how permanent is it?

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According to Dr. Alster, laser hair removal is kind of like weeding a garden in the fact that it can never fully be weed-free. “Hair follicles are a lot like weed in that they have a tremendous capacity to regrow (albeit, smaller and thinner) even when only a small fragment of the follicle remains,” she says. “Typically, I prepare patients for a series of three treatments at monthly intervals, which results in 50–80 percent hair reduction. Depending on where the patient falls in that spectrum, maintenance treatments can be advised as appropriate.”

Delray Beach, FL, dermatologist Janet Allenby, MD, adds that even though the results from hair removal aren’t forever, they are considered long-term due to the fact that human hair grows in cycles and the cycle that has an active bulb present during treatment has a specific color that the laser is seeking out to damage. “Each body area has its normal parameter of how quickly the cycles turn over to dictate how frequently it should be treated. Initially, most areas are treated about four to six weeks apart for four to six treatments. The treatments will be spread out more over time and eventually, a patient may only get treated once a year.”

So, what’s the best way to keep up the results and maximize the results for longevity? For starters, you can choose to use an at-home hair removal device to target unwanted hairs that pop up occasionally or between treatments. Also, make sure you stay on track with your in-office treatments and schedule regular touch-ups as needed.

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