So, you’re asking “how many laser hair removal treatments do I need?”?
How Laser Hair Removal works
Laser hair removal works by targeting melanin in the hair. The process of selective thermolysis takes place, whereby energy emitted by the laser is transferred to the target (in this case, hair). The energy then travels down the hair shaft to the cells at the base of the hair follicle that are responsible for hair growth. If these cells are heated to the correct temperature, they are permanently denatured. This means that particular hair cannot grow again.
In order for the laser energy to reach these cells, it requires melanin to be present in the hair. Melanin is the pigment that gives hair colour. This is why laser hair removal cannot work on hair that has lost it’s pigment ie turned grey/white and also cannot work on very fair hair such as blonde hair.
If hair has pigment, then laser hair removal in theory should work. However, if the hair is extremely fine, even if it is dark, then the treatment may not be effective. A reputable and trustworthy laser hair removal clinic should advise you honestly about the anticipated effectiveness at a consultation prior to treatments.
So – the hair needs to be dark enough and not too fine for laser hair removal treatment to be highly effective or to work at all.
Hair grows in cycles
In addition to the above, even on an ideal treatment site, every single hair cannot be targeted in one treatment. This is because hair grows in cycles and only at a specific stage of this cycle is the actual hair shaft attached to the “bulb” (the place where the cells that we are trying to target live).
There are 3 stages of hair growth:
- Anagen, the growth phase
- Catagen, between growth and resting – hairs shed in this phase
- Telogen, the resting phase
Laser hair removal is successful mainly only in the Anagen stage when hairs are attached to the bulb at the base of the follicle. On any treatment site on the face or body – for example in your underarms or on your upper lip, all the hairs will be at different stages of the growth cycle.
In order for all the hairs eventually to be successfully targeted with the laser – ie for all the hairs to have been treated with the laser while they are in the Anagen phase, a number of treatments are required at intervals of approximately 4-6 weeks.
So, how many sessions of laser hair removal do I need then?
An absolute minimum of six treatments is usually required.
In our experience of treating clients for 10 years and counting, we have found that face areas require the highest number of treatments. We would expect most clients to need perhaps 8-10 treatments and thereafter a treatment maybe 2-3 times per year to maintain the result. This may sound like a lot – however, things to bear in mind are that in between treatments, skin will be smoother and clearer and even when there is hair growth, the hairs are finer, softer, slower growing and less visible.
On the body, we tend to find that 6 treatments give a more final result than on the face. Lower legs are probably the best performing area. Hollywood and underarms are also areas that respond very well to treatments. 6 treatments on Hollywood and underarms give an excellent reduction although for Hollywood we would also say that a client should expect to need some maintenance treatments which could be 1-3 times per year.
The number of treatments also depends on the client’s desired end point. For example, on a Hollywood area, some clients are happy with a 80%+ reduction that 6 treatments usually gives and happy to shave thereafter with much slower and softer growth and maybe have the odd treatment once per year before a holiday. Other clients want to get to a more ‘perfect’ finish and so naturally would require more treatments.
Most areas and clients will need an absolute minimum of six treatments. On the face, 8-10+ is a more realistic expectation. All areas are likely to require some level of ongoing treatment although this could be as little as once per year. In between treatments, the finish of the skin is much cleaner, brighter; hair volume is vastly reduced, hairs are softer and less visible. So ultimately, laser hair removal gives a far superior result to all other methods of hair removal.