- When in good hands, laser hair removal technology does not leave permanent side-effects
- Temporary skin tenderness is to be expected for up to a few days
- Proper after-care is very important (read below)
Why shave your legs every couple of days, when you could remove the hair permanently, right?
That’s the dream that laser hair removal made possible. A dream that over a million Americans per year make it their everyday reality.
30 minutes under the scope of a laser, and—boom—even the slightest trace of hair pigment is removed from a desired body area.
But it can’t, just can’t be that simple… can it?
Just to make sure we’re clear on this: technically, laser hair removal does not remove hair permanently. But it does reduce their growth to a point where you can stop shaving.
Nevertheless, many patients suspect that there must be a significant health hazard involved with laser hair removal. Surely such a powerful procedure must involve risks and side effects.
They’re right. There are risks involved, and some side effects are to be expected.
While most of them don’t go beyond itchy skin for a couple of days and a temporary soreness, it is your right and responsibility as a patient to know what you’re signing up for.
This article is written to shed some light on how frequent—and how serious—laser hair removal side effects actually are.
Common, Temporary Side Effects
A few mild side effects are to be expected after your laser hair removal. However, if you have a healthy skin and no previous serious skin conditions, you shouldn’t be worried.
These side effects can’t be avoided for most patients, but the discomfort they create is minimal and short-lived. Here is what you can expect and how you should take care of your skin before and after the procedure.
Side effect 1: Skin Redness and Irritation
Discomfort level: Mild (weak, sunburn-like)
Lasts for: A few hours (usually, sometimes up to a few days)
How frequent: Common
Mild, surface-level skin irritation is to be expected a few hours after the hair laser removal procedure.
The skin may feel a bit swollen and sensitive, much like it would after your regular waxing session.
Again, this lasts only for a few hours—given that you take precautions and good care before and after the procedure, which you can read about below.
Side effect 2: Crusting
Discomfort level: Minimal
Lasts for: One week
How frequent: Rare
During the procedure, some crusting may occur around the treated skin area.
Sometimes, when patients engage in high-intensity physical exercise or excessively scratch the crusted area, the burnt skin can be damaged, which can lead to scabbing and scarring.
That’s why it’s especially important to take good care of your skin after the procedure: moisturize it, avoid high intensity exercise, scratching and strong sunlight exposure.
More about recovery guidelines below.
Side effect 3: Changes in Skin Color
Discomfort level: Minimal
Lasts for: Varies
How frequent: Very rare
The laser works on the basis of color—that is why it’s more effective in targeting dark hair in particular.
Therefore, a slight color change may happen in the treated area for darker-pigmented patients.
In some situations, the skin becomes brighter; in others, it becomes darker.
Either way, these side effects are harmless and will fade away gradually as your skin regenerates.
How to Take Care of Your Skin Before and After Laser Hair Removal
To make sure these mild side effects go away as quickly as possible, it is important you put some additional effort into your skincare for a few weeks before and after your hair removal procedure.
Before The Procedure:
- Avoid sunbathing and tanning beds. While it’s best to avoid these activities altogether, try to limit your skin’s exposure to the sunlight. This will ensure that your skin is not irritated and that it is as bright as possible (as dark skin can cause pigmentation changes.)
- Avoid waxing, tweezing and electrolysis for at least one month before. This one is really important. As these hair removal techniques disturb hair follicles, they can reduce your laser hair removal results. Also, they irritate the skin, which can increase the post-procedural discomfort.
- Shave and trim the area 48 hours before the procedure. When the procedure starts, the treatment area should be smooth and hairless for maximum results.
- Explore your anaesthetic options. As you’ll see from patient stories later in the article, laser hair removal is usually painless and smooth for most patients. However, if you have a low pain threshold, or the area of treatment is really sensitive (e.g. vaginal area), you might want to discuss using a skin-numbing cream with your physician or surgeon. It costs a little extra, but it really does wonders in making the experience as uneventful as possible.
Dealing With Immediate Discomfort:
- Apply ice or cold packs to the treated area. This will help numb down the area so that you can minimize the swelling and soreness following the procedure. A couple of notes:
- Wrap the ice pack in a towel. Holding the ice bag in direct contact with the skin may only make it worse.
