Is Laser Hair Removal Safe?
The short answer - YES, it is perfectly safe! Most people do not experience any side effects. This blog post is about the safety of laser hair removal and the minor side effects some people experience.
Laser hair removal is an alternative to traditional hair removal methods, like shaving, epilating, or plucking. Laser hair removal is a long-term solution that minimizes all hair worries for both men and women.
Yet, it is high-tech and often uses radiation and heat. For that reason, we have found that many people are skeptical and worried about the side effects of using a laser on their body parts. But, like with any cosmetic procedure, it does have some minor side effects.
But minor side effects usually disappear very quickly. As for significant side effects, this seldom happens.
Men and women have been using laser hair removal for over 40 years without experiencing significant side effects. But let’s focus on the minor side-effects. We mention them below.
What Makes Laser Hair Removal Safe?
The laser works by emitting IPL light, which targets the melanin in the hair. After detecting the hair pigment, the light gets converted into heat energy, damaging the hair follicle to delay or completely inhibit hair growth.
The fact that laser hair removal does not involve plucking or painful tagging to get the hairs off the skin makes it far safer than other hair removal methods.
Also, to enhance safety when using the laser hair removal, it is advisable to seek a certified dermatologist to advise you on the best numbing cream for the target areas. The numbing cream removes the stinging sensations that come with the laser pulses during hair removal.
Most people do not experience any pain. Instead, most say it feels like a flicking pulse against your skin.
However, to be safe, go for an anesthetic cream if you are targeting to treat the bikini area, lip area, and underarms.
The use of laser hair removal also allows you to tone down the shaving intensity should you experience discomfort. How user-friendly is that! If you are getting waxed, it's definite that there is no dialing down the pain; you have to sit through the entire agonizing procedure. But, thanks to laser hair removal, safety is in your hands as you get to control the gadget to fit your comfort.
Things To Do To Enhance the Safety of Laser Hair Removal
Ensure you shave the area to your are targetting within 24 hours before laser treatment. Do not be tempted to wax or tweeze the site to be treated. Also, avoid electric razors as they tend to leave patches of long hair above the skin. The goal is to ensure you do not have any hair above the skin. If you leave hair above the skin, it may irritate your skin when performing the laser procedure.
Before laser treatment:
- Avoid applying makeup or lotions, sun cream, and deodorants.
- Avoid fake tanning 3-4 weeks before your laser treatment.
- Ensure all the tan residues have been removed.
- Stay away from the gym for a day or two after your laser treatment.
- You want to avoid creating a warm environment that favors bacteria multiplication which can cause infections in the treated area.
Minor Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal
Most cosmetic procedures are associated with minor side effects, and these effects also vary in different individuals. Luckily, you don't have to worry about experiencing significant side effects with laser hair removal treatment.
The minor side effects associated with laser hair removal:
Slight Temporary Irritation
Some people report experiencing irritation and redness on the skin during and after the cosmetic procedure. This pain subsides a few hours after treatment. However, should the skin irritation evolve into swelling, grab an ice pack and press on the affected area to alleviate the pain and reduce the swelling. If the symptoms persist to the second or third day, see a doctor or dermatologist.
Typically, your problems should subside a few hours after laser exposure. However, we recommend using ice packs for pain and swelling during that time (if you experience swelling). Also, if you feel that your symptoms are worsening, we recommend calling a doctor.
After using laser removal, you might notice changes in your skin contrast. For example, your skin may appear lighter or darker.
Laser treatment can bring about changes in skin contrast in a group of individuals. Some people with lighter complexion notice darkening of the skin around the treated area, while vice versa occurs to individuals with a darker complexion. This effect is also temporary and not experienced by everyone.
Darker-skinned individuals are more prone to light spots. And the opposite occurs in lighter skin individuals, who might receive darker pigmentations. But, again, redness problems are only temporary. And they should disappear within a few hours.
Essentially side effects should not be a cause of concern. 96% of men and women who receive IPL laser hair removal do not experience these side effects.
Serious but Rare Side Effects Associated With Laser Hair Removal
- It can cause excess hair growth in the areas you have treated.
- Fundamental changes in skin texture (this applies specifically to people who were recently tanned).
- Scars – occur in individuals with sensitive skin.
