Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal

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Hands down, laser hair removal is the safest, most effective and economical way to get rid of unwanted hair anywhere on your body. However, there are potential side effects that you should be aware of before making the decision to have laser hair removal. Let’s talk about what they are and what you can expect after your treatment.

If you have laser hair removal treatment, you can expect some changes in your skin immediately after. These are less of a side effect than they are an expected outcome. What we mean is, to some degree, your practitioner wants to see this reaction in your skin, because it indicates that the laser is doing its job. If you’ve been reading about laser hair removal, then you understand that the laser works by heating up the follicle. This damages the structure of the follicle and the blood supply that keeps the hair growing, so in order to be effective, the energy has to be at just the right level.

While the laser energy does what it should to the follicle, your skin may look and feel red and irritated immediately after treatment. The best way to describe it is like a little bug bite at the site of each hair. While it may sound bad, it really isn’t. It’s called “follicular edema” and it usually goes away a few hours after treatment. Sometimes, to help your skin feel better and shorten the reaction, you can use a topical hydrocortisone type product or a cold compress. For some patients, it’s so mild that they don’t need to do anything at all. For sensitive people, it can hang around for about a day or so following the treatment. In either case, it goes away permanently until your next laser treatment. To help do your part, we ask that you do not shave your skin while it’s still red, as this could aggravate it further.

A much more serious and potentially scarring complication of laser hair removal is blistering or burning of the skin in the area that’s treated. Here are the reasons why this can happen:

  • Too much energy: if the fluence (energy setting) of the laser is set too high, too much of the laser’s energy will be transferred to the skin as the follicle cannot absorb it all.
  • Using the wrong laser: certain hair removal lasers work for certain skin types (colors). If you use a laser that is meant for light skin on dark skin, the laser energy may be confused by all of the pigmentation in the skin or can’t travel deep enough to target the right structure.
  • The skin being treated is too tan: by the same token, even with the right laser for your skin type, if you’re too tan, the laser energy is absorbed by the melanin or pigment in the skin instead of just the pigment in your hair follicle.
  • Improper skin cooling: Remember, the lasers used for hair removal generate heat. It is very important to keep the skin cool to prevent the energy from heating it up too much. There are lots of different ways to do this (chilled tips, cryo sprays, cold air), but making sure it’s done and done correctly is key to preventing an unwanted burn.

As we said in the very first sentence, laser hair removal is extremely safe. But you need to do your due diligence to check out the practice and laser practitioner you are considering to make sure you are in capable and experienced hands. This only happens when you take charge of your care, understand the basics and ask the right questions at your consultation. If you’d like to sit down with us and discuss if laser hair removal is a good choice for you, we welcome you to come and visit us for a free consultation. Give us a call today!

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