Study compares safety and effectiveness of laser therapies for hair removal

October 20, 2008

Laser therapies commonly used for removal of unwanted hair appear to be safer and remove leg hair more effectively when used separately than when used as a combination treatment, according to a report in the October issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"Unwanted hair that potentially has profound effects on psychological well-being is an exceedingly common concern for men and women," according to background information in the article. During the past decade, laser hair removal has become a popular and accepted method used to reduce the growth of unwanted hair. "Laser-assisted photoepilation or laser hair removal, as first reported in 1996, is accomplished through destruction of the follicular unit [the hair follicle]."

Seyyed Masoud Davoudi, M.D., of the Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran, and colleagues analyzed the results of using long-pulsed 755-nanometer alexandrite lasers (12-millimeter and 18-millimeter spot sizes) individually, using a long-pulsed 1,064-nanometer Nd:YAG laser (12-millimeter spot size) and using a combination of the Nd:YAG and alexandrite 12-millimeter spot lasers to reduce leg hair growth on four areas of the legs of 20 individuals (average age 32.6). Participants underwent treatment at a private laser skin center and received a total of four treatment sessions at eight-week intervals, and 15 patients completed the study. Average hair density was measured with a hair counting device and special software (Visionmed AG) and hair reduction was assessed through digital photographs before treatment and at eight- and 18-month follow up sessions. Adverse effects following treatment were also noted.

The average hair reductions 18 months after final treatment were 75.9 percent for the 12-millimeter spot size alexandrite laser, 84.3 percent for the 18-millimeter spot size alexandrite laser, 73.6 percent for the Nd:YAG laser and 77.8 percent for the combination therapy.

Average pain severity was higher in areas that received the alexandrite laser treatments than in those treated with the Nd:YAG laser. Additionally, the highest incidence of pain was reported in areas that received the combination treatment. Areas with combination treatment were also more likely to experience hyperpigmentation (dark spots on the skin), with four participants experiencing this complication until the last follow-up session.

"Despite other studies showing more efficacy of the alexandrite rather than the Nd:YAG laser, our trial results showed no significant difference between them," the authors conclude. "The use of alexandrite or Nd:YAG laser systems alone for at least four treatments sessions and with eight-week intervals have long-term persistent efficacy in hair reduction with acceptable and transient adverse effects."
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(Arch Dermatol. 2008;144[10]:1323-1327. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org.)

Editor's Note: This was supported by a research grant from the Undersecretary of Research, Tehran University of Medical Sciences. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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