- Do this for up to 10 minutes, 3 times a day. While it may be tempting to just leave the cold pack up against the treated area for longer, you do not want to restrict the blood flow and slow down the healing process.
- Repeat until the irritation is gone.
- Apply aloe vera cream to the treated area. The magical healing qualities of aloe vera are no secret to both physicians and patients. After applying the cream to your skin, give it a few minutes to absorb. Repeat 2-3 times a day. Do not let the treated areas to dry out.
- Use over-the-counter painkillers. If the above methods prove unsuccessful in soothing the irritation and soreness after your hair laser removal procedure, go for over-the-counter medications. It shouldn’t come to that, but if it does, make sure to check in with your doctor first.
- In case there is crusting, make sure to double the aloe vera regimen to keep the area moist. Do not scratch or try to remove the dead skin. It will fall off eventually.
- In case there are blisters, contact your practice. We will prescribe an antibiotic ointment to prevent an infection, and will instruct you on what to do next.
- In case you see signs of infection (pus, spreading redness, pain getting worse after a few days), contact us immediately.
Taking It Slow for a Few Weeks:
The initial skin irritation will fade after a few days, but how you treat your skin for the next few weeks will have a lasting impact.
The most important thing is to keep your skin from heavy heat and sunlight exposure:
- Avoid sunbathing and excessive sunlight exposure to the treated area. Your skin will be increasingly sensitive over the next few weeks, and will react stronger than usual to sunlight. Make sure to avoid:
- Tanning booths for 3-6 weeks
- Direct sun exposure for 3-6 weeks
- Avoid saunas, hot baths and steam rooms. Again, the sensitive skin in the treated area will not appreciate this. The general guideline is to avoid high temperatures for at least 48 hours, but even after that make sure you start increasing temperature gradually.
- Avoid heavy, cardio-intensive exercise. Same logic as with the saunas—high temperature may significantly increase the irritation in the treated area(s). Make sure to avoid completely for at least 48 hours, and increase workload gradually after.
- Avoid makeup and strong cosmetics. For the next couple of days—until the irritation passes—make sure to only use mild skincare formulas. Makeup, perfume and other strong cosmetics can cause unexpected irritation.
- Do not shave or wax the treated area for a couple of days. It will take several sessions and some time before your hair stops growing to a point where you can stop shaving. Just make sure not to do that for at least 2 days after the procedure, with your skin still recovering.
- If there is crusting on your skin, do not shave at all until it’s gone.
The best rule of thumb is to listen to your body, and take baby steps during your recovery period.
There are no strict rules in post-laser-hair-removal recovery; your body makes the rules.
Very Rare Complications: Blisters and Scars
Yes, unfortunately, as you probably know, sometimes things go wrong in the physician’s office, and the patient is left with blisters or even scars.
However, as long as you go to a qualified doctor, you shouldn’t be worried about serious complications.
For one, your doctor needs to evaluate whether you’re a good candidate for laser hair removal. Not everyone will have effective results, and not everyone should go for the procedure.
Namely, your doctor needs the right qualifications to consider:
- Your skin and hair pigmentation. The general rule of thumb is bright skin and dark hair, but what exactly is “bright” or “dark” enough to work? Going even deeper, even people with brightest skin pigmentation sometimes have significantly darker skin in treatment areas (genital areas, armpits) —all of which the doctor will need to take into account.
- Your health and skin history. If there are any preexisting or previously treated skin conditions, your doctor will be making the call whether it is safe to proceed. They will need to understand how laser technology might interact with or affect any of the preexisting conditions.
Based on the evaluation of your skin, your physician will proceed to select laser parameters that will achieve the maximum effect while keeping your skin safe:
- Pulse width
- Spot and spot size
- Exposure time
If they overtune the laser, your skin may suffer from blisters, which can leave scars. If they undertune it, you may not see the results you’re expecting.
Can Laser Hair Removal Cause Acne? Can It Make Acne… Worse?
A note regarding patients suffering from acne: laser hair removal can make acne worse.
If you have a history of acne, then you’ll want to share this with your therapist and they’ll be able to select the proper treatment parameters for your skin.
