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Laser Hair Removal with PCOS, Explained

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Dr. Hardik Soni

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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects countless women. It often leads to irregular or absent menstrual periods along with other distressing symptoms like excessive facial and body hair growth. This abnormal and unwanted hair growth can be a hugely annoying and confidence-sapping issue for many women with PCOS. Finding an effective, long-term solution for removing excess hair can seem like an impossible quest.

Traditional temporary hair removal techniques like shaving, waxing or hair removal creams provide only short-term relief at best. They need to be repeated frequently, risk ingrown hairs and can be painful. Laser hair removal offers a more permanent and satisfactory reduction in unwanted hair for PCOS patients. The precision of lasers allows targeting the hair follicle for long-term hair removal without damaging the skin. This article will explore the science behind laser hair removal, its benefits for excess hair growth in PCOS, what to expect during treatment and the factors to consider.

Understanding PCOS and Excessive Hair Growth

a woman getting underarm laser hair removal treatment

PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormonal disorder estimated to affect 8-13% of women of childbearing age. It is characterized by high levels of androgens like testosterone in women along with irregular or missed periods. PCOS gets its name from the small cysts that form on the ovaries but cystic ovaries are just one of the symptoms.

The most common symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Irregular, absent or infrequent menstrual periods
  • Excessive hair growth on the face and body – including the chest, back and buttocks
  • Weight gain and difficulties losing weight
  • Thinning hair or hair loss on the scalp
  • Acne outbreaks
  • Darkening skin like acanthosis nigricans around the neck, armpits or groin
  • Multiple small cysts on the ovaries

The root cause of PCOS is thought to be elevated levels of androgens like testosterone and insulin resistance leading to an excess of androgen hormones. This androgen excess impacts the hair follicles and leads to hirsutism or abnormal hair growth patterns. The excess facial and body hair growth can be distressing and have a significantly negative impact on a woman’s confidence and self-esteem.

Finding solutions for permanent hair removal is therefore important for women with PCOS struggling with excessive, dark body hair.

Traditional Hair Removal Methods vs. Laser Hair Removal

For most women, regular hair removal for unwanted hair consists of common techniques like shaving, waxing, tweezing, depilatory hair removal creams or epilation. However, these provide only temporary relief from excessive hair growth and need to be frequently repeated.

  • Shaving only removes hair above the surface of the skin.
  • Waxing pulls hair out from the root but often breaks the hair shaft leaving hair to regrow quickly.
  • Hair removal creams dissolve hair but can irritate sensitive skin.

None of these methods permanently damage the hair follicle or prevent regrowth. The results are short-lived, needing daily or weekly repeats.

Laser hair removal offers a more effective and satisfactory solution by targeting the hair follicle itself. Lasers apply targeted pulses of intense light energy which get absorbed by the melanin pigment in the hair shaft. This damages and impairs the follicle preventing future hair regrowth. With repeated treatments, laser hair removal provides permanent reduction in unwanted body hair.

Since lasers target the pigment in the hair shaft, they work best on dark, coarse hair. People with light hair and skin tone may not be suitable candidates. For women with PCOS struggling with darker, thicker facial and body hair, laser hair removal can provide a life-changing, confidence-boosting solution for smooth skin, if performed correctly.

The Science Behind Laser Hair Removal for PCOS Patients

Laser hair removal devices produce a highly concentrated beam of light at a specific wavelength optimized for absorption by melanin – the pigment that gives hair and skin its color. Melanin in the hair shaft absorbs this laser energy, heating up and damaging the hair follicles beneath without injuring the surrounding skin.

This laser induced damage impairs the follicle’s ability to regenerate and grow new hairs. With repeated treatments at the right intervals, laser hair removal provides long-term permanent reduction in unwanted hair growth. The results are more predictable and satisfactory than temporary solutions like shaving or waxing.

The efficacy of lasers depends on selectively targeting dark hairs and preserving lighter skin. Therefore, laser hair removal works best for people with a clear contrast between their natural hair color and skin tone. The darker and more coarse the body hair compared to skin complexion, the better the results.

Laser hair removal targets hair follicles in the active growth phase called anagen. Since not all hairs are in the anagen phase at once, multiple treatments are required to damage enough hair follicles to give the desired reduction in hair growth. Typically 6-8 sessions may be needed initially, with some maintenance treatments later on.

The laser’s wavelength, pulse duration and fluence or energy level can be customized based on factors like skin type and hair thickness. This allows safe and effective treatments for all skin tones when performed by an experienced professional.

Benefits of Laser Hair Removal for Women with PCOS

For women struggling with excess hair growth due to PCOS, laser hair removal offers tangible benefits compared to temporary removal techniques:

  • Permanent long-term reduction in unwanted facial and body hair
  • Avoiding the hassle of daily shaving or weekly waxing sessions
  • Smoother, hair-free skin with reduced ingrown hairs and less irritation
  • Confidence boost from not having to be self-conscious about dark facial or body hair
  • Long lasting results with an average reduction of 72-76% in hair counts after the recommended treatment regime
  • Increased self-esteem and freedom to wear desired clothes without worrying about visible hair regrowth
  • The option to focus time and energy spent on hair removal methods on more meaningful activities
  • Visible improvement in skin texture and appearance over time

Laser hair removal does not permanently remove all hair 100% but it does significantly reduce the amount of hair regrowth long-term. For PCOS patients with abnormally high hair growth, laser treatments can provide life-changing results and positive impact on quality of life.

