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Laser Hair “Removal” – Be sure to read the fine print before signing up for that laser package!

Updated: Apr 30

Laser hair “removal” has been so well marketed over the years, so most clients think that laser is the only way to truly get rid of unwanted hair. Not only is laser hair “removal” merely laser hair reduction, but there is an uncommon, yet strikingly adverse side effect to laser called paradoxical hypertrichosis (PH). These 2 fancy and scary words are a clinical mystery, even today, and there is ongoing research to determine what causes this horribly adverse side effect of laser hair reduction. It is said that PH has an incidence rate of between 0.6% to 10% of those treated with laser.

Paradoxical hypertrichosis is the new growth of dense, fine to coarse, dark hair on areas of the skin being treated, or next to areas of the skin treated with intense pulse light (IPL), on the face neck, and body. Although this can happen to any skin tone and any hair type, it has been known to more commonly affect darker skin tones with a Fitzpatrick of III-VI and also darker hair colors. Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), non-classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia (NCAH), Cushing’s syndrome, or an androgen-secreting tumor, are at even greater risk of PH. Danger zones of treatment for women are the chin, cheeks, upper lip, neck and sideburns, while the danger zones for men are the chest, shoulders and back.

We of course seek out laser hair reduction as a way to decrease unwanted hair, yet it seems rarer than not, that laser technicians are informing clients of the risk of paradoxical hypertrichosis happening to them. Not to say that absolutely no laser tech is discussing this with their clients, but as a previous laser client myself, at 3 different laser clinics over the span of 8 years, only one of them discussed this possible risk with me, and very briefly. I believe that this is because paradoxical hypertrichosis used to be something so rare as laser was just becoming popular, but now with this procedure being so commonly performed, of course there are going to be more cases, right? I also believe that more clients would in turn decline laser treatment if they were told about the possible side affect of PH at their consultation.

There is some documented evidence that low level radiant exposure may stimulate hair growth by first stimulating growth factors or inflammatory markers with the use of intense pulse light devices (lasers). Another theory is that PH is caused by the underlying health problems listed above, and that laser only stimulated dormant hair follicles that are already there. It has also been said that IPL’s direct light stimulation causes synchronization of hair growth cycles (there are 3 cycles) and also stimulates dormant hair due to the light flashing mechanism of laser. Although any and all of these theories could make sense, it is still not truly understood as to why PH becomes a reality for some clients.

Because Electrolysis uses electric current and heat, instead of IPL and heat to target the hair follicle, Electrolysis has not been shown to cause or stimulate PH. While completely avoiding the risk of PH by choosing Electrolysis as your method of hair removal, you are also choosing the only true form of PERMANENT hair removal that is recognized and approved by the FDA. Electrolysis is also safe for all skin tones and hair colors/textures, without the risk of stimulating more hair growth or causing damage to your skin. We are all about healthy and hairless skin here at SMOOTH. Please feel free to reach out with any hair removal questions you may have. Can’t wait to see you soon!

Shelley, Owner and Operator of SMOOTH – Electrolysis by Shelley

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