Laser Hair Removal

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on July 26, 2023
6 min read

Laser hair removal is a procedure that uses a laser, or a concentrated beam of light, to get rid of hair in different areas of the body.

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. This destroys the hair.

Laser hair removal vs. electrolysis

Electrolysis is another type of hair removal, but it is considered more permanent. A probe is inserted into each individual hair follicle, delivering an electric current and killing hair growth. Unlike laser hair removal, it works on all hair and skin colors but takes longer and can be more expensive. Hair removal can be an important part of transitioning for members of the trans and gender-expansive communities and can help with feelings of dysphoria or unease.


Lasers are useful for removing unwanted hair from the face, leg, chin, back, arm, underarm, bikini line, and other areas. However, you can't get laser done on your eyelids or the surrounding areas or anywhere that has been tattooed.

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.

Laser hair removal is more than just ''zapping'' unwanted hair. It is a medical procedurethat requires training to perform and carries potential risks.

If you are planning to undergo laser hair removal, you should limit plucking, waxing, and electrolysis for 6 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 6 weeks before and after treatment. Sun exposure makes laser hair removal less effective and makes complications after treatment more likely.

Avoid taking any blood-thinning medications before the procedure. Talk to your doctor about which medications to stop if you're on any anti-inflammatories or regularly take aspirin.

If you have darker skin, your doctor may prescribe skin bleachingcream. Don't use any sunless creams to darken your skin. It's important that your skin is as light as possible for the procedure.

Should you shave for laser hair removal?

You should shave or trim the day before your procedure.

What happens if you don't shave before laser hair removal?

If your hair is too long, the procedure will not work as effectively, and your hair and skin will get burned.

During the procedure, the pigment in your hair will absorb a  light beam from a laser. The light will be converted to heat and damage that hair follicle. Because of that damage, the hair will stop growing. This is done over two to six sessions.

Before laser hair removal

Just before the procedure, the hair that will be undergoing treatment will be trimmed to a few millimeters above the skin surface. Usually, the technician will apply a topical numbing medicine 20-30 minutes before the procedure to help with the sting of the laser pulses. They'll also adjust the laser equipment according to the color, thickness, and location of your hair being treated, as well as your skin color.

Depending on the laser or light source used, you and the technician will need to wear appropriate eye protection. They'll also apply a cold gel or use a special cooling device to prodct the outer layers of your skin and help the laser light get into it.

During laser hair removal

The technician will give the treatment area a pulse of light. They'll watch for several minutes to make sure they used the best settings and that you aren't having a bad reaction.

Is laser hair removal painful?

Temporary discomfort is possible, with some redness and swelling after the procedure. People compare laser hair removal to a warm pinprick and say it's less painful than other hair removal methods like waxing or threading.

After laser hair removal

The technician may give you ice packs, anti-inflammatory creams or lotions, or cold water to ease any discomfort. You'll need to wait 4-6 weeks for the next appointment. You'll get treatments until hair stops growing.

You can buy tools to remove hair at home, but since this is a medical treatment, it's better to have a professional do it. There aren't any long-term studies on the safety or effectiveness of at-home devices. Plus, they're considered cosmetic devices, not medical, which means they aren't held to the same standards as professional tools.

Laser hair removal aftercare

The treated area will look and feel sunburned for 1-2 days. Cool compresses and moisturizers may help. If your face was treated, you can wear makeup the next day unless your skin is blistered. Avoid direct sunlight, tanning beds, sun lamps, or any kind of indoor tanning equipment.

Laser hair removal side effects

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

Other potential side effects include swelling, redness, and scarring. Permanent scarring or changes in skin color are rare.

Laser hair removal risks

Blisters are rare but are more likely in people with darker complexions. Another rare side effect is the treated hair turning gray or more hair growing around the treated areas.

Don't get it done by an unlicensed technician. It's important to go to someone you can trust. Before getting laser hair removal, you should thoroughly check the credentials of the doctor or technician performing the procedure.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of laser hair removal was $389 per session in 2020. 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're having the procedure

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

Laser hair removal is a procedure to remove unwanted hair using heat to damage the hair follicle. It's a relatively fast process. When done by a trusted technician, it can guarantee long-term results with minimum side effects. It works best on those with contrasting skin and hair colors, for example, light skin and dark hair. It's important to keep treated areas out of the sun and away from indoor tanning equipment.

  • How permanent is laser hair removal?

The results vary from person to person but can last months to several years depending on maintenance.

  • Is Brazilian laser worth it?

Brazilian laser hair removal gets rid of all the hair from your bikini zone, like a Brazilian wax would, but in a more permanent way. If you have light skin and dark hair, you will likely see good results from laser hair removal that can last much longer than other hair removal methods.

  • Does laser really remove all hair?

Laser hair removal may remove or greatly lessen the hair on your treated area.