What to Expect During Laser Hair Removal Treatments

The first step with laser hair removal is usually a consultation session with assessment of the individual’s hair color, skin tone, density of hair growth and goals. This allows creating customized treatment parameters and setting expectations on the number of sessions required.

Laser hair removal protocols often involve multiple treatments with intervals of 4-6 weeks between sessions. On average, 6-8 initial treatments may be recommended but 10-12 sessions over several months provides optimal long-term hair reduction.

Before each laser session, hair in the treatment area is trimmed and the skin may be numbed with an anesthetic cream if required. The laser handpiece is then applied to deliver pulses of light at high speed targeting the unwanted hairs. Most laser treatments take 15-30 minutes depending on the body area size.

There is some mild discomfort during the session, often described like a warm rubber band snapping on the skin. After completion, the treated area may remain red and swollen for a few hours with some tingling or numbness which subsides by the next day.

Proper pre and post treatment care helps maximize results and minimize side effects. This includes:

  • Avoiding sun exposure and tanning beds
  • Stopping waxing or tweezing before treatments
  • Using sunscreen diligently and shaving between sessions if necessary

Some hair regrowth can be expected eventually depending on individual response. Maintenance laser sessions every 6-12 months help maintain the long-term reduction in unwanted hair growth.

Safety and Efficacy of Laser Hair Removal on Different Skin Tones

Modern laser technology allows safe and effective hair removal on all skin types from fair to dark complexions. Previously, lasers were considered risky for people with darker skin tones due to the potential risk of burns or skin discoloration called hyperpigmentation.

With technological advances, laser devices today incorporate sophisticated cooling systems and longer wavelengths that can selectively target dark hair while protecting delicate skin. Targeted pulses allow treating even delicate or sensitive areas like the face and bikini line on darker skin tones with greatly reduced risk.

When performed by an experienced professional using appropriate protocols based on skin type, laser hair removal achieves satisfactory hair reduction on any complexion. The treatments are customized taking into account factors like melanin concentration, risk of burns and heat absorption by darker skin.

By following safety measures, applying proper fluences and using optimized wavelengths, the myth that laser hair removal only works on light skin has been conclusively dispelled. People of color can achieve the same permanent hair reduction benefits as those with fairer skin.

Additional Considerations for PCOS Patients

Laser hair removal offers highly effective reduction in excess growth caused by hormonal imbalances in PCOS. However, a few additional factors need consideration:

  • Weight loss has been correlated with lowering androgen levels which can complement laser results. Improved diet and exercise may be recommended to PCOS patients seeking long-term hair reduction.
  • The advice and guidance of a healthcare or medical professional is important when considering laser hair removal with PCOS. Blood tests may be required to determine hormone levels and customize suitable treatment plans.
  • Birth control pills or oral contraceptives may help regulate menstrual cycles and androgen levels in some patients based on medical evaluation. It’s ideal to begin laser sessions after being on hormone medication for a few months.
  • Any medication or supplements that cause hormonal fluctuations should be discussed with your laser clinic. This includes PCOS drugs like metformin or spironolactone that impact hair growth cycles.
  • Avoid hormone altering herbs before or after laser treatments as they may trigger excess hair regrowth. Always inform your laser practitioner of any supplements or alternative remedies being taken.
  • Realistic expectations are necessary – 100% permanent hair removal is rare. Focus should be a satisfactory reduction of dark, coarse hairs for confidence boosting smooth skin.
  • Find an authentic laser hair removal clinic with experience treating PCOS patients. Their familiarity with the condition can ensure best practices and protocols.
  • Have your hormone profile evaluated periodically during the course of laser treatments. Medication adjustments may help give better outcomes.

Final Thoughts

doctors and staff

For women with PCOS struggling with the distressing symptom of hirsutism, laser hair removal is an effective treatment option. The precision targeting of laser technology provides long-term reduction in excess facial and body hair that daily shaving and waxing cannot match.

With a better understanding of the science behind laser hair removal, the factors that influence results and what to expect during treatments, PCOS patients can make informed decisions. The customized protocols followed at experienced laser clinics allow safe and satisfactory outcomes regardless of skin tone.

Armed with the right information and professional advice, laser hair removal can deliver life-changing confidence for women challenged by the annoying burden of hirsutism associated with PCOS. The freedom to have smooth, hair-free skin allows focusing time and energy on meaningful goals rather than endless hair removal routines.

If you suffer from excess hair growth due to PCOS, do not suffer in silence. Seek an evaluation at a respected laser hair removal clinic like Ethos Aesthetics + Wellness. Our compassionate experts specialize in treating PCOS patients using advanced laser technology tailored to your specific hormonal profile and skin type. Contact Ethos today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards gaining back your self-esteem.

Dr. Hardik Soni

MD, Founder/Lead Physician

About Dr. Hardik Soni

Dr. Hardik Soni is the founder and Medical Director of Ethos Aesthetics + Wellness. His primary focus is on minimally invasive and non-invasive cosmetic procedures including botulinum injection (Botox and Dysport), dermal fillers (Juvederm, Restylane, Radiesse), laser hair removal, chemical peels, and laser skin rejuvenation. Dr. Soni believes in a more conservative approach and his first goal is education. Clients are able to determine the ideal treatments after discussion with Dr. Soni regarding the expected outcomes, cost, as well as risks.

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