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Laser Hair Removal: Benefits, Side Effects, Cost, and More

By Viktoria
November 1, 2023
15 minutes
Laser Hair Removal 101

If you are a woman with hirsutism or even a man with hypertrichosis, we are sure that you must have thought about getting laser hair removal at least once in love. Not only people with medical issues, but also individuals tired of the repeated sessions of shaving, waxing, and depilatory creams fantasize about the laser equally.

This is exactly why lasers have gained immense popularity over the years. However, the expensive cost of this so-called miraculous procedure makes you ponder seriously, right? Therefore, we are here to provide detailed guidance about laser hair removal from scratch.

Table of Contents:

Part 1: What is Laser Hair Removal?

What is Laser Hair Removal

How Laser Hair Removal Works?

Laser hair removal works on the technology of selective thermo photolysis and extended selective photothermolysis. In the former, the melanin of the hair absorbs high-intensity light radiation from the laser machine and these are converted into heat at the level of hair follicles destroying them.

In the latter, the radiations are transmitted from one hair follicle to the other under the surface of the skin resulting in damage to the follicles  [1]. Therefore, lasers are a non-invasive procedure for long-lasting hair removal  [2].

Laser Hair Removal Before and After:

Laser hair removal treatments start when a laser surgeon declares you a suitable candidate for this procedure. In the past, people with dark hair and light skin tones were considered the ideal candidates for laser [3]. But now the technology has advanced to help light hair colors and dark skin tones as well.

Furthermore, the laser is not a one-time procedure. Rather it consists of 6 to 12 sessions as the light needs to capture the hair in the anagen phase for it to be efficient [4]. There is a time interval of 4 to 6 weeks between subsequent sessions. You can see the results after 4 and 6 sessions in the image given below.

Laser Hair Removal Before and After

A study carried out in 59 women of Indian origin shows the improving results of laser hair removal in successive sessions [5]. It demonstrates that the hair is reduced by 23-33% after 1 session, 58-62% after 3 sessions, and 50-100% after 7 sessions.

Additionally, it is important to note that lasers are safer and more effective when you follow proper aftercare of laser hair removal.

Laser Hair Removal Vs. Electrolysis Vs. IPL Hair Removal:

Laser hair removal is a professional method in which a doctor will help you deal with unnecessary hair using a precise and targeted hair removal machine. It is safe, kills hair follicles effectively, and lasts for a few years. However, lasers can be painful and expensive.

Electrolysis is the only FDA-cleared method of hair removal that lasts forever [6]. It is a permanent method in which a small wire is passed into the skin to annihilate the hair follicle with an electric current and make it unable to produce hair ever again. Although permanent, electrolysis is time-consuming and extremely painful.

Then comes IPL hair removal as the most practical, less painful, convenient, and cost-effective method of semi-permanent hair removal. IPL uses thermo photolysis technology similar to lasers but with a broad spectrum of light. The only con of IPL is that it is not as precise and as long-lasting as a laser.

Regarding electrolysis vs. laser hair removal, the laser is considered as more of a practical method [7].

Is Laser Hair Removal Permanent?

Unfortunately, laser hair removal is not a permanent method. It is effective for many months to a few years. But unwanted hair always finds its way back by regenerating. The outcome of laser hair removal studied in an article shows that regular touch-ups are necessary to maintain hairlessness even after you are completely done with the treatment [8].

Part 2: Benefits and Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal

Benefits and Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal

Benefits of Laser Hair Removal:

The advantages of in-salon laser hair removal are given as:

  • Safe: Laser is a safe method of hair removal as it only affects the hair follicle while keeping the skin intact.
  • Effective: Laser is effective for most skin tones and most hair colors as long as the right type of laser is used [9].
  • Accurate: Although laser hair removal is a great choice for large areas, the small window of laser probes helps in precisely grooming the hair on small areas like eyebrows, bikini lines, and pubic areas as well.
  • Fast: The laser flashes fast dealing with several hair follicles at one time. So, you only need to spend 30 to 60 minutes in each session of your treatment.
  • Semi-permanent: In contrast to the hair removal methods that last for a week or two, laser hair removal lasts for months or years.
  • Treats ingrown hair and strawberry legs: Once you get laser, you never have to worry about ingrown hair and strawberry legs because the laser has killed the follicles that result in such side effects.
  • Cost-saving in the long term: Lasers might seem expensive at first, but you never have to pay for waxing, epilation, and at-home hair removal tools. This helps you save the money spent on grooming the hair.
  • This can be done on any part: Laser hair removal eliminates the hair on all parts of the body and face.

