Many women choose to dye or highlight their gray hair, but if you’re keen on removing gray hair from other parts of your body, you can do so in a number of different ways. Below, we detail what laser hair removal technology is, how it works, and answer the burning question, ‘does laser hair removal work on gray hair?’
Written by Alice Carlill
In short, laser hair removal does not work on gray hair. White and gray hair has less pigmentation than darker hair, which makes it harder for the laser to detect. It’s also possible that a patient with lighter skin and hair might find their skin more damaged by the laser as a result.
Why Does Hair Turn Gray?
Contrary to popular belief, stress mostly doesn’t cause hair to go gray. Graying hair is a natural result of aging, but it is true that genetics and certain illnesses can determine when your hair may start to go silver.
In order to understand why hair turns gray, it’s important to know how hair pigmentation works. Hair is made up of pigments.
Specifically, it’s made up of two types of pigments – light (phaeomelanin) and dark (eumelanin). The combination of these pigments will determine what your natural hair color is.
Hair turns gray because, as your hair follicles age, they produce less color. With less pigment in the follicle, each hair strand will hold less melanin.
As a result, strands become more transparent, turning to gray, silver, or white hues. Eventually, the whole head of hair will turn gray as a result of this decreased pigmentation in hair follicles.
What Is Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal is designed to target the melanin or pigment in our hair follicles when in the active growth phase – what’s known as the anagen stage.
Precisely controlled energy pulses make up the laser beam, which is focused on these follicles. These pulses are then absorbed by the melanin in the hair, and the energy heats the hair right down into the root, preventing the hair from growing back.
In so doing, it safely destroys the hair without damaging the epidermis, or top layer of the skin.
Usually, people will need around six to eight sessions of laser hair removal. Be aware that laser hair removal will never completely remove hair because hair grows in cycles.
Although laser hair removal and intense pulsed light (IPL) technologies are often billed as the same technology, they are not.
Both use light energy, thereby slowing hair growth over time, but the light source that they use to do so is very different. Laser hair removal uses a single spectrum of light, so is more intense. IPL uses multi-spectrum lasers which spread over a wider portion of the body.
It’s for this reason that laser hair removal is more effective at removing hair than IPL. The latter is better for skin rejuvenation and reducing the appearance of red lines.
What Are The Benefits Of Laser Hair Removal?
There are many benefits to laser hair removal, which is why increasing numbers of women are turning to technology. These include:
1. It’s Precise
Laser hair removal leaves the surrounding skin undamaged, targeting particularly dark, coarse hairs. It’s therefore great for people keen on removing specific small hairs in particular areas of the body – for example around the nose or bikini line.
2. It’s Less Painful
Let’s face it, removing hair can often be an agonizing process. Laser hair removal is widely reported to feel like a rubber band being snapped against the skin. How painful you find it is contingent on your threshold, but it’s certainly less painful than other methods such as waxing.
3. It prevents Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs are the enemy of most women, but particularly those with darker hair. Destroying the hair at the root means no more inbound growth.
4. It’s A Long-term Solution
Although laser hair removal doesn’t necessarily work permanently, it still dramatically reduces hair growth and makes it easier to maintain.
WebMD report that most patients have permanent hair loss after three to seven sessions on average. It’s, therefore, a significantly cost-effective method of hair removal.
5. It’s quick
You’ll have to have multiple sessions in order to catch your hair in its growing phase, but most sessions take mere minutes – particularly if the area you’re getting treated is very small.
Does Laser Hair Removal Work On Gray Hair?
Now to the burning question: does laser hair removal work on gray hair? Well, as described above, the laser in the machine specifically targets the melanin in hair strands in order to minimize hair growth.
Inevitably then, people with dark skin and dark hair will see more of an impact from laser hair removal. This is because darker colors absorb heat better. Dark hair will therefore take in more of the laser’s heat, which will stunt growth more as the root will be more damaged.
By contrast, lighter-skinned people with red, blonde, or white and gray hair will experience less dramatic results because their hair is less pigmented and therefore absorbs less heat.
From this, we can conclude that answer to whether laser hair removal will work on gray hair is no. It might produce some results, but they won’t be significant, and that might be frustrating for the amount of time and money you’ve invested.
That said, some providers of IPL report that there has been progress with that technology so that it now works better with lighter hair. That said, it still works better on those with dark hair and skin.
Similarly, if your gray hair has darker strands that are more ‘pepper’ than ‘salt’, you’re likely to have a better experience with laser hair removal.
That’s because these strands will have more pigment, so the laser can penetrate the follicle more and minimize hair growth.
It’s also worth noting that if you are aging, so is your skin. Those with gray hair are therefore more likely to have thinner, fragile skin.
Certain hair removal techniques, such as waxing and epilation, might therefore cause more harm. So, if your aging skin is particularly sensitive, it’s perhaps worth investigating whether laser hair removal is a better process for you.
Epilation in particular can be very damaging as it pulls a lot of hair out at once, which is both painful and prone to cause harm. It’s, therefore, best to be aware of all the options before you settle on one.
Effective Methods For Removing Gray Hair
If you think that using laser hair removal for getting rid of your gray hairs isn’t for you, there are different techniques and tactics that you can deploy instead.
This is by far the best method for removing individual hairs from either the face or body. It works by targeting the hair’s growth center with either chemical or heat energy.
A fine probe is inserted into the hair follicle and then removed with tweezers. Depending on your hair growth and the area where you’re getting the treatment, you might need a few sessions. You might experience some skin reddening, but the process is broadly painless.
If you’re looking to remove only the odd gray hair, threading can be a very effective method of doing so. It’s particularly good on your eyebrows, upper lips, and the sides of your face.
Using a cotton thread, your technician will use a swift motion to lift hair up and out of the follicle. It’s very precise and quick, and the results are long-lasting (but not permanent).
You can of course use hair dye to color your gray hairs! Whether you choose semi-permanent or permanent hair dye is up to you, depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
Hair dye works by covering each strand with dye, penetrating the hair cuticle, and changing some of your natural color.
Shaving, Waxing, and Depilatory Creams
Shaving is a great way of removing gray hair from the comfort of your own home. Depilatories are also good, usually coming in liquid or cream form.
They can be a little messy, however, and are sometimes smelly. Waxing works well too – particularly when done in a salon, but it can be painful and is costly to upkeep.
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