Can laser hair removal work for blonde hair?
Serving Wake Forest, Durham, Brier Creek, Chapel Hill, and surrounding areas of North Raleigh
Many people with blonde hair have an interest in laser hair removal. The traditional answer has been that laser hair removal does not work for blonde, red or grey hair. But the truth is not as straightforward as a simple yes or no.
Lasers of all kinds work because their energy is absorbed by a specific target also known as a ‘chromophore’. The target for laser hair removal is pigment. Some blonde hair may look quite blonde at the skin surface, however, when it is tweezed the root of the hair may have ample pigment to serve as a target (chromophore) for a laser. One way to check is to tweeze a few hairs from the area where hair removal is desired, then place the hair on a piece of white paper. If there is any pigment detected, chances are that laser hair removal can be effective, provided the right laser is used.
Many Blue Water Spa clients and staff members who are naturally blonde have experienced successful removal of blonde hair using the lasers specifically designed for lighter hair at Blue Water Spa.These are powerful lasers with a high peak energy and a short pulse width, which is ideal for removal of lightly pigmented hair.
When laser hair removal is effective for blonde hair, it is always possible that some surrounding hair might be unaffected. For a person who has some extra-fine and extra-light hair adjacent to the blonde hair that has pigment in the root, the result might be a tremendously improved appearance, however there may be very soft tiny blonde hair in the surrounding area. The feedback we have received from people with this issue has been that if they want the skin of the treated area to look and feel completely sleek and hair-free, they may need to shave the extra-fine, vellus hair once a month.
One of our long-time staff members with very light blonde hair has had great success with laser hair removal on all areas of her face and body. She did share that she once discovered a single hair under in her underarm area that was very fine and blonde but did grow nearly an inch long! So, this is the kind of thing that men and women with blonde hair seeking laser hair removal might want to be prepared for.
The areas of the face and body that respond most favorably to laser hair removal of blonde hair are the bikini and genital area, legs, buttocks, areolas, chest, back, feet, toes, forearms and buttocks. The face, especially in women, will often have a combination of two kinds of hair: (1) more visible hair that is longer, with a thicker hair shaft and some pigmentation in the root; and (2) and vellus / extra-fine hair that is shorter, more fine than surrounding areas, and that has no pigmentation in the root. Therefore, a woman with blonde hair who wants laser hair removal of the face might find that areas like the chin and upper lip can be cleared quite easily, but that if the cheeks are treated for laser hair removal, then some of the very short and extra-fine hairs might remain.
Selecting a Laser for Blonde Hair
It is critical to use a specific type of laser for removal of lighter hair. IPL and BBL are generally ineffective for the treatment of blonde hair. Broad-spectrum light sources, like IPL and BBL, do not have a specific target or ‘chromophore’. Lasers emit a single wavelength of light energy that is extremely specific for a particular color or pigment.
To understand more about laser physics and to understand why some lasers work for dark skin and others are better for light skin, one needs to understand the concept of the laser pulse, which is different for each laser. For laser hair removal, a long-pulsed laser takes more time getting to the root of the hair. These lasers, like the long pulsed Nd:YAG, are safe and effective for laser hair removal for patients with dark skin tones. The long pulse works by bypassing the pigment on the surface of the skin, safely targeting the pigment at the root of the hair. If the wrong laser is used, the laser energy will be absorbed by the surface of the skin. This not only means that laser hair removal will be ineffective, but also that the surface of the skin could be damaged.
Lasers with a shorter pulse emit their energy differently. When the root of the hair contains less pigment, the laser energy needs to be quickly and safely directed to the root of the hair. The laser energy is absorbed at the root of the hair, damaging or destroying the hair follicle, while preserving the integrity of surrounding tissue including the skin surface. At Blue Water Spa, every single laser room is equipped with two lasers, so that patients with both lighter and darker skin tones can be safely treated. Each laser has settings that can be adjusted for each patient’s particular needs, so it is important to seek treatment at a center with well-trained and experienced technicians.
Will at-home lasers work?
One word of caution to people of all skin types and with all hair color is to avoid ‘home lasers’. It is important to understand that these devices are not true lasers. We have seen no evidence of efficacy, but we have heard anecdotally of people experiencing unpleasant side effects. The marketing of these devices seems to be aimed at people who are looking for laser hair removal in ‘personal’ areas (like genitals, buttocks, perianal areas, breasts, etc.), and who are self-conscious about seeking treatment for those areas at a medical spa.
It is understandable that consumers may have some trepidation about having a hair removal procedure for their most intimate of areas performed by a stranger. But instead of wasting money on an ineffective home treatment, please consider visiting a reputable laser hair removal center that is owned and operated by a board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist who is on site. At Blue Water Spa, our laser technicians treat ALL areas of the face and body – all day, every day.
There is no place on the body that people should be embarrassed about having hair. We all have hair and many of us have it virtually from head to toe. And yes, we do treat lots of toes for laser hair removal at Blue Water Spa! There is nothing wrong with hair any place on the face or body. And there is nothing wrong with wanting that hair removed. An experienced laser technician in a medical practice will be accustomed to treating all genders and all areas of the body and face.; To put yourself at ease, schedule a complimentary consultation to familiarize yourself with the environment, to meet a medical aesthetic provider, and then proceed with laser hair removal only if you are comfortable doing so.
Why does my hair need to be shaved prior to a laser hair removal treatment?
Every laser has a target or ‘chromophore’. The target for resurfacing lasers is water, the target for lasers used to treat vascular conditions is the color red, and the target for lasers used for hair removal is pigmentation (melanin). If hair is present above the surface of the skin, the laser energy will be absorbed by the hair instead of being absorbed by the root of the hair. Burning the hair above the skin surface will not have any effect on disabling or destroying the root of the hair, which is the goal of laser hair removal. It may even create a problem at the surface of the skin.
This is why shaving is important, and why waxing or tweezing should not be performed prior to laser hair removal. The root of the hair, which resides below the skin within the hair follicle, is what grows the hair shaft. The root is the enemy to those of us who want to be hair-free. Waxing and tweezing temporarily removes the root of the hair (which is then regenerated by the follicle, regrowing the hair). This means that a laser will not be;able to effectively target the root of the hair, making laser hair removal completely ineffective. Effective laser hair removal therefore requires that hair is shaved, so that no laser energy is absorbed by hair shafts above the skin surface, and an intact root, which will absorb the laser energy and be disabled or destroyed.
How do I know if my blonde hair will respond to laser hair removal?
One option is to tweeze a few hairs and put the hair on white paper to see if there is any visible pigment, as suggested above. Or, if you prefer, come in to Blue Water Spa; with some hair grown out in the areas where you’d like hair removed. One of our experienced;laser technicians will tweeze a few hairs and show you which hairs, if any (or maybe all), are likely to respond to laser hair removal.
What Color Hair will not respond to laser hair removal?
Hair that is free of pigment like white or grey hair will not respond to laser hair removal, because there is no target for the laser to hit (i.e. no pigment that will absorb laser energy). This is an important consideration as hair on the face and body, not just on the head, can turn grey as we age. So, if one has unwanted hair that is not pigmented, it is better to consider laser hair removal sooner than later, as when the unwanted hair turns grey or white it will be completely unresponsive to laser hair removal.
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