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Laser Hair Removal VS Waxing
- Comparing waxing to the laser is like comparing horse carriages to modern cars as a means of transportation. Laser wins hands down as a long-term hair reduction solution. However, for those who are interested, we will discuss in great detail why laser is a better choice.
Laser hair removal and waxing are two popular hair removal methods that serve the same purpose but operate in very different ways, each with its unique set of benefits. While waxing is a traditional method that removes hair from the root temporarily, laser hair removal is a more modern technique that targets hair follicles to reduce hair growth permanently over time. In this discussion, the benefits of laser hair removal will be contrasted with waxing, highlighting scientific explanations and referencing reputable sources.
Benefits of Laser Hair Removal vs. Waxing
1. Precision and Selectivity
Laser hair removal utilizes specific wavelengths of light to target melanin in the hair. This selective absorption of photons by the pigment in the hair follicle under the skin’s surface enables the laser to precisely target the hair without damaging the surrounding skin tissue.
Photothermolysis is the principle behind laser hair removal. It involves matching a specific wavelength of light and pulse duration to obtain optimal effect on a targeted tissue with minimal effect on surrounding tissue. Because the melanin in the hair follicle absorbs the laser light, the follicle is heated and ultimately destroyed, which prevents future hair growth (Anderson & Parrish, 1983).
2. Long-Term Cost-Effectiveness
Although the initial cost of laser hair removal can be higher than waxing, it can be more cost-effective in the long run. This is because laser treatments can lead to a permanent reduction in hair growth, meaning that over time, individuals will spend less money and time on hair removal.
A study assessing the long-term hair reduction efficacy of lasers demonstrated that patients could achieve a significant reduction in hair growth that persists for several months and, in some cases, for years (Liew, 1999). Hence, despite the higher initial outlay, the investment can be recuperated through the diminished need for ongoing treatments.
3. Reduced Risk of Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs are a common side effect of waxing and shaving. Laser hair removal reduces the occurrence of ingrown hairs by destroying the hair at its root, which prevents the hair from growing back and curling into the skin.
Ingrown hairs occur when hair is broken off unevenly with a sharp tip, which can happen during waxing. However, the American Academy of Dermatology notes that laser hair removal, by disabling the follicle, avoids this problem because the hair is not broken but rather treated at the root (AAD, n.d.).
4. Pain and Discomfort
While pain tolerance varies from person to person, many individuals find laser hair removal to be less painful compared to the swift and often harsh ripping away of hair that waxing involves. The sensation of laser hair removal is often compared to the snap of a rubber band against the skin.
The discomfort experienced during laser hair removal is due to the absorption of laser energy by the pigment in the hair follicle. Cooling methods and numbing creams are also available to minimize discomfort. In contrast, waxing mechanically pulls hair out from the root, causing acute pain, which can be particularly intense in sensitive areas (Gan & Graber, 2013).
5. Speed and Efficiency
Laser hair removal treatments are generally quicker than waxing, especially for large areas such as the back or legs. A laser pulse can treat multiple hairs at a time, which is much faster than waxing, where each strip only covers a small area.
The efficacy of lasers in treating large areas swiftly is due to the ability of laser devices to emit light pulses at a rapid rate, targeting multiple follicles simultaneously. Modern laser systems are equipped with large spot sizes that can cover significant skin areas in a fraction of the time it would take to apply and remove wax (Ross et al., 1999).
6. Fewer Side Effects
Laser hair removal generally has fewer side effects than waxing. Waxing can lead to immediate redness, irritation, and even minor bleeding. Conversely, laser hair removal has fewer such effects, and any redness or swelling that does occur typically subsides within a few hours.
The side effects associated with waxing are mechanical in nature, resulting from the trauma of pulling hair from the skin. In contrast, laser treatments are non-invasive, and while they can cause temporary redness due to the heat absorbed by the melanin, they do not involve physically pulling hair from the skin, which lessens the potential for irritation (Campos et al., 2000).
7. Suitability for Different Skin Types
Advancements in laser technology have made it possible to treat a wider range of skin types and hair colors. Previously, laser hair removal was most effective on individuals with light skin and dark hair. However, newer lasers such as Nd:YAG lasers can now safely treat darker skin tones.
Nd:YAG lasers have a longer wavelength, which is less absorbed by melanin in the skin, making it safer for darker skin types. It is more selective to melanin in the hair follicle, thus reducing the risk of skin pigmentation changes (Battle & Soden, 2002).
8. Treatment of Larger Areas
Laser hair removal can treat large areas effectively, such as the back and legs, which would be tedious and time-consuming to wax.
Lasers can deliver light energy to numerous hair follicles at once, treating a broad area with each pulse, as opposed to waxing, which requires strip-by-strip application. The ability of lasers to rapidly emit pulses allows for the swift coverage of extensive areas (Dierickx, 2000).
9. Consistency and Predictability
Laser hair removal offers consistent results. A majority of patients experience permanent hair loss after an average of three to seven sessions.
As per research findings, multiple laser hair removal sessions result in the progressive reduction of hair. This predictability stems from the laser’s ability to target and damage the hair follicle, leading to a permanent reduction in hair growth (Mordon et al., 1999).
Laser hair removal provides a multitude of benefits over waxing, including precision, long-term cost savings, fewer ingrown hairs, less pain, quicker sessions, fewer side effects, wider suitability across skin types, effectiveness on larger areas, and predictable results. These advantages are supported by scientific principles such as selective photothermolysis, the impact on the hair growth cycle, and advances in laser technology. While the choice between laser hair removal and waxing may also depend on personal preference, pain tolerance, and budget, laser hair removal stands out as an efficient, long-term solution.
It’s important to note that while laser hair removal has many benefits, it is crucial to have these procedures performed by qualified and experienced professionals to ensure safety and effectiveness. For individuals considering laser hair removal, consulting with a dermatologist or a certified laser specialist to discuss personal needs and expectations can help in making an informed decision.
- Anderson, R. R., & Parrish, J. A. (1983). Selective photothermolysis: Precise microsurgery by selective absorption of pulsed radiation. Science, 220(4596), 524–527.
- Liew, S. H. (1999). Laser hair removal: guidelines for management. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 1(3), 143–150.
- American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).