How Laser Hair Removal Works
Laser hair removal is among the most efficient methods available to remove unwanted hair on almost any area of the body, including the legs, chin, bikini line, and armpits. After a series of three to six sessions, most clients experience up to 90% permanent hair reduction. Laser hair removal frees you from having to shave or wax.
How does laser hair removal work? The science behind laser hair removal is simple. Laser hair removal uses laser light pulses that selectively destroy hair follicles by targeting the melanin in them. This means the pigment in the hair follicles absorbs the laser’s light pulse, damaging the follicle enough to significantly slow down future hair growth. Because the lasers target melanin, coarse dark hair and light skin combinations tend to respond best to treatment—although newer laser technologies can effectively and safely treat other hair and skin tone combinations.
What To Expect After Your Laser Hair Removal Session
So what can you expect from your first laser hair removal session?
First, you will be given protective eye gear and an elective topical anesthetic. Once the session begins, you will feel a stinging sensation, indicating that the laser has been activated. The actual session involves a series of laser impulses that produce a prickling and burning sensation. Most clients comment the feeling is similar to that of a rubber band snapping against your skin.
When the session is over, you may be given ice packs, anti-inflammatory creams or lotions, or cold water to ease any discomfort. You may schedule your next treatment four to six weeks later. You will receive treatments, usually three to six until hair stops growing.
Laser Hair Removal Side Effects
You might experience side effects after your laser hair removal session, such as:
Pinkness, redness, or itchiness
Skin irritation directly after a laser hair removal session is perfectly normal. Residual itchiness or pinkness might persist for up to 24 hours, and some people describe the sensation as feeling very similar to razor burn. Cool compresses and moisturizers may help. If your face was treated, you can wear makeup the next day, unless you experience blistering. If your skin irritation lasts longer than 24 hours, you should call your healthcare professional for further instructions.
One to three weeks after your initial treatment, you may notice less hair growth and maintenance. During this process, the follicles shed the hairs that were in the growth phase of their cycle—also called the anagen phase. The shedding process looks similar to blackheads or stubble. Exfoliating during this process allows the hairs to shed easier.
Remember that the laser only disables the hair follicles that were in the growth phase during your initial laser hair removal session. The follicles that were resting will start to “wake up” over the course of the next few weeks, and they will still grow hair.
These side effects can be inconvenient. But you can speed the healing process. How? Read on.
Three times per week, use an exfoliating scrub or a washcloth in the shower on the area where you had hair removed. This allows the shedding process to happen, unhindered by dead skin cells and other debris. You do not want to irritate your skin, so make sure to be gentle.
Cut or shave re-growing hair
Refrain from tweezing, plucking, or waxing new hair growth. Remember that your next appointment will be in four to eight weeks, and you will need to leave the hairs in their shafts for the laser to work on them. But you can cut, trim, or shave hair as necessary. You can also use a chemical depilatory such as Nair in-between appointments, but not within two days of your next treatment.
Continue to use sunscreen
You want your skin to be as light as possible during your treatments, so do not go tanning or forget to wear sunscreen. If you get a sunburn, it will further irritate your skin (keep in mind that your skin has already probably been irritated by the laser—all the more reason to be careful). Use a sunscreen with an SPF 50 or higher for two weeks before and after each treatment.
Keep track of medications taken
If you need to go on prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal medications, talk to your healthcare provider about your laser hair removal treatments. Call your laser hair removal specialist as well to find out if there is a contraindication. Your next appointment can always be rescheduled if necessary.
- Although each laser hair removal specialist has their own set of aftercare instructions, here are some additional universal aftercare tips that will help with the recovery process:
- For 24 to 48 hours afterward, you should not use any saunas or steam rooms, take hot showers or baths, or go swimming.
- You should not apply any makeup to the area for 24 hours. The only exception is mineral makeup, which can be applied immediately.
- Do not apply any perfumed products to the area for 24 to 48 hours following treatment.
- Aloe Vera gel may be applied to the skin to soothe it.
- Clients generally should arrive at their laser hair removal appointment with the area to be treated shaved and trimmed for treatment. Facial hair, however, generally does not need to be clipped back or shaved prior to treatment.
- If you experience any blistering, you can open a vitamin E capsule and apply it liberally three times a day to aid healing. Do not burst the blister—this may leave a mark on the skin. Do not expose the affected area to the sun, as you may increase the risk of pigmentation.
Laser hair removal is like any other procedure. It is important to keep in mind that, while complications are rare, they can still occur. The most common complications include blisters, swelling, pigmentation changes, redness, and scarring. Scabbing and bruising can also occur, but these symptoms generally disappear within a few days. Infection at the treatment site can occur, albeit very rarely, so it is important to keep the area clean after the procedure. Remember that pain, tingling, and numbness around the treated area are the most common temporary side effects, and they are completely normal.