Laser hair removal is all about timing. Each package includes at least six sessions that you must schedule every six weeks. Of course, this is an average. Some patients will come back every five weeks, others every eight weeks. Each laser treatment is as unique as the patient that undergoes it. This is mostly because of the hair growth cycle. There are a few things to take into account for sure. However, what happens when you miss a laser hair removal session?
How does laser hair removal work
Laser hair removal is a long-term hair growth reduction method. Indeed, it will reduce hair growth by up to 90%. Although the FDA does not classify laser hair removal as a permanent hair removal method, a lot of patients still do experience permanent hair removal. The results will of course vary from one person to another.
Laser hair removal relies on selective photothermolysis. It is a precise microsurgery technique used to target tissue in a specific area. It matches the specific wavelength of light and heats the tissue and destroys it with a laser without affecting or damaging surrounding tissue. The targeted cells are destroyed by the absorption of light and transfer of energy.
In the context of laser hair removal, the target is the pigments in the hair. The laser emits light energy that targets the melanin in the hair. Once the energy is absorbed by the hair, it travels all the way down to the hair follicle. There, the energy turns into heat, which will damage the hair follicle and stop any further hair growth.
Laser hair removal works on all skin tones and hair color, as long as melanin is present. The treatment may work on blonde hair but will not on very light hair, white hair or grey hair. Furthermore, it is the successive multiple sessions that will lead to long-term hair growth reduction.
Why does the hair growth cycle matter
The hair growth cycle plays a huge part in laser hair removal. Simply because a laser treatment is only efficient on hair that is in the anagen phase of growth. This growth cycle has four stages: anagen, catagen, telogen, and exogen.
The anagen phase is the only phase where the hair is actively growing and still attached to the hair follicle. Thus, it is the only time the energy can travel from the hair to the hair follicle. The thing is, only 20% of all unwanted body hair is in the anagen phase of growth at any point in time.
As a result, a laser hair removal session will only be able to treat 18% to 20% of hair on a designated area of the body. This explains why laser packages always include multiple sessions that will target different hair at different times when they are in the anagen phase of growth.
The hair growth cycle also explains why patients must wait six weeks between sessions. Indeed, that timeframe will allow the hair that previously was in the exogen phase to shedd and the hair follicle to produce a new hair, in the anagen phase.
What happens when you miss a laser hair removal session
The first thing you need to know is that essentially, missing a laser hair removal session will diminish the efficiency of the treatment. Laser hair removal is all about timing and scheduling your sessions. It is important that patients come back every six weeks.
Certified technicians may advise to come back after 5 weeks up to 8 weeks, depending on the patient, their hair growth cycle, skin tone, hair color, etc. Those six weeks usually help to ensure the hair is treated during its regrowth phase. As mentioned earlier, those six weeks give time to the hair to move into the right stage of growth so that they can be treated.
Allowing too much time during sessions is taking the risk that the hair moves into its next stage of growth. Thus, it is no longer treatable. And it will take quite some time before the hair is through all three next stages and back into the anagen phase. Thus, patients may require additional sessions just so that they can treat the hair that the laser missed due to a missed laser hair removal session.
It is also possible that some hair follicles need more than one session to be fully damaged and unable to produce new hair. In that case, missing a laser hair removal session will give time to that hair follicle to regenerate and start producing hair again. Patients may see regrowth, especially in hormonal areas.
The length of those caps between treatments will affect the results. Of course, this largely depends on each individual, their hair growth cycle, hormones and how many sessions they already had. For example, the efficacy of a treatment may be diminished for a patient that just had one session and waited four months to come back.
What to do if you missed a session
Although missing a session can interfere with the efficacy of your laser treatment, it is not the end of the world nor will it ruin the whole process. If you miss a laser hair removal session, it is important to get back on schedule right away and try in the future to come back every six weeks.
Coming back a week earlier or later than scheduled will not impact the treatment. It is a long gap that will. Simply because it is unlikely that a straight 20% of hair moves into the next phase of growth in just a week. Yet, it is important to stay on schedule.
This is because the hair that has not been treated during its growth cycle will return when it is in its growth phase. At any point in time, 30 to 40% of body hair is in a resting state. Thus, there is no hair in the follicle. So, even if it seems like you can skip a treatment, that hair is just waiting for its turn to grow back.
Attending every session until your treatment is complete is the best way to keep unwanted hair gone for good and giving you the best results. It is the repeated process that leads to permanent hair reduction.
How to prepare for your session
Preparing for your laser hair removal session is straightforward and simple yet essential to guarantee the safety of the treatment. The efficiency of the treatment indeed relies just as much on the treatment itself and on the patient following pre and post-session care.
Patients should stay away from the sun at least ten days before their laser hair removal session. Although natural skin color has no impact on the treatment, tanning puts the skin in an excited state, which can interfere with the treatment. Plus, it would be risky to undergo laser on potentially sun-damaged skin.
Make sure you shave the night before your appointment. Shaving removes the upper layer of the skin and leaves quite sensitive. Doing it ahead will leave time for the skin to heal and recover. Laser hair removal is more efficient on shaven hair since it can get straight to the hair follicle.
Wash your skin of any lotion, cream, moisturizer and makeup prior to your laser hair removal session. If you are taking medication, inform your certified technician. Indeed, medication like antibiotics can increase photosensitivity and others like accutane are straight incompatible with a laser treatment.
Post-session care includes avoiding direct sunlight as well. Laser hair removal leaves the skin quite sensitive and more vulnerable to sun damage. Do not take a hot shower, workout or get into heat inducing activity. Those may create the ideal environment for bacteria development, which could lead to infection.