Safety and Risk of Laser Hair Removal:

When you are just considering getting laser hair removal, it is normal to get concerned about the safety as the laser might cause harm. Let us tell you that laser is safe and only has a few reversible side effects as long as you choose a skilled professional and a reputable clinic.

The common side effects of laser include:

  • Transient pain during the session
  • Skin redness, irritation, and swelling immediately after the session
  • Temporary skin pigmentation in dark skin people
  • Rarely, skin burns, blisters, and scars if the laser is not done right

Can Laser Hair Removal Cause Cancer? And Is Laser Hair Removal Safe?

No, laser hair removal cannot cause cancer. You might want to avoid lasers if you have active cancer or a history of malignancy. But the laser is completely safe for healthy skin as the UV radiations used in the laser have a wavelength that does not fall in the range of the rays having the potential to cause cancer.

Furthermore, a study carried out to determine the relation of  IPL and laser with carcinogenicity concluded that lasers cannot cause cancer  [10].

Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt?

Well, most clinics say lasers are painless or only cause a little discomfort. But sadly, it is not true. Laser hurts and the intensity of this hurt varies with your pain tolerance. For some people, it is like a rubber band snapping sensation. For others, it feels like a honey bee stinging. Also, you can take painkillers 30 minutes before the session to reduce discomfort.

Can You Get Laser Hair Removal While Pregnant?

There is limited data on the safety or side effects of laser hair removal in pregnancy. While no studies have shown that a laser caused any harm to the mother or baby, there were only a few studies to show that it caused no harm at all. Therefore, better safe than sorry. So, it is best to avoid lasers while pregnant [11].

Part 3: How Much Does Laser Hair Removal Cost?How Much Does Laser Hair Removal Cost

Factors Determining the Cost of Laser Hair Removal:

The cost of laser hair removal is determined by several factors given below.

Treatment area:

The greater the area of the treatment, the greater will be the cost. For example, laser hair removal on the face costs less as compared to that on the legs.

Number of sessions needed:

Laser generally requires 3 to 6 sessions to be effective. You can get more than that depending on the density of the hair and the results you want. As you have to pay for laser per session, the more the number of sessions, the more will be the cost.

Expertise of the clinic:

If you opt for a famous clinic with advanced technology and highly-educated laser hair removal expert, you will be charged more as compared to an average clinic with an average clinician. But remember that more fame does not mean better results.

Geographical location:

Laser hair removal in big cities like New York costs much more than in small cities or the countryside like Houghton. Also, do not forget to add the commute cost when you estimate the total fee of a clinic depending upon its geographical location.

Promotions and discounts:

Sometimes clinics offer discounts in a specific season, their anniversary, or national occasions. These promotions can reduce the overall cost of lasers.

Laser Hair Removal for Different Parts of the Body:

According to the American Society of Laser Surgeons, the average price of 1 session of the laser without additional expenses was $389 in 2020 [12]. A break up of the laser hair removal sessions for different parts of the body is given as.

Body Areas Cost Per Session Total Cost of 6 Sessions
Facial laser hair removal $80 to $160 $480 to $960
Bikini laser hair removal $150 to $300 $900 to $1800
Armpit laser hair removal $150 to $200 $900 to $1200
Legs $300 to $450 $1800 to $2700
Upper lip $50 to $100 $300 to $600
Back $350 to $450 $2100 to $2700
Eyebrow $50 to $150 $300 to $900

Potential Value Cost Effectiveness of Laser Hair Removal:

An average session of waxing at a salon costs around $200 for the full body. You have to get the treatment every month. Also, if you buy a waxing kit, it will cost you around $50 a month. If we compare the long-term price of waxing with laser, it is clear that laser hair removal is more cost-effective.

Also, let us remember how mess-free it is. And you can also avoid all side effects of waxing and shaving in laser hair removal along with saving your time.

Does Insurance Cover Laser Hair Removal?

Laser hair removal is an aesthetic and cosmetic procedure. So, insurance does not cover it. However, in some cases like pilonidal sinus disease, teratoma, and hidradenitis suppurativa, it is a medical procedure. Therefore, insurance might be able to help you here.

Part 4: Laser Hair Removal Process

Laser Hair Removal Process

How to Prepare for Laser Hair Removal?

