Thank you for your question. Facial hair is a problem many women experience so you are certainly not alone. Studies from 2000 show that in North America over 20 million women used one or more products to combat facial hair on a weekly basis. That is a lot of time, energy and money.
We can divide facial hair removal techniques into two broad categories, temporary and permanent. Temporary techniques usually prevent hair growth for between 3 - 10 days. They are less invasive and are suitable to all hair and skin types and combinations. These include waxing, threading, and tweezing. But these are techniques you have to continue with for life. More permanent techniques are electrolysis and laser hair removal. The choice between the two depends on your hair colour and skin tone, and the combination of the two.
Electrolysis has been on the market much longer than the use of lasers, and is generally regarded as the gold standard in permanent hair removal, but it is more painful and takes much longer to affect permanent hair loss. Electrolysis is the only option for people with very fine or light-coloured hair though. This is because it does not rely on the presence of melanin, the pigment or “dye” that gives hair and skin its colour, to work. It simply involves grabbing a single hair strand with a tweezer-like apparatus and passing an electrical current through it to “shock” the hair root, effectively killing it. It is painful because you are shocking yourself, albeit with a small dose of electricity, and it is slow because you have to do one hair at a time.
Laser hair removal makes much more sense for people with darker hair.
Very simply, lasers rely on the melanin pigment in hair to conduct light down the hair shaft to the root, where it kills the hair root. Therefore the more melanin your hair shaft has (i.e. the darker your hair), the better it will conduct the light, and the more effective laser will be for you. But melanin is also present in the skin surrounding the hair shaft, so in older lasers the light would be passed through the dark hair shaft into the dark skin surrounding it resulting in burning, blistering and scarring of the skin. That is why lasers have been traditionally reserved for people with the combination of dark hair and light skin tone.
But new technology has now been developed that allows us to use laser therapy on people with both darker skin tones and dark hair.
“Nd:YAG” laser technology enables light to pass down the hair shaft into the root without affecting the surrounding tissue. This laser type is effective on all skin tone and hair colour combinations, but is particularly useful for people with the combination of dark skin tone and dark hair. Lasers work by shining the laser on an area of skin and allowing the light to be conducted down into the roots of all the hair present in that area. This kills off all active hair follicles in the area in one go, so it is much faster than going hair by hair as in electrolysis. And because we use light there is relatively little pain associated with this procedure.
Hair grows in different phases, and not all at the same time. Of the three main phases, we can only permanently kill the hair root during the active growth phase, so during the laser procedure any hair roots not in the active phase will not be affected, and stay behind. Luckily for us the cycle is short, and dormant hair roots will soon turn active, and we will be able to target them with the laser at a later date. This is why we recommend a series of laser sessions, usually 8 - 12 weeks apart, so as to catch the hair follicles in the correct stage, and ensure that we completely remove all hair roots from the area.
After having a successful procedure performed you may notice some itching, redness or swelling of the area treated. Thereafter, the affected hair will begin to fall off during the following 2 - 3 weeks. If you notice any lightening or darkening of your skin, or even burning, contact your practitioner. This calls for adjustment of the laser settings before your next session. The risks of acne, skin discolouration, purpura and infection all depend on the use of the correct type of laser for your skin tone and hair colour, and is dependent on the skill and experience of your practitioner with the machine in use.
So to answer your questions:
1. Yes, laser will help you get rid of your facial hair, if you use the correct laser for you hair colour and skin tone.
2. Laser hair removal is permanent, so long as you complete a series of sessions to ensure we catch all hair in the active phase of growth.
3. This procedure is performed by a Dermatologist, registered with the Health Professions Council Of South Africa, who has the correct laser for you. Please ask him or her if they use the Nd:YAG Laser, especially if you have a darker skin tone and dark hair, to prevent any of the risks mentioned above. This laser is also helpful if you suffer with regular ingrown hairs.
Many thanks and warm regards