Human hair grows in four distinctive stages, each of which has certain characteristics that can impact your laser hair removal treatment. Knowing the four stages can help you to better understand the most effective timing for scheduling your laser hair removal sessions, as well as understand why a series of treatments is recommended. Different hair stages, much like different skin types, respond differently to laser hair removal.
The Life of a Hair Follicle
The first stage of hair growth is the anagen stage, which can last for up to seven years and is the growing phase for human hair. Because the hair is growing, the anagen stage is the best time during which to schedule laser hair removal. The hair has grown enough that it can be seen outside of the skin and is easier to treat through LHR and other common removal techniques, including thermolysis and electrolysis. During the anagen stage, the hair is affixed to the papilla, which makes it easier for the laser to reach the papilla and force it to release the hair.
The next stage of hair growth is the catagen stage, which is less ideal for the best laser hair removal results than the anagen stage but still allows for effective treatment. Hair growth has ended during this stage, but the hair still is visible and about to shed. Laser hair removal is the only treatment that remains effective during the catagen stage due to reduced moisture and salt at the root. The categen stage lasts about 10 days.
The telogen stage is the third phase of hair growth and is considered the resting phase. The hair has stopped all growth, has detached from the papilla and cannot be seen. Laser hair removal is nearly impossible during the telogen stage due to the inability to reach the papilla. The telogen stage lasts about three months.
The final stage of hair growth is the exogen stage, which is considered the resting phase. During the exogen stage, old hair sheds while a new hair continues to grow. The new hair has not grown above the skin, and laser removal is ineffective. During the exogen phase, it is common for between 50 and 150 hairs to fall out each day.
Why Growth Stage Matters
The first two stages of hair growth are considered the active phases, during which laser hair removal is effective. Due to the rotating cycles, it’s essential to rotate LHR treatments every four to six weeks to target hairs during the anagen stage. Enough hair must be visible to effectively absorb the laser energy, although even very closely shaven hair can present enough length to see results.
One of the most common questions asked about laser hair removal is why multiple sessions are necessary for achieving long-term reduction in hair density and growth. The answer lies in understanding the different growth phases of the hair follicle. Enough laser energy must be absorbed by the follicle that regrowth is impaired, and this can only occur during active growth. Each hair has a staggered growth cycle, so repeated treatments are necessary in order to ensure that each hair is individually targeted at the optimum time in its own particular life cycle. Working closely with a certified laser technician can help ensure that your treatments are timed properly and spaced far enough apart for you to enjoy the best possible outcome.
Caroll Delo is a board certified laser technician at Simply Smooth Laser Center in Tampa, a niche practice that focuses specifically on laser treatments. Simply Smooth Laser Center offers the most advanced options in laser hair removal, laser skin rejuvenation and laser tattoo removal.