What is laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal is a noninvasive technique that uses highly concentrated light to penetrate hair follicles. The laser light is absorbed by the pigment in the hair shaft in the follicle-generating heat which damages the follicle to inhibit future hair growth. Therefore, plucking hair before treatment reduces the efficacy of the laser treatment as the target is absent.
Because laser hair removal only affects actively growing hair follicles, it may take several laser hair removal treatments to provide significant hair reduction. Additionally, while laser hair removal effectively slows hair growth, it doesn’t guarantee permanent hair removal. Periodic maintenance treatments may be needed.
Laser Hair Removal Risks and Safety
Laser hair removal doesn’t guarantee permanent hair removal. Some hair could be resistant to the laser treatment or grow again after treatment — although the new hair growth might be finer and lighter in color.
Possible laser hair removal side effects include:
- Mild swelling around the hair follicles
- Pigment changes may occur, especially in those with darker skin. These changes are usually temporary
- Slight redness of the skin
- Temporary irritation resulting in blistering, crusting, scarring or other changes in skin texture
Special care must be taken for those with darker skin. A less intensive laser should be used to avoid damaging the outer skin. Anyone who has tanned, used a spray tan or gone to a tanning booth should wait until the tan has faded as the pigment in the skin absorbs the laser light and reduces the effectiveness of the treatment. These risks and others will be fully discussed prior to your consent. It’s important that you address all your questions directly with your laser hair reduction provider.
Before and After Care for Laser Hair Removal
Before your treatment:
- Hair should be cleanly shaven Leave a representative sample unshaven for clinician to assess
- Do not wear makeup on the treated area the day of treatment
- No sun-tanning or self-tanners 4 weeks prior to treatment Includes spray tans, tanning lotions, tanning beds, sun exposure, etc.
- Some medications or supplements may increase the risk bruising. Consult with your physician
- No waxing, plucking or tweezing at least 4 weeks prior to treatment Some body parts may require a longer wait time
- Avoid treatments that may irritate the skin for 1-2 weeks prior to treatment (depilatories, harsh chemicals, etc.)
- Notify clinic with any changes to your health history or medications since your last appointment
- History of herpes or cold sores may require an anti-viral prescription prior to treatment
After your treatment:
- Avoid sun exposure and use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen
- Redness and perifollicular edema (looks like a rash/bug bites) are common and resolve with time
- Bruising and swelling are less common but may occur and will resolve with time
- Hair may take up to 2 weeks to fall out
- Avoid heat – hot tubs, saunas, etc. for 1-2 days
- Avoid skin irritants (examples below) a few days post-treatment
Products containing tretinoin, retinol, benzoyl peroxide, glycolic/salicylic acids, astringents, etc.
- Do not wax or pluck between treatments
- Notify clinic of any concerns (blistering, excessive redness/swelling, etc.)
- Hair removal requires a series of treatments. The number of treatments depends on body location and type of hair.
- Consult with clinic about when to resume skin care regime
Hair grows in different phases and not all at the same rate. This is why multiple sessions of laser hair removal is necessary to achieve hair reduction. Targeting the hair in the appropriate stage of growth with thermal damage from the laser is how effective hair reduction is achieved