Laser hair removal - Mayo Clinic (2024)

Overview

Laser hair removal is a medical procedure that uses a concentrated beam of light (laser) to remove unwanted hair.

During laser hair removal, a laser emits a light that is absorbed by the pigment (melanin) in the hair. The light energy is converted to heat, which damages the tube-shaped sacs within the skin (hair follicles) that produce hairs. This damage inhibits or delays future hair growth.

Although laser hair removal effectively delays hair growth for long periods, it usually doesn't result in permanent hair removal. Multiple laser hair removal treatments are needed for initial hair removal, and maintenance treatments might be needed as well. Laser hair removal is most effective for people who have light skin and dark hair, but it can be successfully used on all skin types.

Why it's done

Laser hair removal is used to reduce unwanted hair. Common treatment locations include legs, armpits, upper lip, chin and the bikini line. However, it's possible to treat unwanted hair in nearly any area, except the eyelid or surrounding area. Skin with tattoos should not be treated either.

Hair color and skin type influence the success of laser hair removal. The basic principle is that the pigment of the hair, but not the pigment of the skin, should absorb the light. The laser should damage only the hair follicle while avoiding damage to the skin. Therefore, a contrast between hair and skin color — dark hair and light skin — results in the best outcomes.

The risk of damage to skin is greater when there is little contrast between hair and skin color, but advances in laser technology have made laser hair removal an option for people who have darker skin. Laser hair removal is less effective for hair colors that don't absorb light well: gray, red, blond and white. However, laser treatment options for light-colored hair continue to be developed.

Request an appointment

Risks

Risks of side effects vary with skin type, hair color, treatment plan and adherence to pre-treatment and post-treatment care. The most common side effects of laser hair removal include:

  • Skin irritation. Temporary discomfort, redness and swelling are possible after laser hair removal. Any signs and symptoms typically disappear within several hours.
  • Pigment changes. Laser hair removal might darken or lighten the affected skin. These changes might be temporary or permanent. Skin lightening primarily affects those who don't avoid sun exposure before or after treatment and those who have darker skin.

Rarely, laser hair removal can cause blistering, crusting, scarring or other changes in skin texture. Other rare side effects include graying of treated hair or excessive hair growth around treated areas, particularly on darker skin.

Laser hair removal isn't recommended for eyelids, eyebrows or surrounding areas, due to the possibility of severe eye injury.

How you prepare

If you're interested in laser hair removal, choose a doctor who's board certified in a specialty such as dermatology or cosmetic surgery and has experience with laser hair removal on your skin type. If a physician assistant or licensed nurse will do the procedure, make sure a doctor supervises and is available on-site during the treatments. Be cautious about spas, salons or other facilities that allow nonmedical personnel to do laser hair removal.

Before laser hair removal, schedule a consultation with the doctor to determine if this is an appropriate treatment option for you. Your doctor will likely do the following:

  • Review your medical history, including medication use, history of skin disorders or scarring, and past hair removal procedures
  • Discuss risks, benefits and expectations, including what laser hair removal can and can't do for you
  • Take photos to be used for before-and-after assessments and long-term reviews

At the consultation, discuss a treatment plan and related costs. Laser hair removal is usually an out-of-pocket expense.

The doctor will also offer specific instructions to prepare for laser hair removal. These might include:

  • Staying out of the sun. Follow your doctor's advice for avoiding sun exposure before and after treatment. Whenever you go out, apply a broad-spectrum, SPF30 sunscreen.
  • Lightening your skin. Avoid any sunless skin creams that darken your skin. Your doctor might also prescribe a skin bleaching cream if you have a recent tan or darker skin.
  • Avoiding other hair removal methods. Plucking, waxing and electrolysis can disturb the hair follicle and should be avoided at least four weeks before treatment.
  • Avoiding blood-thinning medications. Ask your doctor about what medications, such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs, to avoid before the procedure.
  • Shaving treatment area. Trimming and shaving is recommended the day before laser treatment. It removes hair above the skin that can result in surface skin damage from burnt hairs, but it leaves the hair shaft intact below the surface.

