California Laser Hair Removal
Sciton Profile Dual Nd:YAG Laser
In the past, we were able to treat facial blood vessels, freckles and other sun induced pigmentation, wrinkles, and tattoos using our krypton, Nd:YAG, and UltraPulse CO2 lasers. For hair removal, however, these lasers were less than optimal with regard to both safety and effectiveness.
When the long-wavelength Cutera CoolGlide Excel laser was introduced, I concluded that at last we had a tool available that had the combination of flexibility, safety and effectiveness to allow us to begin to offer California hair removal treatment to our patients. After over three years of experience with the CoolGlide Laser, we have now replaced this laser with the hand built Sciton Profile Laser, a significant improvement over the CoolGlide. The Sciton has the same safe long wavelength laser that was in the CoolGlide, but the Sciton has numerous advantages. Because it fires through a sapphire chilling plate, it assures that the skin is optimally cooled before, during, and after the laser pulse. This results in a treatment that is both safer and less painful than treatments with the CoolGlide. Further, the laser pulses are delivered via a computer controlled scanner, rather than by manual movement of the laser head. The computer control assures that there is the exact amount of desired pulse overlap, no more and no less. Also, the computer fires the pulses in a pattern that assures that every part of the skin is covered, but also that each laser pulse is separated in time from the pulses on either side of it. This keeps the heat from one pulse from spreading to the adjacent pulse. This combination assures more uniform coverage with each treatment session, and the more perfect control of energy spread from adjacent areas further enhances comfort and safety. Furthermore, because the Sciton has dual ND-YAG lasers, one can fire while the second is recharging. This means much shorter treatment sessions. Finally, because of its highly customizable advanced computerized control system, the treatment parameters are much more likely to be error free, as well as more effective, than older laser systems.
The purpose of the information presented here is to help you understand the nature of this major advance in California laser hair removal.
How does the Sciton Profile Laser remove hair?
The Sciton Profile Laser provides a safe, fast, gentle and effective method for removal of hair by producing an intense localized pulse of light of a wavelength which is preferentially absorbed by the pigment, or color, in the hair root or the blood vessel. This specific laser wavelength was selected after there was considerable experience using lasers of other wavelengths for hair removal. After the shortcomings of the earlier approaches became evident, a wavelength was chosen that is able to safely pass through all colors of skin, without being significantly absorbed by other skin structures. However, light of this wavelength is still able to penetrate deeply enough so that it is absorbed by the pigment in the hair roots. The laser light passes through a specially designed sapphire cooling plate which can very accurately control and measure skin temperature. This state-of-the-art device protects the skin from damage and minimizes patient discomfort. Each light pulse lasts for only several thousandths of a second, so the energy from the beam is almost completely absorbed by the hair bulb or vein. The computerized spacing of pulses over time further diminishes the risk of energy spread to the surrounding tissue. The hair in the treated follicles is shed over a period of weeks and the remnants of the roots are reabsorbed by the body. Essentially, the sapphire cooling plate helps protect the skin while allowing the energy of the laser to pass through to the deeper hair roots.
The Sciton Profile Laser uses a wide beam which enables it to treat many hairs with each pulse of the laser. This is a distinct advantage over older methods of hair removal, such as electrolysis, and it makes it possible to treat larger body areas, such as the arms, legs, back and abdomen, in a single session. The Sciton Profile Laser can be used anywhere on the body, except close to the eyes, and treatment can frequently be performed without anesthesia, or with a mild topical anesthetic. Even sensitive areas such as the upper lip, nipples and bikini line can be treated with only mild discomfort. Because of the unique design and flexibility of the system and its hand piece, we can customize treatment according to your hair color and texture, and your skin color. In just a few treatment sessions the appearance of your skin can be permanently improved.
How does the Sciton Profile Laser differ from the earlier hair removal systems?
Many of the older laser systems use relatively short wavelengths -- 694 to 810 nanometers -- which, under the right conditions, can produce good results. However, because the wavelength of light is shorter, the light is scattered more within the skin and is mostly absorbed in the upper most portion of the skin. This may result in insufficient energy reaching the hair roots with the production of only temporary rather than permanent hair loss. Because a greater percentage of the laser energy may be absorbed by the skin, short wave length lasers can be difficult or impossible to use safely on people with dark or tanned skin.
