Over 1.1 million laser hair removal procedures were performed in 2015, according to data from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, making it the number one laser aesthetic procedure. It is essential to the success of a laser clinic or medical spa to perform this foundational treatment well, and success begins with choosing the right technology. There are a myriad of lasers and light-based devices that can perform hair removal treatments, resulting in a seemingly overwhelming amount of information to sift through when buying a hair removal device.
This article will walk you through the basics of the technology of hair removal, and begin to point you to the best choice for your clinic. Some professionals may choose to offer just one modality of hair removal. If this is the case, be sure to research your customer base and the device’s features very carefully. The optimal choice is to offer multiple modalities for hair removal treatments that work on a variety of skin types. There are many devices available that combine more than one modality and wavelength in the same machine.
An alexandrite laser produces a specific wavelength of light in the near-infrared spectrum at 755 nm, and is considered a red light laser. Alexandrite lasers are available in millisecond and Q-switched/nanosecond mode. Q-switched refers to the technique of making the laser produce very short bursts of high intensity pulses, and is used in tattoo removal treatments, but not hair removal.
Alexandrite lasers have been successfully used in professional hair removal for decades. They are optimal for people with lighter skin types. Alexandrite lasers have multiple uses beyond hair removal including benign pigmented lesion treatments, which can make these devices a good choice for a clinic that wants to offer multiple services. Alexandrite lasers are often larger, more powerful devices, necessitating a 220-volt power source.
Examples of Alexandrite-only lasers: Quanta EVO Light A & Candela GentleLase
Diode lasers work through semiconductor technology that produces a coherent projection of the light in the range from visible to infrared. It uses a beam with a very narrow spectrum to target specific chromophores in the skin. Diode lasers generally operate in the 800-810 nm range, resulting in deeper penetration than Alexandrite lasers.
Current generation diode lasers offer pain-free and high-speed hair removal treatments, making them a popular choice for medical spas and clinics interested primarily in hair removal. The main drawback to these devices is that they are excellent at hair removal, but not much else. However, laser hair removal is still the most requested cosmetic laser procedure, so return on investment is high and the faster you can perform a treatment, the more patients you can see in a day. Also, diode devices are often portable, making them a great choice for a practice with multiple treatment rooms or locations.
Examples of Diode Lasers: Quanta Forte, Alma Soprano Series, Lumenis Lightsheer Series, Palomar Vectus
With a considerably longer wavelength than Alexandrite or Diode lasers, the Nd:YAG operating at 1064 nm targets chromophores including blood, and not just the melanin in hair follicles. It is an optimal choice for darker skin tones, including Asians, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Mediterraneans. Like the Alexandrite laser, this laser can also be used in tattoo removal if pulsed in the Q-switched mode, but not as a millisecond-only laser. Many laser systems are configured with both an Alexandrite and Nd:YAG.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
Intense Pulsed Light is actually not a laser at all but a broadband spectrum of light capable of generating multiple wavelengths through filters. These multiple filters allow for many more treatments to be performed than just hair removal when using an IPL device.
IPLs are useful in a variety of skin treatments, and many feel that they perform these treatments better than they do hair removal. Hair removal with an IPL can be much slower than with lasers. However, the large variety of treatments that can be done with an IPL device, and the fact that many IPLs cost less than a laser system, still make it a preferable choice for some medical spas getting started in aesthetics.
Examples of IPLs: Quanta Forte, Palomar Icon, Lumenis M22, Alma Harmony, Sciton BBL
Which hair removal technology is best for your practice?
The one that treats your patient population effectively, so they will keep coming back! Patients who are satisfied with their results on one body area will usually come back for additional areas to be treated—and they will tell their friends, family and social media audiences about you.
A few questions to guide you in your device selection process:
- What skin types make-up the patient population in your area?
- Why does this matter? Some lasers only treat lighter skin types, some do better on darker skin, and some work for all. You don’t want to turn patients away because you can’t treat them well, or risk complications like burns or hypopigmentation that can occur if using the wrong laser wavelength.
- What other treatments, if any, do you want the device to perform?
- Tattoo removal
- Skin treatments
- Acne treatments
- Vascular treatments
- What additional factors are important to you?
- Speed of treatment
- Patient comfort
- Ease of user interface on the device
- Cost of the device
- Maintenance costs
- Disposable costs
As hair removal is such a foundational treatment to aesthetic clinics, it is important to take your time in choosing the right device. There are many factors to consider, and many companies who offer devices that seem similar at first glance. The difference can often be found in service, training, support, and the entire customer experience. One recent trend in the industry is companies who profit from a consumable model, where you buy a laser, and then have to pay the company a considerable amount of money to perform treatments with the device in the form of consumables like cryogen and distance-gauge sliders.
Quanta Aesthetic Lasers offers a portfolio of handmade Italian hair removal devices with Alexandrite, Diode, Nd:YAG, and/ or IPL technologies, with no consumables. Our Sales Consultants are available anytime to walk you through all your options. We will help you decide on the best hair removal technology and device for success in your clinic.