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Does laser hair removal work for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

Does Laser Hair Removal work for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

“ Thicker, darker hair has more melanin and so more energy can be absorbed and unlike waxing and shaving, once the hair follicle is killed, the hair doesn’t grow back”


Does laser hair removal work for PCOS?

Yes, in fact, laser hair removal is potentially more effective with the thick, darker hair caused by Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. When we treat hair with a laser we’re targeting pigment in the hair shaft deep in the follicle. Although you’ll be shaved for your treatment, the small amount of hair still located in the skin will absorb the light and transfer it to heat within the follicle, ‘denaturing’ or killing it forever. Thicker, darker hair has more melanin and so more energy can be absorbed and unlike waxing and shaving, once the hair follicle is killed, the hair doesn’t grow back.


If you have light coloured skin, Alexandrite Laser will work best. If you're skin is pigmented, Nd:YAG is the only safe option. 


As an aside, this is why waxing, plucking and epilation devices are not to be used during laser hair removal courses. Veet style hair removal creams can potentially be used but with careful planning as they often remove too much hair and we will require some regrowth to treat.


“the cumulative effect of monthly treatments increases the length of time each patient is hair free”


How many sessions?

Of course, there are always complications. Each one of your individual hairs is somewhere along it’s lifecycle and it’s only during the growth stage (see my other article about this) that real hair removal happens. During the growth stage your hair is still attached to the follicle, meaning heat can be easily transferred down the hair shaft and into the follicle to stop future growth.


On average only about 30% of hair will be in this growth stage, but even the hair not in the growth stage can be fully removed from the follicle (sometimes visibly) by the laser treatment, leading to a longer period hair free. In fact, with laser hair removal, you might have a blissful few 2-3 weeks with heavily reduced hair growth.


We're born with all the hair follicles we'll ever have, but PCOS, hormones, medications and age will activate new follicles, so while we usually recommend a course of 10 to 12 treatments for most people, it’s difficult to recommend the number of treatments with someone with active PCOS or if going through the menopause.


A study in 2007 found that although laser hair removal works less effectively for PCOS patients, 95% of those questioned were happy with the results. Of the 60 participants in the study undergoing laser hair removal with an Alexandrite Laser, 2.6% had a hair free interval of 6 weeks after just 6 treatments, but this rose to 31% of the participants after 12 treatments. The study shows that the cumulative effect of monthly treatments increases the length of time each patient is hair free. 


This study was completed over a decade ago and laser technology has developed a great deal since then; our latest Motus AY by DEKA is the worlds only ‘true’ alexandrite (all the others are actually diodes) and gets far better results, even with less pigmented hair (red and blond), than previous generations of Alexandrite, so it’s never been a better time to start treating PCOS hair growth.


“ If your hair is white or has nearly no pigment this is going to be the best option for you. For larger areas we would always recommend at least trying our lasers first


What about electrolysis for PCOS?

Electrolysis involves the insertion of a probe (we prefer not to say needle!) into the hair follicle and the direct application of energy to kill the follicle, instead of light being transferred to heat it's an electrical current. 


In the past, before modern lasers, it had been regarded as a superior treatment for hair removal for most patients. However, it’s a slow process and a study from 2000 demonstrates shows we don’t recommend it when it can be avoided. The study found that electrolysis was 60 times slower than laser, more painful and less reliable. 


However, if your hair is white or has nearly no pigment this is going to be the best option for you. For larger areas we would always recommend at least trying our lasers first - old and cheap imported lasers (people really do buy them on Ebay) are nothing compared to the latest generation medical grade technology.

“ IPL is old technology when it comes to hair removal and any clinic providing it is stuck in the past.”


Do home IPL machines work for PCOS?

At home IPL machines are huge business. They might work for a handful of people but there's some major drawbacks.

IPL differs from laser in that it's a bright broad spectrum of light, and not the narrow focused wavelength. The broad spectrum targets more than just the pigment in hair and can only be used safely on very light coloured skin.

Let's just make things clear, IPL (intense pulsed light) is very old technology when it comes to hair removal and any clinic providing it is stuck in the past. Not only are the most powerful IPL machines ineffective compared to real lasers, they're also dangerous for people of colour.

We still have an IPL machine at our clinic but we use it for IPL Skin Rejuvenation (my favourite treatment) rather than hair removal and it's a 120KG beast of a machine. This should give you an idea of the power needed for a proper treatment - with at home machines using batteries you're not going to get anywhere near the power required for successful hair removal.

But the bigger issue with IPL is that it can trigger MORE hair growth, this paradoxical hair growth is common with PCOS sufferers and those with hormonal imbalances. Weak IPL handheld devices will not only not remove your hair the first time they could potentially trigger new growth and this is something we've seen first hand. 

If you really want to use an at home IPL device, we recommend them only after a course of professional treatments and not for people suffering from paradoxical hair growth.

What's next?

Book in for a chat and patch test, we're a friendly team and deal with a wide range of clients, many of which have been let down by the big laser clinic chains. Whoever you choose to buy from, check out the reviews and ask them what experience they have with PCOS and paradoxical hair growth.
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