The Sciton Profile Laser, however, uses the long wavelength of 1064 nanometers. This longer wavelength allows the laser energy to reach even the deepest hair roots, while at the same time allowing safe and effective treatment for people of all skin colors, even those with darker or black skin. This combination of safety and efficacy represents a major advance over the older treatment systems. The extreme flexibility and adjustability of the Sciton Profile Laser provides an additional benefit over the older systems. This laser's sophisticated computer control system easily, and automatically adjusts the duration and power of the laser pulse based on the skin type and the hair thickness. This provides precise, safe and optimized treatment for each individual. The unique patented cooling head provides the operator with a clear view of the treatment area and continuous cooling before, during and after the laser pulse. This results in a safer and relatively pain free procedure. The 1064 wavelength allows the operator to use clear safety goggles, which provide better visualization than the colored goggles required by the older shorter wavelength lasers.
Who are the best candidates for laser hair removal?
Those individuals with coarse dark hair and light skin color respond most optimally. In people with darker skin color (more melanin in the skin), the skin tends to compete with the hair for absorption of the light energy, resulting in the potential for damage to the skin. That is why tanning should be avoided before (and after) laser treatments. Because the sapphire cooling plate of the Sciton Profile Laser tends to protect the skin and because the long wavelength light that is used by this laser tends to penetrate more deeply and scatter less, the Sciton Profile Laser is currently the best laser for treating patients with fine hair and darker skin colors. Since the laser energy is best absorbed by pigmented hair roots, people with gray or blond hair tend not to respond well to the treatment. Because of the unique flexibility and safety of the Sciton, it appears that it may be the most useful of lasers in treating blond hair; however, because we are still studying this, we cannot, at this time, recommend the laser for this purpose.
What parts of the body can be treated?
With the exception of the area immediately around the eye, all parts of the body can be treated with the Sciton Profile hair removal laser. In women, the most common areas for hair removal are the chin, upper lip, lateral cheeks, bikini line, arms, legs and underarms. Complete hair removal in the groin area is becoming increasingly common, and, because of its gentleness, the Sciton is the laser of choice for this purpose. The most common areas treated in men are the shoulders, back and beard area. The speed and reduced pain of the Sciton make it the laser of choice in these applications as well.
What are the advantages of laser hair removal compared to alternative treatments?
The Sciton Profile Laser is a precision instrument that can be adjusted to the exact parameters that will specifically disable the hair follicle. Unlike "hair-by-hair" treatments by electrolysis, the laser uses a wide beam which treats many hairs at once. It is not only faster than electrolysis, but can treat hairs which are untreatable by electrolysis.
For hair reduction, the Sciton Profile Laser offers safe, "permanent" reduction in both the amount of visible hair and a reduction in thickness and diminution in color of the hairs which grow back. The Sciton Profile Laser has been certified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to produce "permanent" hair removal and, although there may be some remaining hair, it is usually much less of a cosmetic problem, since it is finer, lighter and less visible than the original hair. The FDA defines "permanent" removal as absence of the hair 2 years after treatment. Permanent hair removal does NOT mean that 100% of the hairs are removed. The general rule is that 70% of people have 70% of the hair removed. An additional 20% have 70 to 90% of the hair removed. Five percent have greater than 90% of the hair removed, and an additional 5% , for unknown reasons, are non responders and have no improvement. The remaining hair is frequently finer and lighter.
What is electrolysis?
Electrolysis treats one hair at a time by inserting a fine probe into what is hopefully the base of the hair and destroying the hair root with small electric shocks. Electrolysis is useful for treatment of small numbers of hairs, hairs from areas in which it is difficult to use the laser such as around the eyes, in the nose, and in the ears. Electrolysis may also be useful to people who have very fair hair, which does not absorb the energy from the laser. Electrolysis does not produce total clearing of all hairs and can be a very slow and time consuming procedure.
Is laser hair removal "permanent"?
Long term follow-up studies of Sciton Profile Laser hair removal indicate that most of the hairs which respond become too tiny to see. However, a certain percentage of the hairs are injured, but not completely destroyed, and some of these may re-grow, after a period of inactivity. Therefore, it takes five treatments, at precise 8 week intervals, to remove the hairs from a particular area, and even then, there may be resistant hairs which persist. For hair removal, a 70-90% improvement is a realistic goal, but this is not achieved by everyone. Frequently hairs that remain are finer and lighter than the original hairs. The Sciton Profile Laser is certified by the Food & Drug administration to produce permanent hair removal.
How rapidly will hair re-grow and how much will grow back?
