Imagine never having to worry about your arms and legs getting stubbly. You would never have to worry about bumpy ingrown hair or crib about the painful waxing experience you had the other day. You would also never have to buy razors in bulk from the supermarket again! Sounds like a dream? Well, laser hair removal can turn this dream into reality.
But wait! Before you bid adieu to your razors and waxing kit, you need to be aware of the potential risks and side effects of laser hair removal. Laser hair removal may irritate your skin and cause pigmentation issues and scarring. Scroll down to find out everything you need to know about this procedure.
What Is Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal is a non-invasive procedure in which a laser is used to reduce the growth of body hair. It is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures that people undergo to get rid of unwanted hair.
In this procedure, a concentrated beam of light is targeted at the melanin (a type of pigment) in your hair. The light converts into heat and damages the sacks in the hair follicle that produces hair, thus inhibiting or delaying hair growth.
You can get laser hair removal done on any part of your body. The main target areas of laser hair removal are:
- Upper lip
- Bikini line
You have to undergo the procedure under a trained expert or a dermatologist. When done under the supervision of a doctor, this procedure is safe for most people. One of its main benefits is that it helps remove unwanted hair from a body part without damaging the skin. This process is fast (depending on the area being treated). However, some people may experience a few side effects.
Side Effects Of Laser Hair Removal: Risks Associated With It
You may experience some minor side effects of laser hair removal such as:
- Skin Redness And Irritation
Redness and skin irritation are very common side effects of laser hair removal. They are even more common if you are getting it done on a relatively sensitive area of your body. You might notice redness and minor skin irritation, along with swelling.
These effects are similar to the ones you usually notice after waxing or any other type of hair removal procedure. The irritation goes away within an hour of the procedure. You can apply an ice pack to speed up the recovery.
- Change In Skin Pigments
You may also notice changes in your skin tone after the procedure. If you have a light skin tone, you might notice dark spots on your skin. If you have a dark complexion, you might notice lighter spots on your skin. These changes are temporary. But if you feel they look too severe, talk to your doctor immediately.
You may also experience some serious side effects of laser hair removal. Though they are rare, it is important that you know when to seek medical help.
Rare Side Effects Of Laser Hair Removal
- Change in skin texture: This is a possibility if you got tanned recently.
- Scarring: If you tend to get scars easily, you might also experience scarring from laser hair removal.
- Excessive hair growth: This is extremely rare, but there is a possibility that you might experience excessive hair growth in the treated area.
- Blisters: You might get blisters if you expose your skin to the sun too soon after the procedure.
Since the potential risks of laser hair removal are quite serious, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends going to only certified dermatologists to get it done (1).
One thing you need to remember is that
laser hair removal does not remove hair permanently. It only delays hair growth for a period.
This is because the laser treatment is done when your hair is in the growth phase, called anagen. Initially, you will need to undergo multiple sessions to remove hair completely because not all hairs may be in the active growth phase. Later, you can go for maintenance treatments to target stubborn areas or get rid of strays or regrown hair or hair that has just come out of the dormant phase and entered the active growth phase.
Laser hair removal is more than just getting rid of hair from your body. It is a medical procedure for which you need to prepare yourself. There are a few things you need to consider before you decide to take the plunge.
How To Prepare For Laser Hair Removal
If you have made up your mind to undergo laser hair removal, prepare yourself before fixing an appointment. Here’s a checklist:
- Avoid waxing and/or plucking hair from the area where the procedure will be done.
- Avoid sun exposure as much as possible for at least six weeks before the procedure. (you will also need to avoid it for six weeks after the procedure).
- Avoid using products that might irritate your skin.
- Avoid taking anti-inflammatory drugs that might increase the risk of bleeding.
- If you have a skin infection, rash, or cold sore, avoid undergoing the procedure.
- Avoid undergoing laser hair removal if you are pregnant. Laser therapy is not safe during pregnancy.
Laser hair removal is performed by a licensed esthetician. Here is what you can expect during the procedure.
Laser Hair Removal: What To Expect During The Procedure
Before the procedure, the esthetician will clean the area on which the procedure will be performed.
