What are the Potential Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal?

Are you considering laser hair removal, but are hesitant because you’re worried about side effects? That’s okay! We understand and we want you to know that even though it seems like laser hair removal is done everywhere by everyone, it’s good to have a healthy respect for it and a tiny bit of concern too. Lasers are powerful tools that in the wrong hands can cause negative consequences!

In order to understand why side effects occur with laser hair removal, you need to understand what’s actually happening during treatment. Laser hair removal works by transferring thermal energy from the laser to the hair.  We have other pages that detail the exact process of laser hair removal, but to understand what you read here, know that the heat is what does the work.

During a normal laser hair removal treatment, the goal is to transfer enough heat to the hair follicle to damage it enough so that it won’t continue to grow hair, but not too much that it spills over to the surrounding skin. One of the ways we measure this is by how your skin reacts after it’s treated with the laser. One of the tell-tale signs that all is going well is something called “follicular edema”.

follicular edema and redness after laser hair removal treatment

Follicular edema looks a lot like hundreds of little ant bites on the skin. In fact, that’s the term that we used here at Celibre to describe the phenomenon. Basically, after the heat is transferred to the follicle, it swells. You will see this reaction almost immediately. It usually happens in areas where your hair is thickest.

While we don’t really think of these bumps as a side effect, most patients do. It can look a bit scary as you can see in the photos here. Another important fact is that they can last for a couple of days—and that’s very normal!  You will need to be careful not to shave in the couple days following the treatment as it is sensitive. It may feel a bit uncomfortable too, so you may want to use hydrocortisone cream or treat it with cool compresses to soothe it.

Along with follicular edema, redness is also a common (and good) sign after laser hair removal. It is a typical and expected response to the thermal energy that’s been delivered to your skin. Most people find that the redness resolves in anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours after treatment.

Now, let’s talk about what’s not normal and what you DON’T expect to see after your treatment. Laser hair removal should never burn or blister your skin. This reaction means that the thermal energy has “spilled over” into the surrounding skin and triggered these changes. There are a few different reasons why this happens:

  • Improper laser fluence: This means that the energy settings on the laser were too high
  • Incorrect laser technology: This means that the laser that was used was not the right laser for your skin type (color).
  • Your skin was too tan: Laser hair removal works by targeting the pigment or melanin in the hair follicle. When you are tan, your skin has more melanin. Even with the right device at the right settings, this can confuse the laser and cause a burn.
  • Improper cooling: Almost all laser hair removal devices have built in cooling to help take away the small the amount of heat energy that inevitably escapes to the surrounding skin. If this isn’t used properly, or isn’t used at all, a burn can result.
  • Other unknown factors: even when everything is done right, sometimes unforeseen and unwanted side effects happen.

As commonplace as laser hair removal seems, remember that it is a procedure that has some risk. Make sure that you have a complete consultation prior to treatment day and ask all the important questions such as what device will be used and how much experience your laser practitioner has. If you’re still not sure what else you need to know, please check out our questions to ask during your laser hair removal consultation page.


long Beach California laser hair removal before pictureslong Beach California laser hair removal after pictures
Laser hair removal before and after pictures

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