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Laser Hair Removal

Plucking, shaving, creams, and hot waxing are only temporary fixes for unwanted hair. For longer-lasting results, laser hair removal is required. This procedure can be performed on most parts of the body where hair appears -- the upper lip, the chin, cheeks, on the back, legs, fingers, feet, or toes.

The laser works with melanin (color pigment) in your hair follicles and skin, literally destroying the follicle as it passes over it. Because melanin is the key, people who are fair-skinned with dark hair get the best results. If you're tan or have a darker skin tone, the laser gets absorbed by the pigment in the skin - making it harder to reach the hair follicle. Light-haired people don't get great results either because their hair contains little melanin. Dark-skinned and light-haired people usually require more treatments, and results may not be as good.

The Procedure: As a laser beam is moved over your skin, the laser energy is absorbed by melanin in the hair follicles. Heat from the laser then breaks apart the hair follicle. Multiple sessions will likely be required to treat any given body area.

Common Side Effects: Slight pain during the procedure can be prevented with a topical anesthetic cream. Redness, slight swelling, and sun sensitivity lasts for just a few days.

Complications: Rare side effects include peeling, blistering, and burning of the skin as well as brown spots and slight loss of pigment in the treated area. A tan can increase your risk of complications, so your doctor may ask you to delay the procedure until your tan has faded. People with darker skin are more likely to get discoloration.

Recovery: Skin in the treated area will be extremely sensitive for a few days, so protective clothing and sun block are necessary for a day or two.

Results: Three or four treatments, six to eight weeks apart, may be needed to achieve a meaningful reduction in the amount of hair on legs or elsewhere. After that, you'll need to wait a year to see the full effect of the treatment. Hair growth cycles are about six months long, so it's best to wait through two growth cycles to see the final results.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD, December 10, 2007.

SOURCES: Michael Powell, MD, facial plastic surgeon. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Hair Removal." WebMD Answers to Questions: "How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?"

Hair Replacement Surgery
Grafting and Scalp Reduction

Hair loss is a frustrating problem for many people. And while Rogaine and Propecia can help some people with hereditary baldness, they are temporary fixes. For some people, the permanent benefit of hair replacement surgery is the preferable option. Two surgical procedures are typically used in hair replacement - grafting (also called hair transplant) and scalp reduction.

Men with male-pattern baldness and women with thinning hair are good candidates for hair replacement. Also, those who have lost hair because of burns or scalp injuries can benefit. Those who won't benefit include women with a wide-spread pattern of hair loss. Also, people without sufficient "donor" sites aren't good candidates for grafting - as well as those with keloid scars or thick, fibrous scars from burns or scalp injuries.

The Procedure: Grafting involves taking hair-bearing "donor scalp" from the back of the head, then transplanting tiny segments of it into the hairless areas. Scalp reduction surgery may be performed along with grafting. It involves actually removing sections of bald scalp, then stretching the remaining scalp sections together and closing with stitches. Multiple grafting sessions will likely be needed to get the desired effect.

Common Side Effects: Most side effects from grafting disappear within one to three weeks. The most common are swelling, bruising around the eyes, as well as numbness and crust at the sites where hair was removed and transplanted. Scalp reduction surgery involves more pain than grafting does. You may also have a headache afterward.

Complications: In some cases, there is infection and scarring. Other possible complications include: an unnatural look, a graft that the body rejects, and loss of transplanted hair. There may be loss of scalp tissue or bleeding during the scalp reduction.

Recovery: At each session, the grafted area is covered with gauze and the donor area is closed with stitches or staples. The stitches will come out about 10 days later. The healing process for each graft usually occurs within two to four months. The hair initially falls out, which worries patients, but it does grow back. If you have scalp reduction your scalp may feel a bit tight for a few months.

Results: For many people, hair grafting and scalp reduction is a permanent solution.

Find out more about hair replacement.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD, December 10, 2007.

SOURCES: Michael Powell, MD, facial plastic surgeon. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Hair Loss."

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