Laser Hair Removal of the Face
Reviewed by Yael Halaas, MD
Unwanted facial hair is something most women have to deal with at some point in their life. Whether it appears on the upper lip, chin or sides of the face (or all three!), getting rid of those pesky coarse whiskers and fine wisps can be time-consuming, painful and messy. Laser hair removal is one option that is gaining in popularity among women seeking a clean visage.
Before pursuing laser hair removal, however, it's important to make sure that what you're dealing with is run-of-the-mill facial hair growth and not a medical condition caused by a hormonal imbalance or some other health issue. Some common medical causes of excess facial hair growth in women are polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), thyroid dysfunction and adrenal tumors. Obesity can also cause excess facial hair, as can some medications. Another possible diagnosis is hirsutism, an inherited genetic predisposition for growing excess body hair. If new hair is cropping up where it never grew before, or if it's particularly thick, consult with your physician to determine if there's an underlying medical cause before pursuing a hair removal regimen.
If you're given a clean bill of health, you're ready to proceed with laser hair removal.
Laser Hair Removal Basics
There are a few important things to know when it comes to laser hair removal. They include:
- Hair cycles through stages of growth and dormancy, and lasers are only effective on hair that's in a growth stage. Consequently, several laser hair removal sessions may be necessary to achieve optimum results.
- Complete hair removal isn't a realistic expectation. About 80 percent of the treated hairs will be destroyed after successive treatments. Some hair may grow back, but it's often lighter in color and finer in texture.
- The laser targets melanin (color pigment) in hair, so it's most effective on dark hairs on light-skinned individuals. Lasers do not work well on blond, gray and white hair because they have less melanin. Although there are lasers available to treat people with different skintones, people with dark skin (including deep tans) may be candidates for hair removal by intense pulsed light (IPL).
- Laser hair removal is not overly painful. The sensation is often described as the equivalent of a rubber band snapping against the skin. No anesthetic is usually required, but some doctors and aestheticians apply a topical anesthetic before beginning the procedure, and many lasers have a cooling device to help lessen discomfort.
- There is virtually no downtime with laser hair removal, although you will experience some redness and swelling following the procedure. An ice pack or other cooling medium can help with both. The treated hairs will fall out over several weeks. Be sure to use a good sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) once you're cleared to be out in the sun again.
- The cost of facial laser hair removal varies depending on your geographic location and what specific areas you have treated. While the face and neck will run between $600 and $900 per session, a treatment to the upper lip ranges from $50 to $200. Check with your doctor or aesthetician to see if they offer a discount for a multiple treatment package.