Cosmetic Dermatology: Is Laser Hair Removal Harmful to Skin?

Doctor giving woman laser hair removal Cosmetic Dermatology: Is Laser Hair Removal Harmful to Skin?

Laser hair removal is often lauded for its effectiveness as a cosmetic dermatology service. But could it be harmful to your skin? Here, we'll talk about a few key side effects you should know about when you're considering laser hair removal services.

How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?

Laser hair removal is one of many cosmetic dermatology services that utilizes a laser-- a concentrated beam of light-- to change someone's appearance. In this case, the laser is being used to inhibit hair growth on a certain area of the body. In order to do this, the laser emits light that is absorbed by the pigment in the patient's hair. The energy from that light is then converted to heat, which in turn damages hair follicles. The heat damage done to hair follicles inhibits hair growth for a period of time after the treatment is complete. It's easy to see why someone would ask about the side effects of this treatment on their skin-- damaging hair follicles can sound concerning at first. Common areas where people choose to have laser hair removal performed include the forearms, legs, underarms, upper lip, chin and bikini line. Now, we'll move into talking about some side effects of laser hair removal.

Redness and Irritation

When the skin is exposed to such intense light treatment, there's bound to be a bit of tenderness in that area. This isn't like a dry skin rash or a heat rash. Rather, the affected area will react similarly to skin whose hair has just been plucked or waxed. This symptom is fortunately short-lived and relatively minor in more cases.

Changes in Skin Color

Skin pigment may change slightly after a laser hair removal session. In some cases, skin may appear lighter or darker in the treated area. These changes do tend to fade away over time, but cosmetically this may not be something you want.

When Could Laser Hair Removal Harm My Skin?

Fortunately, there are relatively few instances in which laser hair removal causes skin damage. That being said, the following situations may result in skin damage:

Not shaving before your appointment. Shaving the area you want treated before your appointment can help remove excess dead skin that could otherwise suffer burns from the laser's heat.

Spending too much time in the sun. In most cases, your dermatologist will recommend that you stay out of the sun as much as possible before your treatment. Failing to do so could lead to issues on your already sun-damaged skin.

Engaging in other hair removal methods before your treatment. This includes waxing, plucking, and electrolysis. While your doctor may instruct you to shave before your procedure, any of these other hair removal practices could disturb the hair follicle and lead to issues with your treatment.

Not going to a licensed dermatologist for laser hair removal treatment. Home kits may be advertised as being just as effective as a dermatologist, but that's just not true. Home kits are far more likely to cause skin damage than engaging in any of the behaviors above. Make sure that when you do decide to invest in laser hair removal, you're investing in a dermatologist who knows what they're doing.

Laser hair removal can be incredibly freeing for people who just don't want to deal with hair removal on their own anymore. But if you have questions or concerns, make sure you ask a dermatologist. Our team at North Pacific Dermatology would be happy to answer your questions and get your consultation set up.

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