In-salon lasers need adequate preparation so that you get optimal results and the side effects are minimal. So, take the following measures to prepare yourself for lasers.

  • Start wearing sunblock every day whether you are staying indoors or going out. Also, reapply it depending on the time spent in direct sunlight. Sunlight sensitizes the skin and makes it prone to being burnt by the UV rays of the laser.
  • Quit your artificial tanning treatments. Because the laser works best on light skin tones and can damage tanned skin.
  • Stop using active skincare products like retinol and chemical exfoliants. Rather focus on the products that heal the skin and strengthen its barrier.
  • Just before the procedure, cleanse your skin well and ensure that the treatment area contains no perfume, deodorant, lotion, or impurities.
  • Do not pluck the hair from the roots by waxing, tweezing, or other methods. Also, do not use depilatory creams at least 2 weeks before your session.
  • Shave your hair freshly before going for your session. It is because the laser needs hair strands to go to the follicles. But this strand must not be too long as it can be burnt along with harming the skin without reaching the roots.
  • Furthermore, always talk to your doctor about any skin condition you have and any medicines you are taking so that your treatment can be customized accordingly.

General Process for Laser Hair Removal in the Clinic:

The process of laser hair removal begins with your consultation. The consultation includes a discussion about your skin condition, medications, expectations, number of sessions required, and any particular information you like to know. The doctor also sets your treatment schedule.

On the day of the treat, go to the clinic with clean and shaved skin. Also, take painkillers if your pain threshold is low. The doctor applies an anesthetic gel over the treatment area and then starts flashing the laser probe over the skin. Each flash gives out a beep and your skin feels as if something is stinging it.

After the session, you need to wear loose clothes, protect your skin from the sun, avoid hot showers and sweating, and avoid exfoliation for 2 days as well.

How Many Sessions of Laser Hair Removal Do You Need?

The sessions of laser hair removal are variable. You need a minimum of 3 sessions to notice significant results. The complete treatment, however, requires 6 to 12 sessions depending on the hair color, thickness, and density.

Do I Shave Before Laser Hair Removal?

Yes, you should shave before laser hair removal. Shaving trims the hair to an adequate length for the laser to be effective while keeping the skin intact.

Can I Get Laser Hair Removal Over a Tattoo?

No, you cannot get laser hair removal over a tattoo. It is because a tattoo is a hyperpigmented area of the skin that tends to absorb a greater amount of the rays. The rays distort the skin, might burn it, and cause blisters.

Also, some lasers work for dark skin. However artificial tattoos make it challenging for such lasers to leave the skin intact as well. This is because the color of the hair resembles that of the tattoo.

How Long Does Laser Hair Removal Last?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, laser hair removal lasts for months to years [13]. Laser either puts the hair in a dormant phase or destroys its follicles. The follicle that is destroyed might regenerate after a few years. And the hair that is in the dormant phase can become activated at any time.

As a result, the results of laser hair removal last for a few months to a few years. Also, remember that you will have to get 1 to 2 touchups during this time as well.

Part 5: Post-Treatment Care for Laser Hair RemovalPost-Treatment Care for Laser Hair Removal

Post-Treatment Instructions to Get Optimal Results:

Here are some post-treatment care tips for laser hair removal.

  • Wear loose clothes for 1 to 2 days after the laser to reduce skin friction.
  • Do not wear deodorant, perfume, or lotion for 24 hours.
  • Use aloe vera gel to soothe the skin.
  • You can try cold compresses to reduce skin redness and pain.
  • If your doctor has prescribed any medicine, use it according to the instructions.
  • Avoid chemical-containing makeup and try using gentle mineral makeup until your skin is healed after the session.
  • Avoid hot baths, swimming, and steam for 2 days.
  • Do not pluck or wax the skin. Rather shave the hair that regrows back exclusively.
  • Use gentle cleansers, moisturizers, serums, and creams to speed up skin healing.
  • Exfoliate the skin after 2 days to help the hair shed from the roots.
  • Lastly, the most important thing is to avoid sun exposure and wear sunscreen. Also, avoid artificial tanner for 1 to 2 weeks after the treatment.

Side Effects and Ways to Prevent and Treat Them:

The side effects of lasers are temporary and can heal on their own. However, if you want to manage them quickly, here are some tips.

