Q: Whenever I shave my underarm hair, there will always be cuts and redness. i am looking for a pain-free procedure to remove my underarm hair permanently. Am I a suitable candidate for laser hair removal? What are the possible complications of such treatments?

-Mrs Wong

A: Unwanted hair may be found on the armpits, face, arms, legs and bikini area. They are considered “unwanted”  mainly because of cosmetic reasons. They cam be removed by shaving, plucking, threading and waxing. However, this has to be done regularly.

Problems can sometimes arise from the above mentioned hair removal methods, such as hair follicle infections, ingrown hair and pigmentation. Thus, there is an increasing demand for long lasting or permanent methods such as electrolysis, laser and intense pulsed light.

Electrolysis utilises galvanic current to destroy the hair bulb, it is suitable for blonde and red hair. This process is performed on each follicle and may take some time to complete. There is considerate pain and a small risk of scarring.

Laser and intense pulsed light methods are the more popular methods of permanent hair removal in Singapore, due to their speed and efficiency. These methods are suitable for black and brown hairs.

Laser removes unwanted hairs by targeting melanin (the pigment in hair) using the energy from special wavelengths. The wavelengths commonly applied using this method are 755nm (Alexandrite Laser), 810nm (Pulsed Diode Laser) and 1064nm (long pulsed Nd-Yag Laser). The Nd-Yag Laser is especially useful for people who have darker skin, as the other lasers may burn darker skin.

Intense pulsed light method removes hair through “photo-epilation” with the help of xenon flash lamps that emit full spectrum light in the red range.

Based on your description, I would recommend using either intense pulsed light or laser to remove your underarm hair. These methods are relatively pain-free.

Complications of these procedures are minimal. They include transient redness, itchiness and swelling of the hair follicles. Sometimes, there may be discolouration of the skin and infection. Very rarely, they may cause burns. Adverse effects are hardly seen if these treatments are carried out by experienced specialists.

Typically, treated hairs take about two to three weeks to shed. These hairs should be allowed to fall out on their own and they should not be plucked or shaved.

For hair removal to be successful, 5-8 sessions of treatment are required. For the underarms, each session takes about ten minutes. Usually, no numbing anaesthetic cream is required unless the client  is especially averse to pain. You can see visible results after the first treatment.

The treatment is repeated every month and timed with the hair growth cycle. Growing hair in the early anagen phase is vulnerable.

Although we commonly refer to these hair removal methods as “permanent”. In actual fact, they only result in permanent hair reduction. Some hairs will grow back. Therefore, maintenance treatment once a year is recommended after the initial 5 to 8 sessions.