What Are My Options For Hair Removal, How Do They Work, And Are There Any Risks/Side Effects?

Question: What are my options for hair removal, how do they work and are there any risks/side effects?

Answer: There are three basic options for hair removal: laser hair removal, electrolysis and prescription creams.

Lasers are specific wavelengths of light that target the hair follicle. They destroy the hair follicle and thereby prevent hair growth. They don't destroy anything else in the skin so that minimizes the chance of scarring.

Electrolysis is where a needle is stuck down into the hair follicle, electricity is delivered and again the hair follicle is destroyed. Both of these treatments can cause scarring. So you need to be aware of that and make sure that you go to a practitioner that is well versed in how to use these treatments.

I would definitely recommend a physician or dermatologist for laser hair removal. There are several lasers that are not safe in darker skin patients so you want to be sure that you go to someone who is well experienced with this treatment. Electrolysis can also cause scarring so you want to be sure you go to someone who does these procedures on a regular basis.

The final option is a prescription cream. It also targets hair follicle growth and shuts it down. It only works, however, in about 50 percent of patients. It's something to try. It's much less painful than the other two options and takes less time, but it may not always work.

Michel McDonald, M.D., Vanderbilt University Medical Center Play


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