Everybody prefers painless hair removal if given the option. But what is painless hair removal and how does it work? Is it something that you can only do with a diode laser, or can other lasers also do painless hair removal? These are some questions we will explore in this article.
Let’s start with pain, or at least the sensation that you feel during a laser hair removal treatment. Laser (and IPL) hair removal is based on the ability to use light to selectively create heat in certain molecules in your body without causing damage to the surrounding tissue. The sensation (or pain) associated with hair removal is created when the hair shaft heats up. This is an unusual sensation and not easy to explain. Most people compare it with a pin prick or a snap with an elastic band. This heat is necessary to destroy the dermal papilla.
How do you eliminate the sensation without eliminating the heat needed to achieve results? One way of thinking is that you do not need to kill all the dermal papillae at once and if you only target a portion of the hair, you will still achieve a level of results while the sensation remains within the client’s tolerance level. This is a feasible technique during the first couple of treatments when there are proportionally more thick dark hair to treat. These are the hairs that reacts first and easiest. However, by the third or fourth treatment these hairs are gone.
‘Painless hair removal’ requires the therapist to use a low fluence at a high frequency and to “spread” the energy over a larger area. The low fluence will result in only the thickest hair creating enough heat to kill the dermal papilla, because of its high melanin content. The high frequency has to ensure that enough of the treatment area is covered with light pulses and additional to that is the theory that the heat created will ‘stag’. This means that the next flash on a given spot will build on the heat created by the previous pulse on that spot. The effectiveness of ‘staging’ is influenced by various factors such as the time between the two pulses and the melanin content in the individual hair. The heat needs to exceed a certain temperature for a minimum period of time to realise permanent hair removal.
The gliding technique can be done with any device that allows the therapist to work with a low fluence at a high frequency. It is not limited to diode lasers only.
Therapists also perceive this method as faster than the traditional press and pulse method. Which, is not really the case. Done properly the gliding technique is not faster. One big drawback of the gliding technique is that the therapist will use gel to make the gliding motion easier. Gels have a negative influence on the treatment results.
In practice, you will reach a plateau with the gliding technique by your third session. At this stage it will be more effective to switch over to the press and pulse technique. The benefit that you will gain from combining the gliding technique with the press and pulse technique is that you will lower the sensation during the first treatments when the hairs are the thickest and by the time you switch techniques the sensation will be less because there are less hairs per cm2 to create heat. The trade-off is that you will have to add more treatments at the end of the treatment course to compensate for the low energy used in the beginning. That said, most clients find one or two extra sessions a fair trade-off for the derived comfort.
Keep in mind that there is a relationship between sensation during the treatment and results. The sensation is created by the very same heat that’s needed to kill the dermal papilla. Too much sensation also indicate that the therapist is busy to over treat and under cool. No sensation very seldom indicate a very high pain tolerance, it usually indicates that the therapist is busy to under treat.