- Crusting and blistering – occur from sunlight exposure right after laser use.
If you’re worried about the previous side effects, you can do a small test on your skin using the handset to see if your skin is prone to these side effects.
While they’re rare, some might apply to you. Ask your doctor to evaluate your skin health before starting a laser procedure!
Occurrence of blisters and crusts
Bound to happen to some individuals if they get exposed to the sun for a long duration after laser treatment.
Excessive growth of hair after treatment
Failure to repeat the treatment as recommended may cause increased hair growth in treated areas.
What About Long-Term Side-Effects?
Most people thinking about undergoing laser hair removal have questions about cancer risks or infertility problems.
(A) Cancer Risks
Laser procedures are not carcinogenic. UV light is a known carcinogenic. However, laser procedures use heat and not UV. IPL lasers have been around for around 50 years. There has never been any report of lasers causing any cancer.
Not all lasers are the same. There are many kinds of lasers on the market. You can use the IPL device for hair removal. Other devices have been developed to help with skin problems, for example, skin wrinkle removal or sun damage reduction.
That is another myth. Laser hair does not target sexual organs. The lasers themselves do not penetrate the skin! However, this does not mean you should use laser surgery during pregnancy.
Avoid Laser Surgery When Pregnant.
It is simply not recommended. Furthermore, there are no safety studies on laser use during pregnancy. So why take the risk?
However, some women experience excessive hair growth after giving birth. You can use IPL lasers to treat excessive hair growth after giving birth.
Facts about hair removal and its safety
IPL lasers only work on certain skin tones or hair types.
Yes, that is correct; IPL lasers do not work on all skin tones or types. For example, IPL laser technology does not work with people with dark skin tones or those with red or white hair.
Laser energy targets the pigmentation in the hair; therefore, if the hair tone and the skin are the same color, the light cannot be drawn into the hair follicle.
Red or white bleached hair does not contain any melanin. The pigment melanin is needed to attract the IPL and convert it to heat. The heat destroys the hair follicle. So, if you have an extremely dark complexion or red or bleached hair, we advise you not to use an IPL light for hair removal.
IPL laser can increase hair growth after treatment.
Some individuals indeed experience increased hair growth after laser hair removal treatment. Some even report noticing longer and thicker hair growth than before the treatment. So it is true that laser treatment stimulates hair growth in some individuals.
IPL is safe but also fast.
An IPL laser session can take just 20 minutes of your time. Consultation and makeup removal time included in the twenty minutes proves that the cosmetic procedure is indeed time efficient compared to other hair removal methods like waxing and threading.
Sun exposure is harmful to your skin before and after treatment.
Dermatologists advise that avoiding sunbathing before the treatment is essential for faster skin healing after treatment. Also, you should wait for one to two weeks before getting a fake tan. Please also avoid chemical peels on the skin. You can make yourself susceptible to infections after treatment with a chemical peel.
Why Laser Hair Removal Is Still Worth the Risk
Here are some reasons why you should opt for laser hair removal.
Laser hair removal drastically reduces hair growth to a point whereby regular shaving is no longer necessary. With traditional treatment, your shaving problems are taken care of for up to 3 months, depending on your hormones.
It is fast and covers large areas.
Laser hair removal can be used on every part of the body; the face, arms, chest, back, legs, and bikini area. The procedure is fast.
Also, applying ice to the target area before and after the procedure helps numb the area and reduce the pain. With regular treatment, the hair becomes finer with time, and the procedure gets progressively less painful. The side effects experienced after laser treatment are usually short-lived.
Laser hair removal is safe. It's a low-risk procedure and does not have many side effects. However, the results of laser hair removal vary from one individual to another. If you experience side effects, it usually subsides within a few hours.
Apart from giving your skin a smooth and hairless appearance, laser hair removal can also help solve the problem of ingrown hairs that tend to aggravate the skin and result in hyperpigmentation.
It is advisable to avoid lotions, deodorants, and exposure to too much sun before and after laser treatment. Failure to do so will risk irritation and even infection in the treated areas. If you are worried about side effects, it would be wise to visit a doctor or dermatologist. They will walk you through the details, precautions, and perks of laser hair removal.
Medically reviewed by: Dr. Walters (MD)