What you can expect

Laser hair removal usually requires two to six treatments. The interval between treatments will vary depending on the location. On areas where hair grows quickly, such as the upper lip, the treatment might be repeated in four to eight weeks. On areas of slow hair growth, such as the back, the treatment might be every 12 to 16 weeks.

For each treatment you'll wear special goggles to protect your eyes from the laser beam. An assistant might shave the site again if necessary. The doctor might apply a topical anesthetic to your skin to reduce any discomfort during treatment.

During the procedure

The doctor will press a hand-held laser instrument to your skin. Depending on the type of laser, a cooling device on the tip of the instrument or a cool gel might be used to protect your skin and lessen the risk of side effects.

When the doctor activates the laser, the laser beam will pass through your skin to the hair follicles. The intense heat from the laser beam damages the hair follicles, which inhibits hair growth. You might feel discomfort, such as a warm pinprick, and you'll likely feel a sensation of cold from the cooling device or gel.

Treating a small area, such as the upper lip, might take only a few minutes. Treating a larger area, such as the back, might take more than an hour.

After the procedure

You might notice redness and swelling for the first few hours after laser hair removal.

To reduce any discomfort, apply ice to the treated area. If you have a skin reaction immediately after laser hair removal, the doctor might apply a steroid cream to the affected area.

After laser hair removal and between scheduled treatments, avoid sunlight and don't use a tanning bed for six weeks or as directed by your doctor. Use a broad-spectrum SPF30 sunscreen daily.

Results

Hairs do not fall out immediately, but you will shed them over a period of days to weeks. This may look like continued hair growth. The repeated treatments are usually necessary because hair growth and loss naturally occur in a cycle, and laser treatment works best with hair follicles in the new-growth stage.

Results vary significantly and are difficult to predict. Most people experience hair removal that lasts several months, and it might last for years. But laser hair removal doesn't guarantee permanent hair removal. When hair regrows, it's usually finer and lighter in color.

You might need maintenance laser treatments for long-term hair reduction.

What about home lasers?

Lasers that can be used at home for hair removal are available. These devices might cause modest hair reduction. But there are no large studies comparing how effective these devices are compared with laser hair removal done at a doctor's office.

Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers these home laser hair removal devices to be cosmetic, not medical, which means they don't get the same level of scrutiny as other medical devices. Currently, there haven't been large, long-term studies on how safe and effective the home machines are.

If you choose to use a home laser hair removal device, follow the instructions that come with the device to help reduce the risk of injury, especially eye injuries.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Laser hair removal - Mayo Clinic (2024)

FAQs

What are realistic expectations for laser hair removal? ›

The results vary from patient to patient. The color and thickness of your hair, area treated, type of laser used, and color of your skin all affect the results. You can expect a 10% to 25% reduction in hair after the first treatment. To remove the hair, most patients need 2 to 6 laser treatments.

What makes you a bad candidate for laser hair removal? ›

People who are taking certain medications, such as acne treatments, should avoid laser hair removal. It can also be a bad fit for people with certain skin conditions, like a history of skin cancer or keloid scars. Women who are pregnant or nursing should also put off hair removal.

Does laser not work on some people? ›

Laser hair removal is most effective for people with thick, dark hair and light skin. The contrast between skin color and hair color makes it easier for the hair to absorb heat. It might not work as well for people with dark skin or hair that's blonde, gray, white or red.

How many laser treatments does it take to have no hair? ›

Everyone's body is different, and different biological factors can impact how many sessions you need in order to fully remove your unwanted hair. Generally, clients need about two to six laser treatments in order to completely get rid of hair.

What they don t tell you about laser hair removal? ›

Fact — Laser hair treatments don't work as well, and sometimes not at all on very fair or blond hair. The laser hair removal treatment requires pigment in the hair, or the beam of light will not reach the hair follicle. Hair that is gray or blond has less pigment, which can make laser hair removal ineffective.

