Laser Hair Removal | What you need to know
Laser hair removal can be very effective in certain circumstances but may be best referred to as laser hair reduction. Read more...
Disclaimer: This page contains an affiliate link to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through this link.
How does laser hair removal work?
One of the most common questions I am asked by patients when it comes to unwanted hair is whether they should pursue laser hair removal. Laser hair removal can be very effective in certain circumstances but may be best referred to as laser hair reduction. The density of hair growth and the coarseness of individual hair follicles may diminish but the extent to which this occurs can vary widely. The reality is that there are many people who may not see the extent of benefit they hope for and can find themselves frustrated and out of a good amount of money.
RELATED | Dr. Erum Ilyas discusses hair removal with Woman & Home
How do I know if my hair will respond to hair laser?
The ideal candidate for laser hair reduction is someone that has coarse and darkly pigmented hair with a distinction between their hair color and skin color. Laser hair devices work by targeting the pigment in the hair. If the hair is light in color or white, it will not see its target. If the hair is fine or peach-fuzz-like, it may also not quite capture the hair as well.
Are there downsides to laser hair removal?
The first downside to laser hair removal is that a specific type of hair growth should be seen for it to work. Many women that inquire about laser hair treatments may be targeting chin hair. If these are white or light in color, they may not see the response they desire. The second consideration is that the laser will target the pigment in the hair to work, however, this is the same pigment that is in our skin. If the treating provider is not experienced in how to adjust the settings on the device there is the chance for two potentially negative outcomes. The first would be that the laser is too aggressive and attacks the hair AND your skin. This can happen if our skin has naturally more melanin or if there was recent tanning that added pigment to the skin. The result can be blistering and potentially hypopigmentation or loss of color of the skin in the areas treated. The second possibility is that the laser may not be strong enough and lead to little evidence of benefit where the hair may slow down in terms of speed of growth, but still grow. This can be very disappointing.
And, lastly, believe it or not, there is the potential for paradoxical hair growth after laser hair treatments referred to as paradoxical hypertrichosis after laser epilation. It is fortunately not common but does occur. This means that sometimes, someone comes in to have hair removed and unfortunately they get an increase in hair density or growth. Very frustrating. This is not a common side effect and not possible to predict however it is a known negative outcome of laser hair removal to be made aware of as a part of the consent process.
The most important thing to recognize when it comes to these downsides of laser hair treatments is that, other than recognizing that white or light-colored hair will not respond, the other outcomes may be unpredictable and vary widely from person to person. Even though you may be offered a deal or sign up for a specific number of treatments, it is not always possible to know for certain if this will be enough. Setting expectations is really important because the cost associated with treatments can add up.
Does laser hair removal work in PCOS?
If there is any evidence of PCOS or other hormonal imbalances, some have found that the results of laser hair treatments are a bit disappointing with perhaps a hair-free interval seen with hair laser treatments but with ultimate regrowth of the hair in some cases. There may be the need for more treatments to achieve a result that is satisfying however this can be costly.