Laser hair removal: FAQs
Laser hair removal: What to expect
Laser hair removal works best for patients with light-colored skin and dark-colored hair. Watch this video to learn what to expect prior to and after your treatment.
To help you decide whether this treatment is right for you, you should review the following facts.
Laser hair removal can be dangerous in inexperienced hands. Burns, permanent changes to your skin color, and scars can occur. You can greatly reduce the risk of possible side effects by having your treatment performed by a medical doctor who is extremely skilled in using lasers and has in-depth knowledge of the skin. The AAD recommends that you choose a board-certified dermatologist to perform laser treatments.
What happens during laser hair removal?
Before the treatment, the area to be treated will be cleansed. Some patients receive a numbing gel. Numbing the area to be treated helps when a small area will be treated and the skin is very sensitive. It takes about 30 to 60 minutes for a numbing gel to work.
The laser treatment will take place in a room set up specifically for laser treatments. Everyone in the room must wear protective eyewear during the procedure. To perform the procedure, the skin is held taut and the skin is treated with the laser. Many patients say that the laser pulses feel like warm pinpricks or a rubber band being snapped against the skin.
A laser removes hair by vaporizing it. This causes small plumes of smoke that have a sulfur-like smell.
How long your treatment lasts depends on the size of the area being treated. Treating the upper lip takes minutes. If you are having a large area like the back or legs treated, your treatment may last more than an hour.
What must I do after getting laser hair removal?
To avoid possible side effects, all patients need to protect their skin from the sun. After laser hair removal, you should:
Avoid direct sunlight from hitting your treated skin.
Not use a tanning bed, sun lamp, or any other indoor tanning equipment.
Follow your dermatologist’s after-care instructions.
You will see some redness and swelling after treatment. This often looks like a mild sunburn. Applying a cool compress can help reduce your discomfort.
Is there downtime?
No, laser hair removal generally does not require any real downtime. Immediately after having laser hair removal, your treated skin will be red and swollen. Despite this, most people return to their everyday activities.
When will I see the results after having laser hair removal?
You will likely see the results immediately after treatment. The results vary from patient to patient. The color and thickness of your hair, area treated, type of laser used, and color of your skin all affect the results. You can expect a 10% to 25% reduction in hair after the first treatment.
To remove the hair, most patients need 2 to 6 laser treatments. After finishing the treatments, most patients do not see any hair on the treated skin for several months or even years. When the hair regrows, there tends to be less of it. The hairs also tend to be finer and lighter in color.
How long will the results of laser hair removal last?
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.
What are the possible side effects?
The most common side effects are minor and last 1 to 3 days. These side effects include:
Other possible side effects are rare when laser hair removal is performed by a dermatologist or under the dermatologist’s direct supervision. Other possible side effects include:
Herpes simplex (cold sores) outbreaks
Skin lightening or darkening
In time, skin color tends to return to normal. Some changes to skin color, however, are permanent. This is why seeing a medical doctor who is skilled in laser treatments and has in-depth knowledge of the skin is so important.
It is also important to follow your dermatologist’s instructions. Following both the before-treatment instructions and after-treatment instructions will greatly reduce your risk of side effects.
When is it safe to have another laser treatment for hair removal?
This varies from patient to patient. Removing hair often requires a series of laser treatments. Most patients can have laser hair removal once every 4 to 6 weeks. Your dermatologist will tell you when it is safe to have another treatment.
Most patients see some hair regrowth. Your dermatologist can tell you when you can safely have laser treatments to maintain the results.
What is the safety record for laser hair removal?
Lasers play an important role in treating many conditions that affect the skin, hair, and nails. In recent years, many advances have been made in laser medicine. Dermatologists have led the way in making these advances.
One such advance is that more people can safely have laser hair removal. In the past, only people with dark hair and light skin could safely have laser hair removal. Today, laser hair removal is a treatment option for patients who have light-colored hair and light skin and patients who have dark skin. Laser hair removal must be performed very carefully in these patients. Dermatologists know what precautions to take to provide laser hair removal safely and effectively.