I'm Julietta, baby!

Is laser hair removal permanent?

After trying IPL at-home laser removal for months with zero success (I was broke and wanted to save a few bucks, don't judge), I started researching whether or not laser hair removal was permanent. There are endless articles from journalists online weighing in from a variety of different sources and differing takeaways. So, who do you trust?

The most original source you can find. If in doubt, go digging for an article's source and see how far back you can find. Be prepared, many original sources are undated, behind paywalls, or unlinked and hard to find, and it's difficult to piece together conflicting reports. I will try my best below

Healthline puts this bluntly: "In short, no.". This article links to two places. The first is this undated Mayo Clinic article The Mayo Clinic for those unfamiliar is a hospital chain that writes a ton of medical articles on a variety of different topics. In it, the Mayo Clinic outright states "Although laser hair removal effectively delays hair growth for long periods, it usually doesn't result in permanent hair removal." Although this seems vague, they later write "Results vary significantly and are difficult to predict. Most people experience hair removal that lasts several months, and it might last for years. But laser hair removal doesn't guarantee permanent hair removal. When hair regrows, it's usually finer and lighter in color." This seems pretty clear and direct, even if the information is undated.

However, the same Healthline article links to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, which provides a one minute 35 second YouTube video in which, at the 0:21 mark, it is stated "In the vast majority of areas, except for the face in women, you can expect your laser hair removal to be permanent." Note the use of the word "women", which suggests that those that have gone through a testosterone puberty will still have permanent hair removal. However, in direct contrast to the statements in the YouTube video, the ADA's also-undated FAQ page states "Most patients remain hair free for months or even years. When some of the hair regrows, it will likely be less noticeable. To keep the area free of hair, a patient may need maintenance laser treatments.", reflecting the Mayo Clinic's assertions. No source is given here either.

Finally, I came across this Medical News Today article that cites a couple studies. As a former code monkey, I don't have access to get behind the paywalls, but the studies linked to are this one and this one. The abstracts make no mention of longevity, so until and unless I get a full-text copy of this study, I have no way to know what the conclusions are.

Dig through the google search on "Is laser hair removal permanent?" long enough and you'll come across a Cleveland Clinic article that states "You may need a touch-up here and there - especially if you have a lot of body hair - but the overall effects of the procedure are lasting." Whether "lasting" means permanently or simply long-term (and if so, the timeline) is unclear.

Finally, on page 3 of that same Google Search, we come across the Wikipedia article on it. It cites a couple sources for the FDA in determining what "permanent" means. While the link is dead, Archive.org has a copy. In it is some fairly confusing wording:

"Permanent hair reduction is defined as the long-term, stable reduction in the number of hairs re-growing after a treatment regime, which may include several sessions. The number of hairs regrowing must be stable over time greater than the duration of the complete growth cycle of hair follicles, which varies from four to twelve months according to body location. Permanent hair reduction does not necessarily imply the elimination of all hairs in the treatment area."

In layman's terms, in order to qualify for FDA approval for "Permanent hair reduction", which laser hair removal does, you need to have fewer hairs grow in a 4-12 month time period after you started laser hair removal. After 12 months, it can all grow back and still meet FDA's standards for "permanent hair reduction."

But, what does it all mean? Can you summarize?

Effectively, the generalized consensus is that laser will remove hair for several months to a year minimum. What does grow back will be lighter in color. And for some patients, it won't grow back at all.

So, will you get it?

Abso-fucking-lutely I will. Freshly shaved, my 5-o-clock shadow is clearly visible. Given that laser still lightens the hair once (and if) it grows back, it fits my goal of "I don't want people to see my beard." Laser is also much cheaper than electrolysis. And the few articles that weighed in on this — none of which provided a scholarly source — seemed to suggest that you could go weeks without shaving. Given that I have to shave daily to keep appearances up (sometimes I shave multiple times a day), this is a dream.

Will I need electrolysis? To get rid of everything, yes. And to get rid of what grows back. But laser is an inexpensive start that punts the ball down the road while I save up the cash for top surgery and possibly FFS. So how can I complain?