Mainly, acne occurs for a few reasons after laser hair removal:
- Petrolatum-based post-treatment ointments. Some post-laser creams and ointments contain specific materials that could cause some of the pores on your skin to “clog”, causing an acne-like response from your body. Make sure to discuss this with your therapist as they’ll be able to help you in selecting the right post-laser treatments.
- Broken hair follicles coming out of your body. The way the laser technology works, it “breaks off” the root of the hair with the help of intense “light”. Naturally, a small portion of the hair remains within your skin. As your body is trying to get rid of these particles, you may some “acne” resurface on the treated skin area.
- Dark, coarse hair. The previous bullet point is most common for patients with darker, thicker hair.
Bottom line: the long-term safety of your skin relies fully in your physician’s hands, as they will be making the important decisions about your compatibility and the laser parameters.
The best you can do to avoid these complications is to find a practice that you trust. Read their patient testimonials. Ask about their process. See if they’re persistently curious in learning everything there is to learn about your skin.
If you feel like they’re noncommittal to the process or dishonest with you, move on. Better to shave for a couple of more weeks than to end up with scars and blisters.
Is Eye Injury Possible after Laser Hair Removal? Is the Procedure Safe for Face?
Whenever advanced technology is used, there are risks involved. There have been a few cases historically where eye damage has been done as a result of laser hair removal when treating eyelids, eyebrows and surrounding areas.
We will not go into this in detail, because this is extremely unlikely and has never happened at Aristocrat Plastic Surgery before.
During any laser hair removal procedure (whether facial or not), protective eyewear is worn to eliminate any off-chance of an injury.
In other words, it would take a really major misstep on the physician’s part to cause serious injury.
Enough With the Side Effects. Does This Really Work? Even for Facial Hair?
Yes, it really does. It takes a few laser sessions (sometimes, more than a few), and a couple of weeks for any hair beginnings to fall out completely, but it does eventually leave your skin (almost) hairless.
Just to be completely on the same page, laser hair removal can get rid of any hair on your body:
- Pubic hair
- Armpit hair
- Leg hair
- Arm hair
- Chest and belly hair
- Toe hair
People often ask us: does laser hair removal work for facial hair?
Short answer: yes, it does.
Long answer: as always, there are nuances. The laser doesn’t care which hair to remove—as long as the skin is pale and the hairs are dark.
Female patients often feel insecure about some hair growing on their face. Given the right circumstances, laser hair removal can help. Eyebrows and nose hair are popular treatment areas.
Male patients also come to us to help reduce facial hair growth. It is a completely regular procedure.
Many women (and men) share their success stories with laser hair removal. To respect the privacy of our patients, we only share stories that are posted publicly.
Another important question we get is: will the hair grow back eventually?
The way the technology works, it reduces hair growth significantly. It usually takes several sessions to see significant results.
It is normal that a couple of weeks after the procedure, the hair will keep growing as usual. It’s the old hair coming out of your body.
Any instances of minor regrowth can be easily managed with repeat sessions after 6 or 12 months.
You might be wondering: what can you do to remove the hair after laser hair removal?
Here is the answer: nothing. The laser will do the work, and it will take some time (usually, 1-2 weeks) before the damaged hairs will leave your body naturally. There is nothing you can do to make the procedure more effective per se, besides scheduling an additional appointment.
Kristie Dash: Full-body Laser Hair Removal (Including Brazilian)
As one of her “mental bucket-list” goals, Kristie Dash, a beauty contributor for Allure, had full-body laser hair removal.
Kristie is snow-white-blonde, but that didn’t stop her from having all of her body hair “lasered off her body” from nose-down.
Namely, she did arms, armpits, bikini area and legs. She also had a separate set of procedures for her facial area.
As she describes in her article, the experience was a lot smoother than she expected.
Going in, Kristie was prepared to clench her teeth through with the “beauty is pain” agenda in mind, but none of the stories she’d heard before came true.
“[The physician] basically gave me a massage with the laser” – Kristie concludes in her story. “It was virtually painless.”
The real test was the bikini area. How would that feel?
In her testimonial, Kristie described her Brazilian laser hair removal experience as almost pain-free.
“It was more awkward than it was painful”- Kristie writes. “But if you’ve had a bikini wax before, then you know the drill.”
Kristie arrives at the final verdict: “it was a stress-free, well-spent 30 minutes.”
