Hair, we have a love hate relationship with it. If it grows on the head we want to nourish and pamper it to a rich healthy silky smooth shine. Yet, there are many places on the body that hair is obviously unwelcomed. Hair can grow almost anywhere on the body and only our palms, soles of our feet, and lips seem to be immune to it. Whether you are male or especially female, most of us have hair growing in places that we’d rather not see. The hair removal industry is a multi-million dollar market. We spend countless dollars on creams, razors, and waxing religiously on a schedule to keep unwanted hair away. Thanks to laser hair removal, we can now start to break the daunting cycle that is hair maintenance. Today we talk about hair growth cycles and their effect on laser hair removal treatments.
Laser hair removal is the process of using high energy laser light to destroy hair follicles by targeting the dark pigment of hair via selective photothermolysis. Selective photothermolysis uses a specific wavelength of light that is attracted to dark pigment, transferring all its heat energy to that pigment while leaving the surrounding tissue unharmed. In terms of laser hair removal there is an optimal time to treat hair for maximum results. Our hair grows in phases, or cycles, and we have to target laser hair removal in the first phase called the anagen phase. Its also important to remember that in any given square inch of skin there are thousand of follicles with only a fraction of them producing hair at any given time. Due to these two important factors, multiple sessions of laser hair removal have to occur at least 4 weeks apart and missing your scheduled session means you might miss a hair cycle.
Understanding Hair Growth Cycles for Hair Removal
We, as humans, shed regularly. We shed because we have hair growth cycles. There are 3 phases of hair growth every single time a new hair is developed and it’s important to understand that hair does not grow in unison. While one hair might be in the first stage of hair growth, the one right next to it might be in the last. The 3 phases of hair growth are the anagen, catagen, and telogen stage. Each new hair will start with the anagen phase and end with the catagen phase.
The Anagen Phase
Also known as the growth stage, the anagen stage is where cells in the papilla (The papilla is a cluster of cells that look like a knob at the bottom of hair follicles charged with the development of hair fibers and nourishment of hair) start to divide and produce hair. Because the papilla is attached to the hair in this stage, it is most suitable for laser hair removal. The laser transfers heat energy to the hair follicle, destroying both the hair and its papilla preventing any new growth. The anagen stage is also where the hair is at its darkest pigment allowing for the best transfer of heat energy from the laser to the hair.
The Catagen Phase
The anagen phase ends when the body sends signals to the hair to start the catagen phase. Known as the transitional phase of the hair cycle, the hair follicle begins reducing its size (disintegration), the papilla ceases the production of melanin (responsible for pigment or color of hair), and the papilla detaches from the hair to rest. The hair loses the nourishment from the papilla and further reduces its size to a fraction of what it was. The follicle starts to reduce in size and push upwards expelling the hair from the cavity. Due to its detachment from the papilla and the reduction in melanin, the catagen phase is not ideal for hair removal. Though effective hair removal is still possible in this phase, if a hair is targeted in this phase a new hair may likely grow out. I have seen this phase take effect with clients at my business, Ivy Laser Salon office in Las Vegas, countless times. Most of the time it’s because a client has missed a scheduled appointment. It leaves the treated area with patchy hair growth after the fact. Don’t be fooled thinking that the laser is ineffective, you just missed the growth phase!
The Telogen Phase
Known as the final stage of hair growth, the telogen phase is where laser hair removal is completely ineffective since there is no hair to treat. The cavity will lay dormant anywhere between 30 and 120 days until the body sends a signal to start producing hair again.
The Effects of Hair Growth Cycles on Your Treatments
Though it can take over 6 weeks for hair to start showing above the skin, laser hair removal treatments should be done every 4 weeks minimum to make sure you are catching as many hairs in the growth phase as possible.
Keep in mind that the lasers used for hair removal penetrate the skin into the dermal layer where hair follicles and there papilla are located. I have seen many clinics recommend 6-8 weeks between sessions. I believe this to be a flawed and outdated approach to laser hair removal since waiting 8 weeks between sessions brings a very high likelihood that you miss at least one hair growth cycle a year, prolonging your complete treatment in any given area. Keep in mind that we ask our clients to shave any treatment area the day of treatment. Hair does not need to have breached the surface of your skin. Which is why, at Ivy Laser Salon, we recommend our clients come in every 4 weeks for most body parts in order to receive the best treatment plan for hair removal.
The statistical industry standard for effective laser hair removal of any given treatment area is 6-8 weeks. Keep in mind that the number of sessions needed varies from person to person due to variable factors like genetics, hormones, hair color, and skin tone.
Your best bet is to schedule a consultation with an experienced certified laser hair removal specialist to see if you are a good candidate for laser hair removal.
If you are in the Las Vegas or Henderson area, consultations are always free at Ivy Laser Salon