In trying to determine if there is indeed one hair removal laser that is superior to all others, we leaned on the highly reputable medical website BoardCertified.com to solicit their opinion. In turn, BoardCertified.com polled physicians from their massive national database to try and establish a definitive answer.
In order to determine the Best Hair Removal Laser some of the polling questions asked were:
- What laser do you use for hair removal?
- Patient Safety
- Device Reliability
- Overall Patient Satisfaction
- Clearance Speed per Treatment
- # of Treatments Needed to Reach Endpoint?
- Patient Comfort Level
- Degree of Permanence in Results
- Would You Recommend the Device?
Grade Your Laser in Terms Of:
And the Winner is…
The best hair removal laser as voted on by physician through a poll conducted by BoardCertified.com was…. a tie! Well, sort of…. The EpiCare DUO and the EpiCare LPX both received the highest overall cumulative grades in poll results. Both devices are manufactured by LightAge Incorporated, based in Somerset, NJ. Perhaps in retrospect, this result should not have been all that surprising considering Dr. Donald Heller of LightAge is the actual inventor of the Alexandrite laser technology.
The EpiCare DUO utilizes both Alexandrite 755nm and Nd:YAG 1064nm technology while the EpiCare LPX uses only the Alexandrite 755nm wavelength. However, upon closer examination, physicians who graded the EpiCare DUO laser were in fact using the Alexandrite 755nm technology for hair removal purposes (versus its Nd:YAG 1064 laser).
So now that we have pinpointed the type of laser technology that appears to be best for hair removal purposes, the important question becomes WHY is this technology best?
Science Behind the Success
Alexandrite lasers have proven to be the most practical and effective of all of the light-based hair removal devices on the market. Though the narrow band nature of lasers provides the capability for selective photo-thermolysis, the wavelength of the laser is important for effective targeting of melanin in the hair follicle while minimizing energy absorption in other chromophore targets. As each laser type emits a different wavelength light, the degree of absorption into melanin and other chromophores differs between lasers.
There are four laser wavelengths available for photo epilation: ruby lasers at 694nm, alexandrite lasers at 755nm, diode lasers at 800-810nm, and Nd:YAG lasers at 1064nm. These wavelengths are most practical for light-based photo-epilation because there is a relative lack of competing chromophores in this wavelength range, leaving an “optical window” in the skin through which melanin in the hair follicle can be targeted. Safe and effective photo-epilation requires maximizing absorption by melanin in the hair follicle while minimizing absorption by melanin in the epidermis. Shorter wavelengths, such as 694nm, are strongly absorbed by melanin in both skin and hair, with absorption decreasing with increasing wavelength. At the other end of the optical window, 1064nm, melanin absorption is much lower than at 694nm. The practical effect of these absorption characteristics is that although the ruby laser at 694 can be very effective at targeting melanin in the hair follicle, its use is limited to skin types containing very little melanin, while the Nd:YAG laser can be used safely even in the darkest skin types, but with less efficacy for smaller hairs or hair containing less melanin, such as blond or red hair. The best balance between these limitations is found at 755nm with the alexandrite laser.
Importance of Variable Pulse Duration:
With any laser hair removal treatment, there is the need to work amongst the various skin types and hair types. The most effective laser hair removal system is the one having the ability to treat a large number of hair and skin types. As the target chromaphore is melanin, which is found both in the hair as well as the skin, energy absorption can occur in both the hair and the skin. The melanin in the skin is often found to be less dense than the melanin in the hair, resulting in lower levels of absorption at the skin compared to the hair. However, as the hair follicle is located deeper in the skin than the melanin in the skin, the melanin in the skin is closer to the light source than the hair for higher possible exposure of light. Since alexandrite lasers have the highest absorption of energy into melanin, it can have the highest absorption of energy both at the hair and at the skin for a given fluence of light. This results in possible scarring if the wrong settings are used during treatment. Separately, Diode and Nd:YAG lasers have lower absorption of energy at the skin resulting in less possibility of scarring at the given fluence. However, there is also less absorption of energy in the melanin at the hair resulting in less effective hair reduction for a given fluence. If the fluence was increased to ensure similar absorption of energy compared to alexandrite, one will also have equally similar absorption of energy in the skin. Thus all light based epilation systems (Ruby, Diode, Alexandrite, and Nd:YAG) have similar problems when treating darker skin types.
By providing variable pulse duration, the pulse duration can be extending out for a more gradual application of light. This provides the ability for the light to penetrate before reaching high intensity for severe surface absorption. By making the pulse duration longer, one can maximize penetration of the light into the skin and minimize surface heating effects. Thus variable pulse duration capability becomes very important for any photo-epilation system to ensure deeper penetration of light and minimize the relative energy absorption into the melanin in the skin and maximizing the relative energy absorption into the melanin in the hair. When combined with an effective surface cooling technique such as gel and/or forced air cooling, a variable pulse alexandrite laser system is as effective in removing hair for darker skin types (IV-VI) as any other laser systems. In fact, it becomes the most versatile AND effective for the widest array of patients.