Welcome! The information on this page is written for a transsexual audience. For a general discussion of hair removal, please visit: hairfacts.com

Laser medical data page: http://www.hairfacts.com/medpubs.html

Laser manufacturer page: http://www.hairfacts.com/makers/lasermfr.htm

Laser Hair Removal

Since I began reporting on this topic in 1995, there has been considerable interest and considerable trial and error in the field of laser hair removal. Originally touted as a "miracle cure" by some, it was almost impossible for it to live up to its hype. In the following years, it's become evident that laser hair removal can be very beneficial for some consumers and completely worthless for others.

What started as a small section of my site for TSs was getting so much mail that I opened up a second site for the general market. Most of the information now resides on hairfacts, but I will have TS-specific information available here.

As I have been saying since 1995, I am not anti-laser. I am simply pro-results. I suspect some day they'll figure it out. The burden of proof is on laser companies. My position is as unbiased as possible: I simply require proof of permanent and safe results before recommending lasers. That is the only criterion I consider important

Permanent hair removal is one of less than half a dozen things essential for most MTFs. Consumers or marketers who make unsubstantiated claims may be well-intentioned, but they do a disservice to our community by confusing the issue and causing people to make purchasing decisions based on false information.

Adding to the confusion is that some lasers are allowed to claim they achieve permanent hair reduction. I discuss this at length on hairfacts.

TS facial hair removal is extremely difficult to achieve without damaging surrounding skin, and some lasers and practitioners are better than others. It is vital that consumers understand as much as possible before committing to an expensive course of treatment.


Using lasers to supplement electrolysis

Some TS women have found this a helpful way to get dark facial hair under control.

Anyone considering this should meet the following qualifications:

Have a fair skin type and dark hair

Be willing to lose time and money if it's not as effective as you hope it will be.

If the goal is to get the face under control, it seems smarter to put money into a permanent solution rather than a possible stopgap measure. However, getting hit with a laser is probably smarter than going full-time before doing anything.

Is laser a cost-effective way to clear a face prior to electrolysis? Laser treatment prices have been dropping precipitously as they are now being sold to anyone with the money to buy one.

It's alomost certainly better than plucking in terms of damaging follicles and causing ingrowns (not to mention pain).

My recommendations are always based on what I feel is the safest route, and I think lasers were rushed to market without adequate testing, leaving consumers paying to be guinea pigs.

This outlines the basic arguments. I personally recommend doing electrolysis exclusively, but for those considering supplementing electrolysis with laser, please read the section below.


Discussion of pros and cons

It is easier to kill a hair that is "recovering" from laser treatment.

After a 2 week wait, I will work in the area that has been treated. Much less current is needed to kill these hairs because they are much smaller...therefore there will be less skin damage.

he saves a lot of money and pain.

 

You were right about my use of "fair" being a bit too narrow in defining skin type. The general recommendation with lasers is to use them only on the four fairest of the six Fitzpatrick skin types, and to avoid using them on most types of freckled skin. And the less contrast between hair and skin color, the more potential for problems.

 

The other drawback to waxing or laser is that you delay completion by that much more with each use.

 

If it takes 8 weeks for anagen hairs to return and be treatable, you've lost 8 weeks. If it keeps hair away six months, you lose half a year. Does it all balance out in total time saved? It very well could. I just like people to know as much as possible going in.

Bethanne answered:

I highlighted your comment about "8 weeks" because hairs in a treated area (by laser) are treatable with electrolysis in a much shorter time. The hairs are very small, but that is the best time to kill them. I think the time lapse is only 2 weeks...and the "kill rate" is so much higher that a client is foolish not to pursue this....not to mention that a microscopic hair that is destroyed will not damage the skin.

Waxing for whatever reason does not "shrink" the hair nearly as much...I don't pretend to know why. I literally plucked every hair above my jawline for 18 months before I ever started electrolysis...I wanted to be beard-free that bad! Yet when I started electrolysis immediately after this these hairs were no smaller than the others. The EpiLight laser is much better than waxing. I also have freckled skin...I like how the laser lightens the freckles and the skin color is more uniform.

J___'s advice:

HAVE IT DONE ON A TEST AREA BEFORE YOU SPEND MONEY-- See if it works for YOU. Don't expect it to clear everything. Compare it to electrolysis dollar for dollar; I think for many people it is very cost effective. It does not replace electrolysis but should be used in conjunction with electrolysis.

Expect some discomfort as the EMLA wears off.


Report: permanent TS facial hair removal with laser

[note: the following was posted to USENET by me in June 2001 following confirmation of a young TS woman who was able to remove all her facial hair with laser alone.]

For about six years, I have been collecting consumer reports from TS women regarding effectiveness of various types of hair removal. Of particular interest has been laser hair removal, because it was rushed to market without adequate testing, and consumers are basically paying to be guinea pigs.

