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The hair-free trend appears to be here to stay in Australia with a survey* by the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia (CPSA) showing that almost one in four of those who’ve undergone a non-surgical cosmetic procedure have opted for laser or Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments for permanent hair removal.
A further 31.5 per cent of respondents to the CPSA survey noted that they considered having laser or IPL hair reduction treatments in the future.
“Being hair-free no longer appears to be a ‘trend’ but the norm,” says Dr Susan Austin from the CPSA. “Our doctors have seen a steady increase in the number of patients requesting permanent hair reduction, with the ‘Brazilian’ still amongst the most popular treatments for female patients.”
There are many reasons for permanent hair removal, says the CPSA. A prior survey by the organisation found that a significant number of women who opted for a permanent ‘Brazilian’ reported ‘feeling sexier’ (63%) and ‘enhanced sexual pleasure’ (60%) as reasons for going hair-free**.
“Evidently, permanent hair removal is not just be for aesthetic reasons, it also has an impact on our sex lives,” says Dr Austin.
But it’s not just women who are looking to go bare says the CPSA, whose members report an increase in the number of men seeking permanent hair removal.
“For men the most popular areas for laser and IPL hair removal are the back, the chest and interestingly, the beard around the neck and cheeks. We find the key motivation for most many is to look and feel good, as well as a desire to please their partners,” says Dr Austin.
“Another motivation for men is to avoid shaving, not only to save time on grooming but also because shaving can cause skin irritation for some men,” adds Dr Austin.
“Consumers should be aware that lasers and IPL machines are medical equipment. Patients considering permanent hair removal should visit a qualified and skilled operator who knows what they are doing.
“Many patients would be surprised to learn that in most states, anyone can purchase a medical grade laser and set up shop without training or professional medical insurance. This means that there would be very little protection for patients in the event of an adverse outcome. For example, if they are burnt or scarred by treatment they may not be covered by the provider’s insurance,” adds Dr Austin.
Dr Austin offers the following advice to patients considering laser or IPL:
1. Avoid tanning before and after treatment – you cannot have a laser or IPL hair reduction treatment if you have a tan (fake or from sun-exposure or the solarium) because it can interfere with the absorption of laser light and may result in pigment changes in the skin. Patients should also avoid sun-exposure after a treatment as their skin will be sensitive and may burn more easily, which may also result in pigmentation changes. We recommend that patients undergo treatments in the cooler months when they’re less likely to spend time in the sun, or to be meticulous in applying sunscreen if the treatments are performed in the warmer months.
2. Laser and IPL work best on patients with dark hair and fair skin – laser and IPL machines work by using a light which penetrates the skin and is absorbed by the melanin (the dark colour) in the hair shaft, which then causes heat to transmit to the nearby germinal cells thereby destroying the hair follicle. Lighter hairs don’t tend to carry the heat from the laser or IPL as well because they contain less melanin and therefore these types of hair removal are usually less effective on light coloured hairs (e.g. blonde, grey and white hairs).
3. Check the credentials of the operator – it is important that patients receive a treatment from an operator that has been appropriately trained. As lasers are medical-grade equipment I’d strongly recommend visiting a medically trained doctor who specialises in cosmetic treatments, as they can also keep an eye out for skin damage, such as pre-cancerous skin lesions or skin cancers. During the process, the practitioner should also ask for a medical history (including any allergies or medications you are taking), cosmetic routine and potential sun-exposure. To check the credentials of the operator, patients should simply ask the operator about what training they’ve received or check their credentials online (ideally they will have received more than just the standard training from the company that sells the laser or IPL machine).
4. Different results for different people – the results of laser and IPL treatments will vary amongst individuals so it’s important to have a realistic expectation of what the outcome will be before you undergo treatment. It is best to consider laser and IPL as hair reduction (rather than removal) treatments and when in doubt speak to the operator or your doctor about what you can expect.
Those interested in finding a qualified doctor who specialises in laser and IPL hair removal can visit www.cosmeticphysicians.org.au.
*The CPSA Cosmetic Medicine Survey was conducted by the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia (CPSA) in conjunction with Younger You (www.youngeryou.com.au) via the Younger You weekly e-newsletter. The survey was conducted during February through March 2011, with 516 complete responses collected from 584 respondents.
**CPSA media release, 31 May 2007, ‘Study reveals that ‘Brazilians’ improve sex life’.
About the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia
The CPSA represents the largest body of doctors who perform non- or minimally-invasive cosmetic medical treatments in Australia. Incorporated in 1997, the society aims to ensure patient access to safe non- or minimally-invasive cosmetic treatments. www.cosmeticphysicians.org.au