Laser hair removal, one of today's most popular methods of unwanted hair removal, is, like any other hair removal method, not without its risks. Although it has proven very effective and safe for the majority of patients, laser hair removal can't guarantee success for all skin and hair types. A patient's individual skin conditions, hair density, skin color, as well as the type of laser being used for treatment can all have an effect on the final results. The side effects most often experienced by laser hair removal patients are minor and quite temporary. However, there are rare cases where more serious side effects can occur. By informing yourself of these side effects and their possible causes, you can decrease the chances of experiencing them during treatment.
Normal Laser Hair Removal Side Effects
Patients most often report experiencing these minor side effects during or following laser hair removal treatments:
- Redness – after treatment, temporary redness of the skin can occur for 1-3 days on treated areas.
- Swelling – slight swelling or irritation is possible at the follicle site post treatment, dissipating in 1-3 days.
- Itching – itching or discomfort can occur on treated areas during laser sessions.
- Slight Pain or Tingling – many patients report that the sensation of laser hair removal can be likened to the light snapping of a rubber band against the skin. While few find it painful, the sensation can vary depending on the sensitivity of a patient's skin; for sensitive-skinned patients, most laser clinics provide a topical anesthetic cream or spray to numb the skin.
Rare Laser Hair Removal Side Effects
These side effects are experienced less often by patients, and should be brought to the attention of a doctor or laser technician if they persist after treatment:
- Bleeding or Scabbing – sometimes laser hair removal can irritate hair follicles, such that slight bleeding or the formation of scabs occur. This is often only an issue when areas are being over-treated.
- Infection – if treated areas aren't cleaned and disinfected properly prior to treatment, and post-treatment, a minor infection can set in.
- Bruising – patients with very sensitive skin may experience slight bruising on treated areas.
- Burning – burns to the skin are most often the result of improperly performed laser hair removal, or because a laser was used inappropriately on a specific skin and hair type. In such cases, the laser's energy gets absorbed by the skin rather than the hair itself and causes burns.
- Changes in Skin Pigment – like burn side effects, hyperpigmentation (darkening of skin tone) and hypopigmentation (lightening of skin tone) are rare to occur if laser hair removal is performed by an experienced technician, and by using the correct laser technology. If the laser's energy is absorbed by the skin tissue rather than the hair follicle, it can either stimulate or inhibit melanin production, thus darkening or lightening skin tone. While this side effect is painless, the results can be permanent unless corrected through other skin treatments. Both hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation are found to be a greater risk for tanned or dark-skinned patients.
- Purpura – the appearance of small purplish spots, the result of bleeding underneath the skin, is a possible side effect for some patients, but it's usually as temporary as bruising.
Because patients react to laser hair removal differently, the best way to decrease the likelihood of experiencing laser hair removal side effects, minor and severe, is to take certain measures.
Preventing Side Effects
- Determine what your laser hair removal goals are, decide what treatment areas you are interested in exploring, and research the different laser hair removal options before scheduling a consultation with a hair removal provider in your area. This will better inform your decisions from the get-go, and enable a laser specialist to better assist you in realizing your hair removal goals.
- Fully discuss your hair removal options with a laser specialist prior to treatment. An experienced technician or doctor is best qualified to analyze your specific skin conditions and hair type; then determine if the laser technology they provide will successfully and safely remove your unwanted hair. They will also be able to accurately inform you of the risks you're susceptible to.
- Have a professional laser hair removal provider perform your treatments, and follow all of their instructions before and after treatment to yield the safest, most successful results. By opting for an at-home laser hair removal kit, or by trusting a non-credible source to perform your laser treatments, you're increasing the chances of enduring ineffective results and various painful or unattractive side effects.