Hair grows in cycles. The laser works by destroying the roots of pigmented growing hairs. The hair shafts themselves will fall out within 3-4 weeks after the treatment. In an appropriate candidate, in general about 30% of the hairs will not re-grow after a single treatment. It may take between 2-4 months for follicles which have been stunned to start producing hair again. Also, since the laser does not affect the follicles which are resting, some of these follicles may become active and produce additional hairs. After the laser sessions have been completed, it takes approximately six months before one can make a final judgment regarding the success of the treatment. Because laser hair removal has been done for less than 10 years, there are no longer term results available. It is possible that there may eventually be some late hair re-growth, but to date our patients have enjoyed stable and long-term hair reduction. If you have noticed the coarse hairs on the faces of some elderly women, you will realize that hair growth continues to change as we age. Therefore it is possible that some people who have had a satisfactory response to the hair removal laser may eventually want a touch up treatment.
What preparation is needed before laser treatment?
Tanning should be avoided. Waxing and plucking should also be avoided for at least two weeks prior to treatment. Bleaching of the hair is OK, since the laser treats the pigment in the hair root, which is not affected by bleaching. The hair at the treatment site will be shaved in the office before the first laser treatment, after photographs have been obtained. For additional treatments we recommend that you shave the area at least two hours before the treatment. Excess hair, above the skin surface, absorbs laser energy and reduces the amount of energy that reaches the hair root. Freshly shaved skin appears to be a bit more sensitive, which is why it is preferable to shave earlier at home. This will result in you having a more comfortable treatment session. In certain areas, particularly the bikini line, shaving will allow you to outline the shape of the area you wish to be treated. To minimize bruising, it is important to avoid aspirin and anticoagulants, both immediately before and after the laser treatment.
Please do not wear makeup on the areas to be treated since makeup can sometimes absorb laser energy. This could reduce the effectiveness of the treatment or even cause overheating of the skin surface and burning. You may reapply make-up immediately after the treatment, if you wish.
It is also VERY IMPORTANT to notify Dr. Bock and your Registered Nurse if you have permanent eyeliner, lipliner or eyebrows, if these are close to the areas being treated. These cosmetic enhancements are tattoos, and the hair removal laser can potentially change the color of the tattoo, or unduly heat the area.
If you wish to bring a friend or family member with you to the treatment, you are most welcome to do so. They will need to wear protective goggles during the treatment.
How long will a treatment session take?
Since the laser treats many hairs in a single pulse, facial areas such as the chin, lip, cheeks, etc. can usually be treated in approximately 10 minutes. Small body areas (such as underarms, bikini line, etc.) take approximately 15 minutes. Larger body areas (full legs, both arms, full back, etc.) take approximately 1/2 hour.
Is treatment painful?
Most patients describe the treatment as mildly uncomfortable but not painful. The treatment sensation is compared to the "snap" of a rubber band. Not uncommonly, people find that subsequent laser treatments are less uncomfortable than the initial treatment. This may be due to some anxiety, due to the unknown nature of the initial experience. Shaving the area two hours before the treatment appears to reduce the treatment discomfort. For sensitive areas or extensive facial and body hair, some people ask for a topical anesthetic. If you are able to have someone else drive you, we can prescribe a mild tranquilizer to be used before the treatment. Those who have had waxing or electrolysis, or even other laser treatments, frequently report that treatment with the Sciton laser is less uncomfortable. Sometimes there is almost no discomfort. Frequently the chilling of the skin provides adequate anesthesia. If you feel you have an elevated pain sensitivity, or if we are treating a sensitive area, you may get LMX topical anesthetic cream which should be applied thickly to the area to be treated about 45 minutes before the treatment. Some people find it helpful to take 2 Advil or 2 Tylenol approximately 2 hours before the treatment. We are the only center in the Stockton area that has the Zimmer Cryo5 cooling system, which blows cool air on the skin, further reducing the discomfort and protecting the skin surface. If you experience undue discomfort during the treatment, please let us know so we can apply additional cooling or change the settings of the laser.
What will I look like after the treatment?
Within a few minutes after the treatment, the treated area will usually become somewhat red and puffy, especially around the hairs. We will want you to notice and record how long this lasts, since it will help guide us in subsequent treatments. Since the skin is not otherwise injured, no bandages are necessary, and you can return to your normal activities immediately. Generally, you will be able to apply makeup immediately after the procedure. Application of a mild moisturizer, such as Lipikar Balm, may hasten the resolution of any persistent redness. Many of the hairs are removed at the time of treatment and others are shed within 2-3 weeks. Initially it may appear as if these hairs are still growing. Some of the hairs in the treated section will remain beyond 3 weeks and these will be treated in the next session.
