Laser hair removal, otherwise known as photothermolysis, is a process in which an intense beam of light removes unwanted hairs from your face or body. The melanin (pigment) in the hair root absorbs the laser, thus damaging the hair follicle. As a result, future hair growth is stopped or reduced.
People who opt for laser hair removal want a more permanent solution as other methods usually don’t give long-lasting results. After several treatments, you’ll never have to worry about unwanted hair again.
This solution to unwanted hair growth has been around for years and is only becoming better as technology becomes more advanced. Even though this method is quite widely used, there are still many people who have questions about it, one of the main concerns being whether the treatment is safe.
Below you can read the answers to some of the most common questions about laser hair removal and its safety.
Laser hair removal side effects
A lot of people wonder:
Does laser hair removal have any side effects?
According to the majority of people who have tried it, it is completely safe and doesn’t pose long-term risks. Still, some side effects have been recorded.
While some are more common and normal for most people, others are less usual, a bit more harmful, and long-lasting if the issue isn’t resolved immediately.
More common side effects
Redness and irritation. Since hair removal by laser works by damaging the follicles of the targeted hairs, redness and irritation are a common occurrence. However, these symptoms are very short-lived, resembling the effects plucking or waxing have on the skin.
Crusting. Some people have reported crusting, scabbing, or scarring in the laser-affected area. This problem is easily solved by using a moisturizer on the crusted area. Even though the issue can be annoying and inconvenient, it’s easily dealt with.
Changes in skin pigmentation. After laser hair removal, people with lighter skin may experience darker pigmentation changes and vice versa. This symptom isn’t permanent. The skin will return to its natural pigmentation after some time.
Eye Injury. Since this procedure is done with the use of powerful lasers, the risk of eye injury exists. This is especially true if you’re doing facial hair removal. That’s why it’s important that both the practitioner and the person getting the treatment done, wear protective eye gear.
- Skin infection. There is a possibility that an infection could occur while damaging hair follicles. If this happens, the person affected should report to a dermatologist and treat the infection with over-the-counter antibiotic creams.
These side effects might make you feel uncomfortable, but they’re all easily treated and short-lived. If you take the necessary precautions and treat your skin as advised, there shouldn’t be any problems at all.
Rare side effects
Burns and blisters. Since laser hair removal is performed with high-heat lasers, there’s a possibility that burns and blisters could appear on your skin. Still, this can be prevented by avoiding underqualified practitioners.
- Scarring. This side effect doesn’t occur because of the procedure, but instead because of a mistake the practitioner might have made during it. It may also happen if people don’t take good care of their skin after the treatment.
Although these side effects are possible, there are steps to take to avoid them. Most importantly, you need to do a fair amount of research before booking your appointment and choosing the right practitioner.
Inexperienced or careless practitioners can do more harm than good, so be very careful about who you put your trust in. Also, if you experience any of the side effects for a longer period of time, make sure to visit a dermatologist.
Is Laser Hair Removal Painful?
Most people who get rid of unwanted hair by using a laser say that the process isn’t in fact any more painful than other hair removal methods. For instance, it shouldn’t hurt any more than waxing.
Although it’s not completely pain-free, the right practitioner will do everything to make your experience more enjoyable.
This includes using specially formulated lotions to help ease the pain, using a cool-air fan which is often built into the laser itself, or even adjusting the settings of the laser. Don’t be scared to say something is bothering you during the treatment because the problem might be easily solvable.
Is there anyone who shouldn't use hair laser removal?
There are a few exceptions when patients are strongly recommended against getting laser hair removal, such as people who are taking certain medical prescriptions, as well as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The risk is potential hair regrowth due to the hormonal changes the body is going through. That’s why it’s not recommended to have laser hair removal during this time.
Additionally, laser therapy wouldn’t work if your current skin tone isn’t in its natural shade. That means that skin which is sunburnt or has a tan won’t react to the treatment. As the laser is attracted to melanin, it would find it difficult to tell hair apart from the skin if the skin has increased melanin.
Moreover, skin inflamed with either acne, rosacea, or dermatitis shouldn’t be treated.
If you don’t think any of these conditions apply to you, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. So, ask your practitioner to do a patch test first, and if that goes right, you can feel safe about going further with the procedure.
Myths about laser hair removal
There are certain myths surrounding laser hair removal which sound terrifying but are completely unfounded. Here are some of them:
Laser hair removal causes cancer. Because the lasers use radiation, people assume that cancer is a risk factor. However, these lasers use a very small amount of radiation which isn’t harmful to the skin.
Laser hair removal causes infertility. It’s important to remember that these lasers were designed only to target the hair follicles, nothing else. Even if you’re using them in private and sensitive areas, there’s no risk that they will cause infertility.
- You can use home laser removal kits and have the same effect. Some people believe that there is no need to go to the dermatologist and that they can just use a home kit. However, since those kits aren’t powerful medical devices and you aren’t being treated by a professional, you really shouldn’t expect any miracles.
Don’t be fooled by these misconceptions. Even though it’s easy to obsess that something bad is going to happen, don’t believe myths and unfounded claims. Instead, stick to facts you can trust.
So, is Laser Hair Removal Safe?
This is the ultimate question. And the short answer is – yes. The treatment is safe, and as laser technology keeps advancing, there aren’t too many things to worry about.
There are instances when you shouldn’t undergo this procedure, which have been already mentioned above. Nonetheless, all will be explained to you by your practitioner during your first meeting.
To make sure that you are completely safe, always research the clinic and the staff before booking an appointment. You need to make sure that the clinic is fully licensed and that the practitioners working there are experienced and competent.
The next thing you need to check is if all of their equipment is FDA approved. Getting treated by an old and malfunctioning laser can be very dangerous, so don’t take any risks. The best option would be to find a clinic that has laser machines which are new, medical-grade, and with evidence to prove this.
As we’ve mentioned before, some side effects could appear from time to time. But if you’ve already found a good clinic and a competent practitioner, there is no need to worry about any of the rare and dangerous reactions.
Bonus tip: wear goggles and masks
We’ve established that laser hair removal is safe, but it’s also important to remember that eye protection is necessary. As we’ve mentioned above, both the practitioner and the person getting the treatment need to have goggles during the process.
The other health risks are the vapor, smoke, and particles released during the procedure. As they’re exposed to these fumes often, the practitioners are at greater risk. Therefore, practitioners should always wear surgical masks and it would be wise if the person getting the procedure wore one too.