The final result: “over the course of the next month, even after one treatment, I shaved significantly fewer times.”
“So far, I’ve only had two sessions, but I see real results, and I’m thrilled”- the journalist concludes.
Sally McGraw: “An Investment in Freedom”
After switching back to her old birth control medication in college, Sally McGraw, an editor for Already Pretty, noticed “thick, black chin and nipple hairs” on her body. A problem she’d never had before.
It didn’t just end there—the poor woman had to battle body hair on legs and armpits. Hair that would start growing back visibly after 10 minutes.
After trying to battle her body hair “au naturel”, she concluded that it was an unnecessary and painful challenge. That’s when Sally decided to try laser hair removal.
Several sessions into her body hair removal journey, the journalist was able to see a “huge difference in [hair] regrowth.”
The regrown hair didn’t go away completely, but it was much thinner and more rare. It was times easier to deal with.
Alyssa Morin: “I’m realizing I haven’t shaved my legs since December”
With pale skin and “thick, black hair everywhere”, Alyssa Morin was the perfect candidate for laser hair removal. Being a beauty journalist, she documented her experience.
Ever since she danced for her high-school cheerleading squad, Alyssa was extremely self-conscious about her armpit and leg hair.
In particular, she was afraid of “thick, black armpit hair stealing the spotlight during the Friday night football games.”
What’s more, Alyssa hated shaving.
This time, the woman was after bikini area laser hair removal.
After a few mildly uncomfortable visits, the results were satisfying: “At the end of the day, I’m glad I got laser hair removal on my vagina. I feel cleaner down there.”
So, What Is the Procedure Like?
Your friends probably told you all about it. How demonic pain unleashes onto your body once that laser is fired up. How it feels like someone’s cutting your skin while the machine burns the hairs from beneath your skin, leaving nothing but a field of blisters and scars behind.
We like horror stories, too. But we like the truth more.
So why don’t we hear from people who have actually been through the procedure, and have shared their firsthand experiences?
Most patients describe their sensations during the procedure as “a series of small pinches.”
Is Laser Hair Removal Possible for Men?
Absolutely. Many men grow tired of excessive chest and belly hair. As men age, they tend to grow a lot of hair on their backs, too.
While the majority of laser hair removal patients are still women (81% vs. 19%), the masculine gender is quickly realizing the potential benefits of the procedure.
If you must know, most women don’t actually prefer hairy chests. As this study has concluded, only as little as 21% percent of women prefer men with thick, fully grown chest hair. You’d be surprised how many women find a hairy back appalling.
In a more general context, this study of over 1,500 respondents revealed that people are much more likely to trust and like men with no facial hair. Which means that not only your facial and body hair matters to women, but in professional relations, too.
As many as 45% of all male laser hair removal patients say that the hair was removed completely from the targeted body area, while 22% of men say that hair was mostly removed from the targeted area.
Can You Get Laser Hair Removal while Pregnant or Breastfeeding?
For pregnant women, we usually recommend avoiding laser hair removal.
There’s little known on how the technology might affect the baby, which dictates that the procedure should be delayed after giving birth. Again—there aren’t known cases where the laser necessarily hurt the fetus, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
For breastfeeding women, there are no studies or practical incidents showing that laser hair removal can hurt them in any way.
However, some antibiotics and other drugs you may be taking while breastfeeding can increase the sensitivity of your skin, which may increase the risk of a burn. It can also make the procedure itself more uncomfortable.
For that reason, you might still decide to postpone the procedure after your child is older.
Final Verdict: Besides temporary skin tenderness, there’s nothing you should worry about
When you walk through our door, you’re in good hands.
Which means you can feel confident that your skin will be taken care of without any permanent damage, such as scarring or blistering.
That being said, some skin tenderness and irritation is to be expected for the next few days after your procedure.
Luckily, you’ll be provided with detailed guidelines and formulas on how to care your skin to minimize the discomfort and heal as quickly as possible.
Lastly, if it’s the procedure itself you’re worried about, you should know that most of our patients feel only minimal discomfort during laser hair removal.
For patients with sensitive skin or low pain threshold, we always offer a numbing anaesthetic skin cream that reduces any discomfort they might feel.