Some of the potential complications of laser hair removal
Laser hair removal is an effective method of getting rid of unwanted hair on the body and face long term, and it works for both women and men. While the results can be maintained for several years, you should know that some people occasionally encounter some laser hair removal side effects.
Laser hair removal: is it for everyone?
- People with sensitive skin in particular can benefit from the laser procedure when other hair removal methods fail to deliver smooth skin or cause irritations, redness or inflammation.
- Both women and men can benefit from the long lasting hair removal that comes with a laser procedure.
- Laser hair removal is truly effective on people with lighter skin and darker hair; the laser cannot target well hair that is white, gray, red or blond, because this type of hair has less melanin (a pigment).
- Similarly, dark skin is more prone to complications than lighter skin, especially when incorrect settings or an incorrect laser are used, but advanced treatment options are being developed.
But are there any laser hair removal side effects?
Laser hair removal side effects: rare, but they do exist
Laser hair removal side effects are generally rare, but they do exist, and range from light to very serious, from temporary to permanent.
Risks usually arise when:
- the physician uses a laser that is not suitable for the patient’s skin type (light to medium toned skin versus dark skin)
- or adjusts the laser incorrectly
- or when the procedure is carried on by staff with improper qualification and training.
- pigmentation and scarring can also occur when the device has inadequate or inconsistent cooling. Pigmentation refers to skin getting either darker or lighter than it is normal for that particular individual; people with darker skin are more susceptible to this type of complication which is usually temporary.
Other laser hair removal side effects include:
- temporary itching
Note that these laser hair removal side effects are most unlikely, but they might occur nonetheless. In very rare cases, more hair may grow in the targeted areas. Finally, all lasers can cause severe eye injury, so they must never be used on the eyelid and the area surrounding it.
Furthermore, there are some financial laser hair removal side effects; that’s because laser therapy unfolds over longer periods of time, so be prepared for a long term financial commitment, as well. While some centers provide some payment flexibility and help, you will still need to come up with the bulk of the costs, so make sure you can afford it before commencing treatment. Or you can try the at home solution.
How to prevent complications laser hair removal side effects
In order to prevent any of the complications listed above, you should test a spot on your first session, just to make sure your skin doesn’t react badly to the laser, and that the everything is correct. If at a salon, the spot test should be free of charge.
Unwanted laser hair removal side effects can be further minimized by checking:
- your physician’s credentials,
- the reliability of their practice,
- and that the type of laser used is FDA-approved.
The doctor should be board certified in dermatology, cosmetic surgery or similar specialties, and be experienced in laser hair removal. All of these are important, because in some parts of the country, using a laser for hair or tattoo removal is regarded as surgery. This also means that only a qualified physician or nurse can perform the procedure or a trained non-physician who does so under the supervision of a physician.
Begin by asking for a consultation with your chosen physician so that you can get an estimate of the costs and the duration. The length of a treatment plan depends on the size and number of the areas to be treated; thus, the chin won’t take more than a few minutes, whereas the legs will likely take up to a couple of hours.
During this initial consultation, the doctor must conduct an examination of your skin and take your medical history, and explain the benefits and risks; they should also perform a test spot before starting treatment.
Sometimes, physicians will take photos before, during and after treatment, so that they can assess the effectiveness of the treatment plan.
Finally, in order to prevent damaging the eyes during each session, your doctor will give you a pair of special protective goggles to wear. He might also apply a cooling gel or an anaesthetic to ease any discomfort.
How to prepare
During your initial consultation, the doctor will discuss how to prepare for the procedure in order to minimize laser hair removal side effects.
- First, you should avoid any hair removal method that damages the hair follicle; more specifically, don’t pluck or wax, and avoid electrolysis. You can and should shave or trim, however, right before each session, since the laser must target hair in rather than above the skin.
- Secondly, you will need to limit your sun and tanning bed exposure. If possible, stay out of the sun completely and use sunscreen whenever you need to go out. Depending on your skin type, you may need to avoid UV rays for as long as 6 weeks before the procedure. Just like hair above the skin surface can lead to burns, a tan can cause skin lightening.
After the laser hair removal procedure
Often, laser hair removal can cause your skin to become red and swollen in the areas that underwent treatment. This is normal, and should only last a couple of hours. If these minor laser hair removal side effects occur immediately after the session, the doctor will apply a steroid cream to your skin. In case the reactions occur later, you can apply some ice to the affected area to make your skin feel more comfortable.
Another effect you may notice in the first few days is that the hair in the areas targeted by the laser will begin to shed. This is also normal, and it is a sign that the treatment goes well, not that your hair is starting to grow back.
Lastly, make sure you avoid being out in the sun and going to a tanning salon. Wait for your skin to heal (usually within a couple of days), and wear a high SPF cream or lotion whenever you go out. You can also use a post-laser treatment cream like the one featured in the image.
Laser hair removal is effective at permanently reducing hair growth, when multiple sessions and maintenance treatments are carried out.
You will establish the duration and the costs involved with your dermatologist or other board certified doctor. Before designing a treatment plan specific to you, the physician should talk to you extensively about the risks of laser hair removal.
Although rare, laser hair removal side effects include discomfort, redness and swelling, darkened or lightened skin, blistering or scarring. Most are usually temporary, and don’t last more than several hours or days.