- If you are getting it done on a relatively sensitive area (like the bikini line), the esthetician may apply a numbing gel.
- You will be asked to wear protective eye gear to prevent any damage from the laser.
- The esthetician will focus a light beam on the particular area on your body to remove the hair.
Some of the common lasers that are used for hair removal treatments include:
- IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) laser hair removal. The systems or lasers used under this may include Aculight, Vasculight, Quantum, Epilight, and PhotoDerm.
- SHR Hair Removal or Super Hair Removal. It is the latest and advanced IPL laser treatment.
- Diode hair removal lasers, such as Epistar, SLP F1 Diode, MeDioStar, LighSheer, Soprano XL, LaserLite, and Apex.
- Ruby laser systems, including EpiPulse Ruby, RubyStar, and Palomar E2000.
- Nd: YAG hair removal systems, such as Cutera, Cynosure, Candela, Medlite IV, Lyra, Gentle YAG, and Sciton.
The doctor decides the right laser for your skin, depending on your hair growth, area to be treated, and other health-related aspects.
Wondering if laser hair removal hurts? Well, it depends. Some people who underwent the procedure reported feeling minor discomfort (such as a warm pinprick on the skin), while some reported a sunburn-like stinging.
You will need to undergo a series of laser hair removal sessions to get the desired results. These sessions are usually spread over 4 to 6 weeks, but a professional esthetician is the best person to decide the duration.
During the recovery phase right after the procedure, the treated area on your skin may appear red or sunburned. This is normal. You need to take special care of your skin during the recovery phase. Here’s what you can do:
- Avoid sun exposure.
- Use a cold compress.
- Keep your skin moisturized.
- Use sunscreen regularly.
- Avoid exfoliating the area.
- Avoid plucking, shaving, and waxing.
- Avoid hot showers, hot tubs, and sauna (as your skin will be sensitive).
- Avoid applying any makeup and topical creams.
In case your skin starts to blister (mostly happens to those who have dark complexion), visit your doctor immediately.
While a lot of us are skeptical about most cosmetic procedures, not all myths associated with them are true. In the next section, we have tried to bust a few myths associated with laser hair removal.
Myths Associated With Laser Hair Removal
Myth 1: Laser hair removal increases hair growth and makes it dense.
Fact: Hair growth depends on the number of hair follicles. Laser treatment helps to reduce the hair growth rate, density, and thickness with each session, and the hair growth lightens. Remember, laser treatment is not a permanent solution. Your hair will eventually grow back, but the process will be delayed.
Myth 2: Laser hair removal treatment can cause cancer.
Fact: There is no scientific evidence for this yet. The laser used for hair removal does produce some amount of radiation, but it is not harmful.
Myth 3: Laser hair removal treatment is painful.
Fact: Well, you will feel only a pinprick-like sensation on your skin, which may cause a bit of discomfort. It is less painful than waxing.
Myth 4: You need just one session to permanently remove your hair.
Fact: Laser hair removal is not a permanent solution. The number of sessions depends on your hair type, the density, the area to be treated, and other genetic factors.
Laser hair removal is a safe way to deal with unwanted hair. However, you need to consult a dermatologist before undergoing this procedure. Also, keep in mind that this procedure is expensive. As per the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a single session of laser hair removal was $293 in 2017 (2). The cost may vary depending on the expertise of the esthetician and the geographic location. Consider all these factors before making the leap.
Do you have any more questions about laser hair removal? Post them in the comments section below, and we’ll get back to you.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Can laser hair removal trigger acne?
Your skin might develop red pus-filled bumps as an inflammatory response after the procedure. Consult the doctor for topical treatments to manage them.
Does the hair fall out right away after treatment?
Yes and no. It may take anywhere between 5 and 15 days for a few people and happen immediately for a few others. The results vary from patient to patient, depending on hair thickness, treated area, and type of laser used.
- Laser Hair Removal: FAQs, American Academy of Dermatology
- Laser Hair Removal, American Society Of Plastic Surgeons