What happens if I stop laser hair removal after 4 sessions? ›

If treatment is stopped before all of the hair follicles have been destroyed, some may continue to grow. It is important to complete the recommended treatment plan to achieve the best results. Sometimes, the patient sees hairs are thicker and darker after the treatment when they have original light and fair hair.

Does anyone regret laser hair removal? ›

Regret usually stems from choosing the wrong provider. While laser hair removal itself is rarely regrettable, what can lead to regret is choosing the wrong provider. A cheap, inexperienced clinic may use outdated equipment or incorrect techniques, leading to less effective treatment or even unwanted side-effects.

Who should not get laser hair removal? ›

People with keloid scars or healing problems like hypertrophic scars should not have laser hair removal. Likewise people with vitiligo, a condition which causes de-pigmentation of sections of the skin. People who have severe histamine reactions like urticaria are also unsuitable.

Are there negatives to laser hair removal? ›

Risks of side effects vary with skin type, hair color, treatment plan and adherence to pre-treatment and post-treatment care. The most common side effects of laser hair removal include: Skin irritation. Temporary discomfort, redness and swelling are possible after laser hair removal.

What are 2 drawbacks of laser therapy? ›

Laser therapy can result in misdirected or excessively intense burns, bleeding from the choriocapillaris, damage to macular and other ocular structures, and breaks in Bruch's membrane.

Why did my laser hair removal not work? ›

Your treatments aren't regular enough. As a result you hair cycles will overlap and the treatment won't be as effective as it should be. Solution – For the laser to destroy the root, the follicle has to be at a specific stage of its growth. So not too early and not too late.

What is the best laser hair removal machine in clinic? ›

The fastest laser hair removal technology is Alexandrite, and the Medi-Diode which works best for larger body areas among patients who have light-to-olive complexions. Additionally, the Romeo & Juliette Synchro REPLAY dual-wavelength laser machine is one of the fastest and most powerful lasers available.

Should I laser my pubic hair? ›

' Yes, it is safe to laser the pubic area for most patients. It should be noted that this is one of the more sensitive areas when it comes to laser hair removal, but it is quick and effective. Many patients also believe it is overall less painful than waxing.

Why is my hair growing back after laser? ›

After laser hair removal, hair is most likely to grow back on the chin, neck, and other areas of the face. This may be due in part to hormonal fluctuations and the reactivation of hair follicles by androgens, such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and testosterone.

What happens if you only do laser hair removal once? ›

While a single laser hair removal session won't provide complete and permanent hair removal, you can expect a noticeable reduction in hair growth. Some hairs will shed in the days following the treatment.

Is 7 sessions enough for laser hair removal? ›

After the course is complete, the treated area will feel smooth with a permanent reduction in hair growth. Typically we recommend a minimum of 6 laser treatments for women and 8 for men. So you can expect to complete your course after 6-9 months.

Do you have to be perfectly shaved for laser? ›

Shave Before Treatment

You should shave within 24 hours of your scheduled laser appointment. Your laser technician cannot treat areas that have hair above the skin. You cannot even receive treatment if there is rough stubble because this may create too much heat for the pigment of your skin.

Is it worth getting laser hair removal? ›

Laser hair removal isn't considered permanent, but it still has lasting effects. It reduces the number of unwanted hairs in the targeted area and when the hair does grow back, there's less of it and it's finer and lighter. It requires less upkeep than other options.

How do I know if laser hair removal will work for me? ›

The best candidates for this type of hair removal are those who have pale skin and dark hair. The contrast between light skin and dark hair allows the melanin to be easily targeted. Blond, fine hairs cannot be targeted by the lasers and therefore, cannot be removed with this method.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Velia Krajcik

Last Updated:

Views: 6053

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Velia Krajcik

Birthday: 1996-07-27

Address: 520 Balistreri Mount, South Armand, OR 60528

Phone: +466880739437

Job: Future Retail Associate

Hobby: Polo, Scouting, Worldbuilding, Cosplaying, Photography, Rowing, Nordic skating

Introduction: My name is Velia Krajcik, I am a handsome, clean, lucky, gleaming, magnificent, proud, glorious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.