Background: Using the concept of selective photothermolysis, a variety of laser systems have been developed to remove unwanted hair.
Objective: To evaluate the relative efficacy, tolerability, and subject satisfaction of three different laser systems used individually and in rotation for axillary hair removal.
Methods: Twenty female patients (17 with dark-colored hair, 3 with red or light-colored hair) with Fitzpatrick phototype II skin received three treatments performed at 6- to 8-week intervals. Each axilla was divided in half to yield four distinct areas that were treated by the following lasers: (1) three sessions with a long-pulse 755 nm alexandrite laser, (2) three sessions with a long-pulse 810 nm diode laser, (3) three sessions with a long-pulse 1,064 nm neodymium:yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Nd:YAG) laser, and (4) rotational treatment consisting of a single session by each of the three laser systems. Percent hair reduction and acute and long-term side effects were evaluated after treatment. Subjects completed questionnaires assessing tolerability and satisfaction.
Results: All subjects tolerated the treatments well, with only local, transient side effects seen. At the 3-month follow-up, the greatest average hair reduction was comparably similarly seen after the alexandrite laser at 59.3 +/- 9.7% and the 810 nm diode laser at 58.7 +/- 7.7%. The Nd:YAG laser and rotational regimens were less efficacious, with 31.9 +/- 11.1% and 39.8 +/- 10.1% hair reduction, respectively. Subjects with red or light-colored hair experienced 5 to 15% reduced efficacy with any laser system used. Subjects found the alexandrite and diode lasers to be equally tolerable, with only slight discomfort, and the Nd:YAG laser to be the least comfortable of the three systems. Overall, subject satisfaction of each treated site, in decreasing order, was (1) the 810 nm diode laser, (2) the alexandrite laser, (3) rotational therapy, and (4) the Nd:YAG laser.
Conclusion: At the 3-month follow-up, the long-pulse alexandrite and 810 nm diode lasers demonstrated no statistically significant differences in efficacy, comparable efficacy and tolerability, and highest subject satisfaction. Rotational therapy with the three laser systems is not as effective as treatment with the alexandrite laser or diode laser alone but is statistically more effective than use of the long-pulse Nd:YAG system alone. Individuals with red or light-colored hair and Fitzpatrick phototype II skin have decreased efficacy of laser treatment than those with dark-colored hair and the same phototype.