11th February 2022

A Brief History of Laser Hair Removal and Where It is Today

Last Modified: February 16, 2022

One of the fastest-growing treatments in the non-surgical cosmetic industry is laser hair removal. And for a good reason. Laser hair removal is a quick, precise, and safe treatment that offers long-term results and is a fantastic way to keep ingrown hairs at bay.

That said, did you know that laser hair removal technology is relatively new? While laser technology itself has been around for over 70 years, laser hair removal didn't become commercially available until 1997. In the same year, laser hair removal received its first approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration.

But like any other major technology we use today, it's been quite the journey getting here.

We'll explore the evolution of laser hair removal technology and where the laser hair removal industry stands today.

The History of Hair Removal

Hair removal has existed in one form or another for as long as humankind has had hair.

The Egyptians and Sugaring: Long before lasers came into existence, the upper-class Egyptians found other ways to keep their body hair at a minimum. Having too much body hair was frowned upon and considered a trait for the lower classes. As a result, the Egyptians invented several hair removal methods, including tweezers made from pumice stones and seashells and flint and bronze razors. Then around 1900 B.C, they came up with one of the very first waxing techniques that used a sugaring paste called 'moum' made of sugar, water, and lemon.

The Persians and Threading: Also known as 'Bande Abru', threading was born 5000 years ago in Persia (modern-day Iran). Threading involves tugging eyebrows with strands of cotton thread as a way for women to remove unwanted hairs and create immaculate eyebrow shapes. The technique, which was a very popular treatment for women on their wedding day to signify their rite of passage into marriage, is still used today.

The Europeans and Walnut Oil: 16th century Queen Elizabeth I removed most of the hair from her face—including eyebrows. She was also known to pluck the hairline around her forehead to make her face appear elongated. Naturally, her female subjects followed suit. After shaving or waxing off all their hair, the women would rub walnut oil on their faces to prevent hair growth.

The Razor:  King Camp Gillette, a travelling salesman, is credited with creating the modern razor, first for men in 1880 and next for women in 1915. The Gillette company introduced the two-blade razor in 1971 and continues to produce razors to date. 

Laser Technology is Invented

While Albert Einstein theorised the underpinnings of laser in a 1917 paper, it took another four decades before someone invented the technology. That honour goes to Theodore Maiman, who created the first functioning laser, the ruby laser, in 1960. 

Knowing how vital laser technology has become, it sounds absurd to imagine that at the time, most of his colleagues frowned at his work. One went as far as claiming that "A laser is a solution seeking a problem." 

As a result, Maiman got very little support towards finding a real-world application for his laser.

Like most first-time inventions, his ruby laser was a slow and inefficient version of what we use today. 

In 1964, Nd: YAG laser, widely used today for hair removal on darker skin types, was created. The alexandrite laser followed it in the 1970s. 

During this time, there was next to zero success with using laser technologies for hair removal. Some researchers tested it on hair and found that while it could minimise hair growth, it also resulted in severe skin burns. Those experiments were quickly abandoned.

Related: Complete Guide to Main Types of Hair Removal Laser Systems

Theodore Maiman with His Ruby Laser

The Inception of Laser Hair Removal 

After Maiman's invention, laser hair removal technology did not make headway for decades. Most of the scientists and doctors who had tried had given up when laser proved to be too ineffective of a solution for long-term hair removal.

However, everything changed when Dr Richard Rox Anderson and Dr Melanie Grossman—who worked at the Harvard Medical School—decided to take a stab at laser hair removal. 

Anderson and Grossman first carried out their tests on dogs. As their research showed promise, they moved to human trials in 1994. Their trials were a success, and the FDA approved laser hair removal in 1997. 

Dr Richard Rox Anderson and Dr Melanie Grossman had managed to succeed where everyone before them had failed. They had managed to find a good balance between the duration and intensity of the laser applied on the skin. Long term hair removal with laser technology was actually attainable without causing harm to the skin!

This was a monumental moment for the cosmetic and beauty industry as their groundbreaking research laid the foundation of modern laser hair removal as we know it today. 

Dr Richard Rox Anderson's success did not stop there as he's helped develop many more laser-based treatments, such as procedures for removing tattoos and birthmarks. 

Laser hair removal at Dr Aesthetica

Where Is Laser Technology Today

Laser hair removal technology is now more sophisticated than ever before. It can achieve up to 95% permanent reduction of hair growth. Also, the treatment is no longer limited to patients with light skin and dark hair. All skin types on the Fitzpatrick scale can be treated using different laser wavelengths with minimum risk of damage to the surrounding skin.

The top laser devices in the market combine different lasers to target the hair at three levels: the bulge, the hair bulb, and the hair papilla. This combined effect has shown superior results compared to using a single wavelength.

A perfect example is Splendor X by Lumenis. This device is the first laser that combines Nd: YAG and Alexandrite lasers, which work on two different fronts. The Alexandrite laser is most effective for fair and light skin tones. On the other hand, Nd: YAG laser covers tanned and dark skin tones previously uncatered for by the industry.

This device also uses less energy than its predecessors and comes with a dual cooling mechanism that has made the laser hair removal experience much more comfortable.

There is also growing popularity in at-home laser hair removal devices. However, most of these devices are yet to offer the same levels of efficiency or results that can be achieved with professional treatments.

What lies ahead for the laser hair removal technology? 

While the underlying technology has largely remained the same, the improvements made over the years have had a significant positive impact on the efficacy of the treatment plus the patient's comfort.

So you can expect to see more developments in regards to speed of treatment, speed of results, patient comfort and safety. 

As a result, the number of laser hair removal devices approved by the FDA and other regulatory bodies will go up. 

Laser hair removal will only get better from here onwards.

Want to learn more about our laser hair removal services? Get in touch with our laser technician here.

Book Your Treatment Today

We value understanding you better, so walk through our doors and tell us your story… and let us turn it into one of happiness, confidence and empowerment. Because why would you have it any other way!?
Book Now
We want to empower everyone who walks through our clinic doors, to be able to look in the mirror and see a happier, brighter version of themselves.
Dr Aesthetica, Unit 1, 1431 -1433 Bristol Rd S, Birmingham, B31 2SU
Call Now
Book Now
crossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram