Timing Is Everything with Hair Removal

At Dr. Perron’s, one of our most popular non-invasive treatments is laser hair removal. After all, no one is a big fan of plucking, shaving, waxing, or applying harsh depilatory creams only to have the hair come right back in a couple weeks.

It would seem simple to use a laser to get rid of the unwanted hair. Our patients often wonder why it takes multiple sessions to get rid of most of the hair in a treatment area. Sure, hairy humans may have about five million hairs on our bodies, but why can’t you zap them all at once and be done with it?

Two words: growth cycle.

Human hair has three phases in its growth cycle, and laser energy is really only effective when the hair is in one of those phases. The trick is to catch as many hairs at that time as possible.

Three cycles

Our hairs operate like independent contractors, five million of them. Each hair is doing its own thing. Sure, certain areas tend to spend more time growing, such as the beard area on the male face. But each hair is moving through the grow cycle on its own.

That cycle includes the anagen (growth) cycle, the catagen (transitional phase between growth and rest), and the telogen phase (rest). The catagen and telogen phases involve stopping nourishment to the hair, shedding it, and restarting a new hair shaft. When the hair is in either of these phases of the growth cycle laser energy has no effect on it; the hairs are already on their way out. And the laser energy can’t get into the follicle to damage it.

For our lasers to be most effective on an individual hair, it needs to be actively anchored in the hair follicle. This happens only in the anagen phase. The hair is receiving nourishment through the hair follicle and it is still growing. The body isn’t ready to shed this hair yet. When we apply pulses of laser energy to this hair, the melanin in the hair shaft absorbs the light and it converts to heat. The heat travels down the hair shaft into the follicle. The heat damages or destroys the hair follicle, and this precludes it from growing hair in the future.

You can see the challenge. Five million hairs, only some of them in the anagen phase at any one time. That’s why it takes multiple laser hair removal sessions in Dr. Perron’s Calgary office to build the level of permanent hair reduction. The goal is to catch more and more hair in the growth phase.

This is why the Health Canada approval for lasers and hair removal is for what it deems “permanent hair reduction.” You notice that doesn’t say complete removal. Most patients can achieve up to about a 90 percent reduction in their treatment areas.

Maybe you want to start targeting your unwanted hair this fall with us because by next summer your unwanted hair will be like the Nordiques from Quebec — gone. Call us at (403) 228-7076 to schedule your laser hair removal session.