American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

10 things to know about permanent hair removal

It's not too early to start planning for summer! Laser hair removal is a noninvasive option for women and men to remove unwanted hair to help you look your best. Shaving and waxing are not only time-consuming but may irritate your skin causing bumps, redness and in-grown hairs. Lasers can be used to concentrate light energy to selectively target hair follicles and prevent regrowth. In 2017, ASPS statistics show that laser hair removal procedures were performed more than 1 million times by plastic surgeons. What should you know about this popular procedure?

Be patient, it takes more than one treatment

Successful hair removal usually requires 4-8 separate treatments spaced 3-6 weeks apart. Because all of your hair follicles have different growth cycles, treatments should be regularly scheduled to get a full result. You should expect to see a noticeable reduction in hair growth after 2-3 sessions. It is not uncommon to need maintenance treatments once or twice a year because fluctuating hormones can cause some hair to grow back.

Laser hair removal works best with darker hair

Because lasers target pigment or color in the hair follicles, blonde or white hair may not respond as well to permanent hair removal. Skin color plays a role in the specific laser that is selected, and modern, sophisticated lasers can deliver good results in people with lighter, finer hair.

It's not that painful

Laser energy converts to heat, which damages the hair follicle. Many newer lasers have a cooling mechanism. You may feel a quick, sharp pain in more sensitive areas such as the face, but it's totally tolerable.

Side effects are mild and temporary

Possible side effects include mild swelling around the hair follicles, slight redness, temporary skin irritation and pigment changes in people with darker skin. A cool compress or ice pack will help skin irritation. Many side effects can be avoided by choosing the appropriate type of laser.

Stay out of the sun

While you should always protect your skin from excessive sun exposure, it is especially important to avoid sunbathing or tanning beds around each laser treatment. You must lather on sunscreen after each treatment. Because of this, fall and winter are the best times for laser hair removal.

Make sure you are not taking restricted medications

Some chemicals can make your skin more sensitive to laser exposure and lead to pigmentation abnormalities or even burns. Before your first appointment, be sure to check your complete medication list including antibiotics, topical solutions and birth control pills.

Don't wax before your first appointment

You will be instructed to shave a few hours before your first treatment, but make sure you don't pluck or wax because the laser needs to target pigment within the hair follicles.

It's really quick

Most treatment sessions last from a few minutes up to an hour depending on the size of the area and your skin type. You can return to work right after, but avoid perfume and deodorant after each treatment.

Don't settle on any laser practitioner

Regulations vary about who can operate a hair removal laser and the appropriate level of supervision. It's important to choose a board-certified physician with experience in laser technology to minimize the risk of pigmentary changes, scarring and burning.

Total cost depends on treatment size

Many clinics now offer treatment packages for specific areas and cost will be highest for extra-large areas such as entire legs and full Brazilian. The average cost will vary based on number of sessions, where you live and other factors.

Permanent hair removal is definitely an investment, but you will no longer need to spend time and money to shave an area of your body. Investing in yourself on something that will benefit your self-confidence is extremely important, and laser hair removal can be a safe and effective procedure to meet your goals.

For a list of ASPS plastic surgeons in your community, please use our Find a Plastic Surgeon tool. A consultation with a board-certified or -eligible plastic surgeon can determine if you are a good candidate for permanent hair removal and choose which laser will work best for your skin and hair type.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


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