Laser Hair Removal

If you're not happy with shaving, tweezing, or waxing to remove unwanted hair, laser hair removal may be an option worth considering.

Laser hair removal is one of the most commonly done cosmetic procedures in the U.S. It beams highly concentrated light into hair follicles. Pigment in the follicles absorb the light. That destroys the hair.

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Benefits of Laser Hair Removal

Lasers are useful for removing unwanted hair from the face, leg, arm, underarm, bikini line, and other areas.

Benefits of laser hair removal include:

Precision. Lasers can selectively target dark, coarse hairs while leaving the surrounding skin undamaged.

Speed. Each pulse of the laser takes a fraction of a second and can treat many hairs at the same time. The laser can treat an area approximately the size of a quarter every second. Small areas such as the upper lip can be treated in less than a minute, and large areas, such as the back or legs, may take up to an hour.

Predictability. Most patients have permanent hair loss after an average of three to seven sessions.

How to Prepare for Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal is more than just ''zapping'' unwanted hair. It is a medical procedure that requires training to perform and carries potential risks. Before getting laser hair removal, you should thoroughly check the credentials of the doctor or technician performing the procedure.

If you are planning on undergoing laser hair removal, you should limit plucking, waxing, and electrolysis for six weeks before treatment. That's because the laser targets the hairs' roots, which are temporarily removed by waxing or plucking.

You should also avoid sun exposure for six weeks before and after treatment. Sun exposure makes laser hair removal less effective and makes complications after treatment more likely.

What to Expect During Laser Hair Removal

Just before the procedure, your hair that will be undergoing treatment will be trimmed to a few millimeters above the skin surface. The laser equipment will be adjusted according to the color, thickness, and location of your hair being treated as well as your skin color.

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Depending on the laser or light source used, you and the technician will need to wear appropriate eye protection. It will also be necessary to protect the outer layers of your skin with a cold gel or special cooling device. This will help the laser light penetrate the skin.

Next, the technician will give a pulse of light to the treatment area and watch the area for several minutes to make sure the best settings were used and to check for bad reactions.

When the procedure is completed, you may be given ice packs, anti-inflammatory creams or lotions, or cold water to ease any discomfort. You may schedule your next treatment four to six weeks later. You'll get treatments until hair stops growing.

Recovery and Risks

For a day or two afterward, the treated area of your skin will look and feel like it's sunburned. Cool compresses and moisturizers may help. If your face was treated, you can wear makeup the next day unless your skin is blistering.

Over the next month, your treated hair will fall out. Wear sunscreen for the following month to help prevent temporary changes in the color of the treated skin.

Blisters are rare but are more likely in people with darker complexions. Other potential side effects are swelling, redness, and scarring. Permanent scarring or changes in skin color are rare.

Costs of Laser Hair Removal

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost for laser hair removal is $235 per session. The cost varies widely, depending on factors that include:

  • Size of the area being treated and time required for treatment
  • Number of treatments required
  • Whether a doctor or someone else is performing the procedure
  • The part of the country where you are having the procedure

Ask for a consultation to get a better idea of the cost for your particular case.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on January 27, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

American Society for Dermatologic Surgery: "Laser Hair Removal Information."

Dermatologic Surgery at the University of Washington: "Laser Hair Removal."

Baylor College of Medicine: "Laser Hair Removal."

FDA: "Removing Hair Safely."

The Hair Removal Journal: "How Much Does Laser Hair Removal Cost?"

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