  • Pain: Pain caused by laser can be avoided by taking painkillers like ibuprofen and asking your doctor to prescribe some topical pain-reducing gels.
  • Redness and swelling: These are the common side effects of laser hair removal that can be managed by using cold compresses for 10 to 20 minutes a few times.
  • Itching and irritation: Using a soothing moisturizer or aloe vera gel can reduce irritation.

How to Stop Itching After Laser Hair Removal?

Cold compresses and over-the-counter creams like Sudocrem can help you stop itching after laser hair removal. Furthermore, using enriched yet gentle body and facial lotions can soothe the itching.

Can I Shave After Laser Hair Removal?

Of course, you can shave after laser hair removal. Rather you should exclusively shave the skin in between your laser sessions. However, do not shave immediately after the session, wait for 3 to 5 days, and allow the hair to regrow.

Can I Work Out After Laser Hair Removal?

Yes, you can work out after laser hair removal. However, you cannot work out immediately after laser hair removal. This is because a workout makes you sweat and your body hot which increases skin redness and inflammation. So, wait for 1 to 2 days after your session to begin your exercise routine.

Part 6: At-Home Laser Hair RemovalAt-Home Laser Hair Removal

At-home laser hair removal devices can be used as a reliable alternative to in-salon laser hair removal treatments when you do not want to spend too much money on the treatment or cannot spare enough time to get it.

Benefits of At-Home Laser Hair Removal Devices:

Here are some of the top advantages of at-home laser hair removal devices.

The 5 Best At-Home Laser Hair Removal Devices:

If you want to try an at-home laser hair removal device, here are the top 5 options available in the market.

 1. Ulike Sapphire Air3 IPL Hair Removal Handset

Ulike Sapphire Air3 IPL Hair Removal Handset

Ulike Sapphire Air3 IPL device is a super-fast IPL device with a treatment time of only 12-15 minutes for the full body, quick results timeline of 3-10 weeks, and a nearly painless experience with its ice-cooling technology.

Furthermore, it is one of the most affordable devices in the market costing only $329. It comes with a complete IPL hair removal kit and unlimited flashes adding to its cost-effectiveness. Also, it can be used on the body, bikini lines, armpits, and face.

2. Braun Silk Expert Pro 5

Braun Silk Expert Pro 5

Costing only $430, the Braun Silk Expert Pro 5 IPL device is one of the oldest IPL devices introduced in the market. Its easy-to-hold design, 3 comfort modes, and feasible operation make it a useful device to do your body and facial hair removal.

Additionally, it can last for 20 years with 400,000 flashes, takes 4 to 12 weeks to show results, has a treatment time of 15 to 20 minutes, and is safe to be used as well.

3. Philips Lumea 9000 IPL Device

Philips Lumea 9000 IPL Device

Having a handy gun-shaped design, the Philips Lumea IPL device is loved by women because of its sense technology. It comes with multiple heads for different parts of the body to personalize the treatment optimally.

Moreover, its $549 price seems worth it when you consider its results and ergonomic use.

4. Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X

Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X

While all other devices in the list use broad-spectrum IPL rays, the Tria hair removal laser is exclusively a laser hair removal device. A small round window that radiates highly-precise waves targets the unwanted hair intensively allowing you to achieve professional treatment at home.

It is a device with a digital interface that works without a cord and costs $499. Also, it is available in multiple colors.

5. Kenzzi Multi-Functional IPL Handset

Kenzzi Multi-Functional IPL Handset

If you want hair removal as well as skin rejuvenation in 1 device, the Kenzzi multi-functional IPL handset is for you. It is an inexpensive IPL device that you can buy for $249.

In addition, it comes with 5 intensity settings to treat unwanted hair on different parts of the body and face.

Part 7: Laser Hair Removal for Dark SkinLaser Hair Removal for Dark Skin

Suitable Skin Tones for Laser Hair Removal:

Until a few years ago, laser hair removal was only suitable for light skin tones ranging from Fitzpatrick score I to III. However, the technology developed recently like the Diode laser made it possible for darker skin tones like type IV [15]. Therefore, laser is now suitable for everyone as long as the right technology is chosen.

Advanced Laser Technology for Dark Skin:

The long wavelength of Nd: Yag, Diode, and Alexandrite can be safely used for dark skin tones. Among all of these, Nd: Yag is considered the safest and most effective option [16]. This is because it can penetrate the hair follicles without disrupting the dark epidermis.

Also, it is important to carefully choose the device and wavelength that would be used on the dark skin. Because the wrong type of laser can result in laser burns of the skin, blisters, crusts, pigmented sections, and scarring. You should always have a patch test done to ensure that the laser is suitable for your skin tone.