Some women with light skin and black or brown hair have sent me anecdotal reports of satisfaction with various types of laser, while others were led to believe they’d have better results than they did. A few have claimed permanent hair removal, but when questioned further, they were actually supplementing laser with another method, or they hadn’t completed treatment and weren’t qualified to make an assessment yet. A couple of people claiming laser permanence turned out to be repeating erroneous second-hand information or (even worse) were promoters for laser practitioners. Well, I am very pleased to announce that I’ve just been able to confirm a report that meets my arbitrary benchmark for permanent hair removal using laser only. A TS woman has provided a report that she has gone over one year after final treatment without using any other method to remove or conceal facial hair.

The basics are this: she was an ideal laser candidate with light skin and black hair. She also transitioned early (SRS at 22) and is now living stealth. She spent a total of $2000 on two longer ruby laser sessions and three shorter follow-ups, and she has now been hair-free for several years. She writes, "My skin is absolutely smooth like a genetic female now […] As far as hair removal now, I have none to remove. No bleaching, waxing, plucking... anything!"

My report is not ideal, because I can’t confirm certain information. The doctor who performed the procedure is no longer practicing, so I could not confirm information with him. My correspondent couldn’t recall for certain which model of ruby laser she was using, although she knew it was made by Palomar. This woman is very stealth, so I can’t divulge any personal information or provide contact information for others to confirm her report. However, we have spoken by telephone, and her story checked out to my satisfaction. Unfortunately, you’ll have to take my word for this, which is not the way I usually like to report things.

What does this report mean for those considering what method of hair removal to use?

As I have stated before, some TS women with light skin and dark hair have reported satisfactory results from a few laser treatment. Experts suggest that after 3 or 4 treatments, you’ve probably received about as much benefit as you’ll get. It’s important to note that this woman’s report is the first complete success, even among other ideal candidates.

Ruby lasers of the type she used have the most available clinical data and have been on the market the longest of the types allowed to claim permanent hair reduction. The picture from this data suggests that on average, consumers with relatively light skin and dark hair receiving three or four treatments have an average of about half to two-thirds of their hair reduced at 6 months or more. However, researchers note uneven outcomes and non-response rates of almost 30% in some studies. The reason some ideal candidates do not respond to treatment is not known. For details on published ruby laser clinical data, please see:

http://www.hairfacts.com/medpubs/rubymed.html

My correspondent had some electrolysis with unsatisfactory levels of regrowth and skin damage. She lives in one of the 16 states where the practice of electrolysis is not regulated, which means it’s even harder to find someone competent, especially competent enough to successfully remove androgen-induced facial hair. She wrote, "Electrolysis was a failure for me. Less than 20 hours left my face scarred and the hair returned. I wasn't sure if laser would be permanent, but I figured a lifetime of touchups was a far better deal than a permanently scarred face." This underscores the importance of finding competent practitioners. Facial hair removal is an investment, and everyone will see the results of that investment every day. I believe that scarring from electrolysis can sometimes hinder those whose desire is to assimilate into mainstream society.

Bottom line

She concludes, "I don't know how the other skin/hair colors fare, as I can only speak for myself. But in my experience it is very, very effective."

Will it be this effective in all cases? No. Those with gray, blonde or red hair will probably see little or no permanent benefit from laser. Those with darker skin must be very aware about the risks of skin discoloration. Even those with light skin and dark hair need to weigh the risks of electrolysis and laser and decide what is the best option under their own circumstances. If you have light skin and dark hair, you might kick-start things with a few laser treatments, but only after determining if you can afford it if it doesn’t work. Should you spend a few thousand on laser in hopes of saving a few thousand on electrolysis? Only you can decide. It could pay off, but then again it might not. There’s still not enough published data to say for sure what your chances are.

However, it’s heartening to know that there is at least one case where laser has been a complete success, and I hope this report is the first of many!


My final thoughts

As I get more information from people who have first-hand experiences supplementing electrolysis with laser, I will include them.

To summarize my current opinion: Almost anyone who uses laser will have to supplement it with electrolysisto achieve complete and permanent hair removal. There is no clinical data indicating treatment with laser will improve electrolysis efficacy. The only certain advantage is a temporary cosmetic advantage of no five o'clock shadow. However, since hypopigmentation or a gridlike pattern of regrowth might be the trade-off, I'd strongly recommend weighing the risks before opting for what seems like a quick fix.

Is it worth a shot in your case? Only you can decide. I recommend reading my general market overview on laser hair removal top learn more about which lasers work and which ones don't.

This outlines the basic arguments. I personally recommend doing electrolysis exclusively, but for those considering supplementing electrolysis with laser, please read my laser tips.