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Laser hair removal – what it is, side-effects and risks

Whether you shave, wax, pluck or sugar, there are plenty of ways to remove unwanted body hair, but few offer an easier or more permanent solution than laser hair removal.

With most people reporting a 90 per cent reduction in hair growth after laser treatment, it’s no wonder the global laser hair removal market is expected to reach USD1.6 billion by the end of 2028.

But what about potential laser hair removal side-effects? And what risks should you consider?

What is laser hair removal?

Laser hair removal uses a highly concentrated laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) to target the pigment in hair follicles without damaging your skin.

It’s effective on most areas of the body, including:

  • Face.
  • Underarms.
  • Bikini area.
  • Legs.
  • Back.
  • Chest.

Each laser hair removal appointment lasts up to one hour, but most people usually need between six and 10 sessions to see long-term results. This varies, depending on the size of the area being treated.

Image of a smiling woman to represent laser hair removal side effects

What are the side-effects of laser hair removal?

Is it safe?

Laser hair removal is a safe cosmetic treatment when performed by a certified clinician. The laser is non-invasive and only targets hair follicles, so it shouldn’t cause any damage to the skin. But there are some potential side-effects.

Minor side-effects

Most laser hair removal side-effects are minor and temporary. Common minor side-effects include:

  • Redness – if your skin gets quite red and tingly after waxing or plucking, you may find the same happens with laser hair removal. This should calm down within a few hours, or your clinician may apply a topical treatment to help soothe the area.
  • Irritation – usually just a temporary effect that may cause a little swelling or itchiness.
  • Crusting – try to keep your skin moisturised, especially if there is a little crusting around the treated area. This can help prevent any scabbing or long-term scarring.
  • Changes to skin pigmentation – don’t be alarmed if the laser treatment causes your skin colour to go slightly darker or lighter. It should return to normal in the coming weeks.

If minor side-effects last longer than expected, speak to your doctor so they can check the issue and prescribe any necessary medication.

Severe side-effects

Other potential side-effects can be more severe:

  • Burns and blisters – lasers can cause them if used incorrectly. Always have your laser hair removal done by a certified clinician.
  • Risk of infection – as with any cosmetic hair removal, infection can occur if the area isn’t kept clean.
  • Excessive hair growth – in rare cases, hair can grow back quicker and darker in the treatment area. This is known as paradoxical hypertrichosis. Speak to your doctor if this happens.

Severe side-effects are rare, but it’s important to be aware of them before you decide to undergo treatment. This way, you can ask your clinician about any concerns and make a more informed decision.

Aftercare

So, how can you look after your body following a laser hair removal session? Avoid heavy exercise, hot water, and swimming for 48 hours. As your skin will be extra sensitive to UV rays, keep out of the sun for the first 24 hours and don’t sunbathe for four weeks. Also, stay away from tanning beds.

If you’ve had laser hair removal on your face, you can wear makeup the next day unless there’s any blistering. Swelling, redness or irritation can be soothed with ice packs and a few cold baths.

Image of a woman's legs to represent laser hair removal side effects

What are the risks of laser hair removal? Plus, other things you need to know

Which potential risks of laser hair removal are fact or fiction?

Can laser hair removal be performed while pregnant?

Most doctors do not recommend laser hair removal during pregnancy, as there is currently not enough research on the safety of the procedure.

Additional hair growth is a common side-effect of pregnancy, but this is usually only temporary. If these hairs don’t fall out after giving birth, your doctor will most likely advise that you wait a few weeks before having the treatment.

Can laser hair removal cause cancer?

This is one of the most common myths surrounding the treatment, but there is no evidence to support it.

Lasers only produce a small amount of radiation, which is nowhere near enough to be considered harmful. As it doesn’t use any UV light, laser hair removal side-effects do not include skin cancer.

Can laser hair removal make you infertile?

Another myth. Lasers only penetrate the skin’s surface – and don’t target anything other than hair follicles – so won’t affect any of your organs.

How can I find laser hair removal near me?

Find treatments near you with our clinical locator/listings.

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