Benefits of Laser Hair Removal for Dark Skin:

Just like laser hair removal is beneficial for other skin types, dark people can also get the best of it. So, here are some of the benefits of laser hair removal for dark skin tones.

  • Safe hair removal when the right wavelength of the laser is used
  • Effective hair removal as laser destroys the follicle without harming the skin
  • Hair removal that lasts for a few years as hair roots are destroyed
  • Reduced risk of ingrown hair and strawberry legs
  • Cost-effective considering the price of other hair removal methods
  • Better skin texture

Limitations of Laser Hair Removal for Dark Skin:

The laser that uses a shorter wavelength than 600 nm is not suitable for dark skin. This is because such wavelengths can only target the pigment without realizing if the pigment is in the skin or the hair [17]. Therefore, it gets absorbed into the skin causing damage.

Conclusion

Even if the laser seems like the best solution to the frustration you get because of regular waxing, shaving, and whatever, it is always a wise move to get informed about the laser before deciding to go for the treatment.

Laser hair removal offers long-lasting results. But the treatment is also expensive and painful. It might also not be suitable for your skin or health condition. Therefore, we discussed how lasers can be useful and harmful to you.

Always get a consultation and talk to your doctor in detail before signing up for the treatment. Lastly, we hope this article answers most of your queries about laser hair removal.

References:

  1. G.B. Altshuler, PhD, R.R. Anderson, MD, 2 D. Manstein. Laser in Surgery and Medicine Extended Theory of Selective Photothermolysis. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/document
  2. A Waldman, Z Rozenberg. PubMed. Laser-assisted hair removal by selective photothermolysis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9311365/
  3. Sandy S Tsao MD, George J Hruza MD. Science Direct. Laser Hair Removal. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/laser-hair-removal
  4. Tai-Yuan David Lin 1, Woraphong Manuskiatti 1, Christine C. Science Direct. Hair Growth Cycle Affects Hair Follicle Destruction by Ruby Laser Pulses. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X15401393
  5. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. PubMed. Evaluation of Long-pulsed 1064 nm Nd: YAG Laser-assisted Hair Removal vs Multiple Treatment Sessions and Different Hair Types in Indian Patients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2840900/
  6. Cleveland Clinic. Electrolysis. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/8306-electrolysis
  7. M Görgü, G Aslan, T Aköz, B Erdoğan. PubMed. Comparison of alexandrite laser and electrolysis for hair removal.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10632684/
  8. Tanvi Vaidya; Marc H. Hohman; Dinesh Kumar D. National Library of Medicine. Laser Hair Removal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507861/
  9. Infinity Laser Spa. Laser Hair Removal Red Hair. Does it Work On Ginger Hair? https://infinitylaserspa.com/blogs/blog/does-laser-hair-removal-work-on-ginger-hair
  10. Caerwyn Ash, Godfrey Town, Rebecca Whittall, Louise Tooze. PubMed Central. Lasers and intense pulsed light (IPL) association with cancerous lesions.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5653718/
  11. Cynthia Cobb. Healthline. Is Laser Hair Removal Safe During Pregnancy? https://www.healthline.com/health/laser-hair-removal-pregnancy
  12. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Laser Hair Removal Procedure. https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/laser-hair-removal/cost
  13. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Laser Hair Removal FAQs. https://www.aad.org/public/cosmetic/hair-removal/laser-hair-removal-faqs
  14. Michael H. Gold, MD, Amy Foster, RN, and Julie A. Biron. Pubmed Central. Low-Energy Intense Pulsed Light for Hair Removal at Home. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921762/
  15.  Michael H Gold, Julie Biron, April Wilson, Gregorio Viera-Mármol. PubMed. Safety and efficacy for hair removal in dark skin types III and IV with a high-powered, combined wavelength (810, 940, and 1060 nm) diode laser. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35306725/
  16. Nayera Moftah, Mai Tymour, Shady Mahmoud Attia Ibrahim. PubMed. Multipass low fluence, high-frequency 755-nm alexandrite laser versus high fluence, low-frequency 1064-nm long-pulsed Nd: YAG laser in axillary hair reduction of dark skin phototypes. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33844620/
  17. Ethos, Aesthetic, Wellness. Is Laser Hair Removal Right For My Dark Skin? https://www.myethosspa.com/laser-hair-removal-for-dark-skin/
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