After a laser hair removal treatment session, most people experience minimal or no side effects and are able to continue with the rest of their day. This allows patients to fit their treatments into their daily schedule, without causing any disruptions.
Immediately following a laser hair removal session, patients may experience some dryness, mild erythema (redness) and, in some cases, edema (swelling) in the treated areas. These areas may also be sensitive to the touch. In extremely rare cases, side effects may include blisters, burns, scabs, and ingrown hairs. Any and all of these side effects will dissipate within a few hours in most cases. However, in rare instances, these side effects may persist for up to 2 days following treatment. It should be noted that darker-skinned patients are more prone to serious side effects than patients with lighter skin tones. Some have experienced skin pigment changes where patches of skin either lighten (hypopigmentation) or darken (hyperpigmentation). These changes can last for months but are very rarely permanent.
After receiving laser hair removal treatment, it is important for patients to take care of their skin, protecting it from damage and ensuring faster healing. Keep your skin well hydrated and cool using ice packs, post-laser lotions, and cooling gels. These are often provided by the clinic to help cool and soothe the treated skin, as well as reduce sensitivity. It is also imperative that patients avoid direct sunlight and UV rays (such as from a sun-bed or tanning-booth) for about 2 – 3weeks. Exposing treated areas to direct sunlight increases the risk of skin discoloration, caused by changes in the skin pigment (hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation). This skin discoloration can be permanent in rare cases, but usually, the skin will revert back to its normal color after a couple of weeks. Therefore, it is important to apply sunscreen with an SPF-rating of at least 30 before exposing the treated areas to direct sunlight, to protect the skin such pigment discoloration.
It is recommended that patients do not take hot baths or showers for 24 hours following treatment and that activities that overheat the skin, causing sweating, are also avoided. This is to prevent the skin from becoming irritated, itchy, and sensitive. The treated area should be cleaned with mild soap and water only. Patients must not use rough exfoliating or abrasive products, as well as products that contain many chemical ingredients, such as Retin-A, alpha-hydroxy acids, glycolic acids, and astringents. These can cause inflammation, itchiness and increased sensitivity of the skin, prolonging any side effects and discomfort. It is also advised to use as little makeup on the treated area as possible, for as short a time as possible, as this will also aggravate and irritate the skin.
Patients usually notice hairs falling out during, or directly after, a laser hair removal treatment, and this will continue for about 3 – 4 weeks. Initially, it will look like the hair is actually growing back, however, the hair is being expelled, or shed, by the body. Exfoliating or scrubbing the treated area gently will assist with the shedding process, speeding it up. Once shedding is completed, pepper-spots – little black dots still stuck in the hair follicle – may be visible. These will eventually shed over a period of a few weeks. It is important to not wax or tweeze any hair regrowth or remaining hair in the treated area. Rather, patients should shave to get rid of this remaining hair.
After 4 weeks, if patients do not shed any hair, it is likely that the laser hair removal practitioner set the laser’s power setting too low. In this case, you should inform the clinic and they will schedule another session to provide the correct treatment. However, if there are only patches that didn’t shed, the laser hair removal practitioner may have missed these areas, and you may be entitled to a free touch-up session. It is a good idea to check which clinics offer free touch-up sessions when choosing a clinic for laser hair removal treatment.
Following the shedding period, the treated area should be relatively hair-free for a number of weeks, depending on the individual. This variance is because the resilience of hair follicles varies across individuals as well as areas of the body. Furthermore, hair growth is not uniform across the body or within specific areas and hair is not actively growing all the time. With the exception of the scalp, actively growing hairs in the anagen phase account for 20 – 40% of the total hair of a particular area of the body, while the resiliency of hair follicles varies widely between individuals. As such, multiple treatment sessions are needed, with sessions spaced to allow for hair to shift into the active growing phase of the hair growth cycle, so that treatment is successful. After approximately 6 – 10 weeks the hair regrowth will be noticeable, and this is when patients should book follow up treatment. Successive treatments will become less frequent over time until eventually, they become all but unnecessary.