LASER HAIR REMOVAL: A BRIEF HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

The industry only continues to grow annually while millions of people use laser technology for permanent hair removal solutions.

But laser hair removal technology is relatively new. The alexandrite laser was only cleared for hair removal use by the FDA in 1997 (source).

So how was laser hair removal developed? Soon after the invention of the first laser, laser hair removal attempts began in the 1960s, despite hair removal having existed in one form or another for as long as humanity has had hair.

In 1760, Jean Jacques Perret invented the first straight razor. King Camp Gillette created the modern razor, first for men in 1880 and next for women in 1915, over a hundred years later.

Throughout history, we’ll explore hair removal trends in the laser hair removal industry, giving due attention to the evolution and future advances of laser hair removal technology.

LASER HAIR REMOVAL TECHNOLOGY’S EVOLUTION

THE FIRST LASER AND THEODORE MAIMAN

The story of laser hair removal technology begins with a physicist by the name of Theodore Maiman, who would go on to be known as “the father of the electro-optics industry.”

Before Maiman invented the laser in 1960, the underpinnings of laser technology were theorized by Albert Einstein. A device known as a maser (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) had been available since 1953. With a device creating short-wavelength light, Maiman wanted maser’s microwave capabilities extensions to the optical range too.

With the publication of his success in Nature, Maiman invented the first laser in 1960. His Colleagues didn’t truly grasp the potential of laser technology at the time. Maiman found so little support for finding a real-world application of the laser. He started two separate laser manufacturing companies in the 60s, Korad and Maiman Associates (source).

As opposed to decades later, a slow and inefficient version like most first-time inventions, called ruby laser, was Maiman’s first laser. Some researchers tested it on hair. They found that it also resulted in severe skin burns and minimization of hair growth.

In 1964, FDA approved the YAG laser for hair removal after its invention. Despite not being able to create any permanent results, it was found to be effective at reducing hair. In the 70s, the alexandrite laser came on the scene. This laser was safer than its predecessors but once again didn’t create the required heat to permanently end hair growth (source).

THE LASER PIONEER: DR. RICHARD ROX ANDERSON

With lasers being too ineffective for long-term treatment for hair removal needs, Laser hair removal technology was at an impasse for decades to come. Many doctors and scientists gave up on the idea eventually.

Going on to achieve over 60 international and national laser-related patents, Dr. Richard Rox Anderson revived the efforts. Anderson was working at the Harvard Medical School. He had recently hired a new doctor for his team, Dr. Melanie Grossman.

Grossman suggested that they look into laser hair removal, citing the previous research into lasers and ineffective results. Anderson and Grossman started tests on hairy dogs, and in 1994 they released their first paper on laser hair removal on human subjects (source). Anderson was the first of their human trials, in accordance with his golden rule: “Do unto yourself before you do unto others.”

Going on to lay the modern laser hair removal’s foundations as known today, Anderson’s specific laser hair removal technique provided the required origin. Travelling into the hair follicle, A concentrated light beam was directed onto the skin.

Preventing any future hair growth, the hair follicle becomes damaged by the intense light. Anderson and Grossman had perfected the duration and intensity of the laser applied on the skin even though decades of previous early studies provided a similar process.

In 1997, the method was finally approved by the FDA due to Anderson and Grossman’s success on the laser hair removal technology. Anderson would continue to conceive and develop many more laser treatments, including those for tattoo removal, pigmented lesions, birthmarks, and more (source).

CURRENT AND FUTURE STATUS OF LASER HAIR REMOVAL TECHNOLOGY

Today’s laser hair removal technology is more sophisticated than ever before, with success rates going up to 95% permanent reduction of hair growth in most patients. Problems like treating patients with darker skin and tanned skin are now easily solved with diode laser technology pertaining to the use of different laser types.

There is less risk of damage to surrounding hair follicles and the skin itself due to faster sessions and more controlled and shorter laser pulse rates. To make the experience as comfortable as possible, there have been developments to create various cooling technologies paired with laser hair removal.

With one business earning more than $12 million in revenues in the recent years (source), resulting in growing trust and popularity in at-home laser hair removal machines. It should be noted that at-home devices have not been proven to offer the long-term results or same levels of efficiency that patients experience at professional clinics.

So what is in store for the laser hair removal technology’s future? Well, more incredible speed, more efficiency, and virtually no pain for starters. There have been some essential but small developments affecting the quicker procedures, cooling systems like patient’s experience, and ability to help dark-skinned patients. Over the last two decades, lasers haven’t changed much.

For example, one of the latest devices in the laser hair removal industry is the Splendor X by Lumenis. This device is the first laser that combines Nd: YAG and Alexandrite wavelengths, which work on two different fronts. The Nd: YAG wavelength is best for dark and tanned skin tones, while The Alexandrite Wavelength is most useful for light and fair skin tones (source).

As it uses less energy than its predecessors, hence, This device is also less painful. They also target two different hair parts: the Nd: YAG wavelength targets the area beneath the skin’s top layer. The Alexandrite wavelength specializes in killing hair sitting on the surface of the skin.

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