Should I Be Worried about Radiation from Laser Hair Removal?
Given that Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, the question "should I be worried about radiation from laser hair removal?" seems like a very reasonable one.
This article aims to explain, in understandable terms, the different types of radiation and whether you should, indeed be concerned about it in respect of laser hair removal.
What is Radiation?
Radiation is defined as the transmission of energy, in waves or particles, through space or a material medium.
There are different types of radiation, namely electromagnetic, particle, neutron and acoustic.
The type of radiation with which we are concerned is electromagnetic. The illustration below shows the full electromagnetic spectrum and where visible light falls within it.
There are two types of electromagnetic radiation; ionizing and non-ionizing.
Ionizing Electromagnetic Radiation
Ionizing electromagnetic radiation is at the high energy, high frequency end of the spectrum i.e. some ultraviolet rays (sunlight), x-rays and gamma rays
The energy produced is sufficient to break molecules into smaller, charged particles called ions, thus damaging substances or materials including living cells.
Ions can also contribute to chemical reactions which spread the damage causing living cells to die or become cancerous.
It is therefore ionizing electromagnetic radiation which represents a high risk to health, and is associated with burns, radiation sickness, genetic damage, and cancer.
Non-ionizing Electromagnetic Radiation
Non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation operates at the lower end of the spectrum. Sufficient energy is produced to move or vibrate atoms, but not to remove the charged particles.
Radio waves, microwaves, infrared lamps as well as laser hair removal devices all utilize non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation: There is insufficient energy to cause the damage to DNA associated with the development of cancer.
All forms of radiation deliver energy which heats the material absorbing it - the amount of heat depends upon the intensity and length of time exposed.
How Lasers Work
A Brief Explanation
Lasers used in hair removal devices use visible and invisible (infrared) light to target the dark pigment, melanin, found in hair and skin.
Melanin is found in concentration at the base of the hair follicle.
The hair follicle is damaged, causing the hair to fall out by a process known as selective photothermalysis i.e. light energy is absorbed by the melanin to produce heat.
The process disables the follicle by matching a specific wavelength of light and pulse duration, determined by the skin and hair type of the individual being treated. The ultimate goal is to try to cause sufficient damage to prevent regrowth.
Hair removal lasers operate between 700 - 1400 nanometers (nms) depending on which type of laser is being used. (A nanometer being the unit of measurement for the wavelengths of light and infrared radiation).
As you can see from the illustration, the wavelengths used are not in the high intensity, ionizing range.
The obvious conclusion to draw from the information above is that you do not need to be overly concerned about radiation and laser hair removal.
That is not to say, however, that there is not the risk of side effects from laser hair removal, some of which can be potentially very serious.
For this reason it is imperative that before embarking on a course of treatment, you carry out thorough research to ensure:
- The laser device being used is FDA approved
- The operator is medically trained, fully qualified and experienced in laser hair removal
- The laser device being used is suitable for your hair and skin type
Be very cautious of any cut-price deals that you come across – remember that lasers are powerful pieces of equipment and have the potential to cause serious, lasting damage if used incorrectly.
Although home devices operate at a lower intensity, if you decide to take this option, ensure that you buy one which is FDA approved (there are many, low priced products on the market which do not have FDA approval).
For more detailed information about the safety of laser hair removal, possible side effects and how to find a reputable practitioner, see our articles below: