There are many laser hair removal devices on the market. With so many options, how do you find the right laser removal device for you? Below is an in depth discussion of the five most common types of hair removal systems: Ruby, IPL, Alexandrite, Diode, and Nd: YAG.
1. Ruby (694 nm)
The Ruby laser is the first laser hair removal system brought to market. Due to the age of the Ruby laser, there is significant research available to support its efficacy. However, many providers consider the Ruby laser outdated, (it was developed in 1960), and opt for more current laser systems because the laser has not been significantly updated since the initial release.
The Ruby laser emits a red-colored beam and produces a shorter wavelength of 694 nm that targets melanin (brown pigment) found in hair follicle. The Ruby works best on pale skin and dark hair. This laser is not effective on lighter hair (blonde, red or grey). Due to high melanin (skin pigment) laser absorption rate, Ruby is not safe to use on darker skin types because it can cause dyspigmentation. The ruby also has a slow repetition meaning laser treatments require significantly longer treatment times than other hair removal systems. As a result the Ruby laser is suited for small areas of skin only.
Pros: Many decades of safety data.
Cons: Can only be used on pale skin. Treatment time is very long so can only treat tiny areas. Inexpensive because device is older.
Common Ruby Devices: EpiPulse Ruby, Palomar, RubyStar
IPL stands for “intense pulsed light”. Although IPL is not technically a laser, it is frequently used in aesthetics to remove unwanted hair. This device uses an intense, visible, broad-spectrum pulse or flash of light. IPL, like a laser, targets melanin in the hair to cause destruction to the follicle. IPL shares some similarities with laser treatments in that they both use light to heat to damage their targets. Good candidates for IPL hair removal have pale skin and dark hair. IPL is not safe on tan skin because it uses broad spectrum light which targets all types of structures in the skin, unlike laser which is ultra-focused on concentrating heat in the follicles. IPL also has a slow coverage rate and a bulky handpiece, so it is rarely used for hair removal. However, it remains a popular and effective device for removal of brown spots and facial redness.
Pros: Very common device found in almost every dermatology office. Removes freckles and brown spots. Inexpensive.
Cons: Does not use a laser beam and heat can damage other structures in the skin besides the hair follicle. Cannot be used on anyone tan or darker. Bulky handpiece with patchy results.
Common IPL Devices: Aculight, Epilight, PhotoDerm, Quantum, Vasculight, Alma
3. Alexandrite (755 nm)
The Alexandrite laser hair removal system is the most frequently used laser on the market because it is so quick and extremely effective. Alexandrite (“Alex” for short) can provide quick treatments on large body surface areas due to fast laser pulse repetition rates and larger treatment spot sizes. The Alex is most effective and safest on patients with light to olive-colored skin because of how well the laser targets brown pigment. The pulses of the laser are rapid, which may create slightly more discomfort for the patient but it is still very popular because treatment times are much quicker. Newer Alexandrite devices have built in cooling systems to reduce discomfort and improve the patient experience. Unfortunately, due to the strength of the laser against brown colors, the Alexandrite laser cannot be used on dark skin tones because it will cause burns, dyspigmentation, and scarring.
Pros: Ultra-efficient at removing hair. Rapid repitition rate with quick treatment times. Painless.
Cons: Latest technology means more expensive.
Common Alexandrite Devices: Candela GentleLase, EpiTouch Plus, Cynosure Apogee, Deka Motus Ax
4. Diode (810 nm)
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved two wavelengths that may be used for laser hair reduction on darker skin tones including the diode (810 nm) and Nd: YAG (1064 nm) laser systems. The Diode laser is a newer laser hair removal system meaning there is less research available to show long-term safety and effectiveness. The Diode produces wavelengths that penetrate deep into the hair follicle. Deep laser penetration is safer on darker skin types because the energy produced by the laser is not able to concentrate where pigment resides in the skin.
Common Diode Devices: Apex, Epistar, F1 Diode, LaserLite, LightSheer, MeDioStar, SLP, SopranoXL
5. Nd: YAG Laser (1064 nm)
The longer wavelength Nd:YAG (Neodymium-doped Yttrium Aluminum Garnet) laser is the newest form of laser hair removal and is considered ideal gold standard for treating patients with darker skin, due to reduced scatter and deeper penetration of the laser light. Nd: Yag lasers produce wavelengths that penetrate deep into the hair follicle. YAG laser penetration is safer on darker skin types because the energy produced by the laser is not able to concentrate where pigment resides in the skin. Also, shorter pulse durations can be used more safely with Nd: YAG laser than with the diode. This is an additional advantage when dealing with hair that is more fine. Shorter pulse durations allow for quick treatments on large areas of the body.
Pros: The safest laser for hair removal, ever. Rapid repitition rate with quick treatment times. The dermatology community agrees this is the best, safest laser for all patients with tan or darker skin.
Cons: Latest technology means more expensive.
Popular Nd: YAG Devices: Cynosure Elite, Candela, Cutera Excel, GentleYAG, Lyra, Medlite IV, Sciton
Laser Hair Removal At SLK Clinic
At SLK Clinic we have hand selected the Candela Gentlemax Pro laser system for our laser hair removal treatments. This unique laser system contains two separate laser devices considered the gold standard for treating both light and dark skin tones, the Alexandrite (755 nm) and Nd: YAG (1064 nm). The Candela Gentlemax Pro treats all skin types quickly, comfortably and effectively. The laser system also utilizes a dynamic cooling device that protects the upper layers of the skin and assists with patient comfort with a cool spritz every time the laser releases a pulse of laser energy.