DEC 20, 2017 03:06 PM PST

The Science of Laser Hair Removal

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

In our beauty-centric culture, the only hair we seem to prize is the kind on the heads. Elsewhere on the body, remedies abound for ways to pluck, wax, strip, and otherwise make our bodies smooth as silk. Some people go to even greater lengths to remove unwanted hair on their bodies, enduring laser treatments to permanently stop hair from growing back. But how does laser hair removal work, and is it really worth it?

Laser hair removal is fast becoming one of the most requested cosmetic services. In repeated sessions, hair follicles are exposed to short bursts of laser light, which are intense enough to damage the follicles but not the surrounding skin. This works because pigment molecules within the hair follicles absorb the energy from the laser beam and destroys the follicle tissue. But the procedure isn't 100% guaranteed to make all patients permanently hairless. Those with light skin and dark hair seem to have the best results, whereas it's less effective in dark skin/haired or light skin/haired people.

But here's the thing: body hair is natural and is meant to protect us from the elements. So to singe it off with lasers seems highly extreme. If you're not convinced, watch what happens during laser hair removal in slow motion.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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