How many treatments are needed?
Generally, it takes 5 treatments, at precise 6 week intervals, to effectively treat the hairs as they cycle through their active growth phase. Only the hairs in the growing phase, usually 50-80% of the hairs , can be treated. Furthermore not all of these will have enough pigment in their roots to allow them to be destroyed. It takes time for the hairs to become prime candidates for destruction. This is the reason that multiple treatments are needed. Re-treatments may, at times, be needed to remove finer hairs that have re-grown, but no treatment will kill 100%. Because only 25-30% of actively growing pigmented hair roots are damaged or destroyed in each treatment, everyone will require at least five treatments to achieve the desired hair reduction. At the last treatment it may seem that no hairs are left, but for a durable result that fifth treatment is necessary. Occasional people, especially those who have been inconsistent about sticking to their six week schedule, will require more treatments, and an additional touch up treatment may be required later on, as some of the finer hairs become thicker with age.
What are the potential risks of laser treatment?
Some initial redness or swelling is not uncommon, but it usually lasts only a few hours or days. Rarely, a blister can develop, and even more rarely an infection or scar could result. Any injury to the skin can cause a flare of herpes simplex in people who carry the virus in the treated area. This can generally be prevented with appropriate medication. People with darker skin types have more risk of color change, either darkening or lightening of the skin, but the Sciton Profile Laser appears to be the least likely of all the lasers to produce these complications, since its long wavelength and computer controlled cool hand piece protect the skin surface. It should be noted that hair removal methods such as waxing, electrolysis, or even shaving can produce some similar adverse effects.
What type of care and precautions are required after the laser treatment?
Most patients experience no noticeable after-effects following treatment with the Sciton Profile Laser. Treated areas should not be exposed to irritants such as topical acne preparations or abrasive cleansers. Mild topical cream, such as Lipikar Balm, may hasten resolution of any pinkness, and cold packs can be used to reduce any swelling. Long term sun protection is important with the use of clothing as well as sunscreens with high protection against ultraviolet A rays. The best available sunscreens for this purpose are available in our office. We have seen an occasional patient who had problems because they allowed their skin to get darker, from sun exposure, during the course of treatment.
After the treatment you can promptly return to work and resume your normal activities. You may begin to shave the treated area after 3 to 4 days, but you should not pluck, wax or extract the hairs in any way. The use of depilatories should also be avoided. Using only shaving to reduce any unwanted hairs insures that you will be well prepared for your next treatment.
Are there any patients that cannot be treated?
With the Sciton Profile Laser, people of all skin types can be treated. The darker the skin type, the more treatments and the slower the treatment so it is preferable not to have a tan when being treated. People with light blonde or gray hair do not respond well to any current laser hair removal procedure. We have had good results with people who are appropriate candidates and who have failed treatment with other laser systems or electrolysis.
We have treated children, with good results, but the child must be old enough to understand and to cooperate with the procedure.
Am I able to call in and schedule treatments?
Consultations can be arranged by calling 800-500-5842. Our staff, who have themselves been treated with the Sciton Profile Laser, can answer your questions and discuss your options. No referral is required. Consultations prior to treatment are for your safety, to ensure that you are a good candidate for the procedure and that you are not at risk for potential problems, such as recurrent herpes infections, in the treatment area. If you decide to proceed with the treatment, the $90 consultation fee will be deducted from the cost of the initial session.
Why should I choose California Skin & Laser Center for my treatments?
At California Skin & Laser Center, we want you to have an excellent outcome and to feel that your needs and concerns have been promptly addressed in a caring and sensitive fashion. We strive diligently to ensure your satisfaction, your comfort, your privacy, and your safety. All treatments are supervised or performed by a board-certified dermatologist with many years of successful experience in a large variety of cosmetic procedures. Many treatment modalities are available, and we can recommend the one or two that are most likely to meet your needs; we're here to meet your needs and help you realize your aspirations. At our clinic in Stockton, CA, we serve communities throughout San Joaquin County and the Central Valley, including Lodi, Sacramento, Tracy, Manteca, Modesto, Galt, and Valley Springs; many of our patients also come from the San Francisco Bay Area.
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