Several years ago, the first laser hair removal treatments began to pop out at salons and dermatologist offices, and for the first time ever there was a more permanent alternative to shaving and waxing. Since then, and thanks to new technologies that come out every day, we now have semi-professional at home laser hair removal devices that can be much more affordable and convenient than professional services, while still being safe and effective.
If you are thinking about buying an at home laser hair removal device or even considering going to a professional salon for laser sessions but worry about the side effects, this guide is for you!
If the thought of zapping your hairs away with a laser sounds very high-tech and a little nerve-wracking, you are not alone. However, laser hair removal is actually one of the most common cosmetic procedures in the U.S.
The main objective of laser hair removal is to destroy the hair follicles and thus preventing new hairs from growing. To do this, a highly concentrated beam of light (laser) penetrates your skin at a very specific wavelength and precisely targets each hair follicle. The follicles absorb the light, heat up from the inside, and the hair and the follicle become damaged, eventually becoming unable to grow new hairs.
Although laser hair removal is not a particularly new technology (it became popular in the nineties), many people still hesitate about using a laser at home. Since at-home laser treatments are fairly new, some people consider going to a professional salon or dermatologist office because they don’t know whether at home devices are safe and effective.
While this is a legitimate concern, you should know that are many devices out there that use FDA approved technology specific for laser hair removal and can be as safe and effective as professional treatments.
There are several factors you should keep in mind while choosing whether to go the professional or at home route; including costs, your skin color and type, and convenience. Cost-wise, even though laser technology for hair removal is much more accessible today than it was a decade ago, each laser hair removal session can still cost you upwards $300, and you will need several appointments to see results.
Most professional and many at-home laser hair removal devices are actually approved by the FDA as permanent hair reduction devices, so while you can be certain that this procedure will dramatically reduce the amount of hair in your target area, some people might not experience complete and permanent hair elimination.
Is Laser Hair Removal Safe?
The technology behind both professional and at-home laser hair removal treatments is approved by the FDA. Therefore, they are generally safe when you use them according to the manufacturer’s instructions, you take proper precautions, and choose a high-quality device.
There has been some debate about whether the use of a laser for hair removal causes cancer or not. However, research studies have proven that laser treatment for hair removal does not cause or increase your risk of developing cancer. While there is some radiation involved in using lasers for hair removal, this radiation is not ionizing, meaning it does not affect your DNA. It is also minimal and the amount that ends up penetrating your skin is not sufficient to become a cause for concern.
Because you are dealing with laser and very potent light beams, it is always wise to protect your eyes and be very mindful of not overdoing it to avoid burns and irritation.
If you are using an at-home laser hair removal device, familiarize yourself with how to use it and test it on a small patch of skin to check for any severe irritation or reactions beforehand. The at-home laser hair removal device that you choose should be a good match for your hair color and skin type, and should come with an instruction manual that teaches you how to operate it correctly and safely. Here, you can find detailed reviews of our favorite laser hair removal devices.
Possible Side Effects
As with any other cosmetic procedure, laser hair removal can cause some side effects and discomforts that will vary from person to person. People with very fair skin or those that are prone to burning (instead of tanning) from the sun are at a greater risk of experiencing mild to severe irritation or even blistering. However, any good at-home laser hair removal device will tell you which skin types it is suitable for safe use on and many will even include a skin color chart to help you find out which one is right for you.
Regardless of your skin type, you should protect yourself from the sun while you are using laser hair removal. Exposing your skin to laser will inevitably make it a little more sensitive immediately after, which means you are more likely to burn more easily.
These are some of the most common side effects people experience during the laser hair removal process.
You may notice some mild redness and irritation just as you would experience with waxing or hair removal creams. Sometimes, you will notice some minor irritation as early as your first laser hair removal session; however, this is very common and it generally goes away within a few hours to a couple of days. Experts recommend using an ice pack over the affected area to reduce the redness and pain.
Risk Of Infection
Infections from laser hair removal are very rare but they can happen if the target area is not properly cleaned or if the person is prone to infections. The most common infection associated with laser hair removal (and any other hair removal method such as shaving or waxing) is folliculitis, which is the infection and inflammation of hair follicles.
To minimize your risk of infection, always keep the area that you are treating very clean and wash your hands before and after using the device. It is also important to clean your at home laser hair removal device according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
While not very common, burns from laser hair removal devices can occur due to a low-quality device, using a machine that was not suited for your skin color, or because of operator mistakes. You can avoid burns by choosing a device that was especially built for your skin type and color, not using it in overly-sensitive areas, and following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Change In Skin Color (Hyper Or Hypopigmentation)
The laser used for this kind of hair removal targets darker or melanin-rich spots in the follicle, which happen to be your hairs. However, in some cases this laser treatment can stimulate melanin production, yielding some dark spots or even darkening whole areas. If you experience any hyperpigmentation don’t panic, it is often temporary and usually, it can be fixed or greatly improved. However, you should be very careful about exposing the area to the sun because it may cause further damage.
Whether you do it at home or at a salon, it is likely that you will experience some pain during the hair removal session. Some people opt to apply a numbing lotion to the area to avoid major pain. However, if you are doing it at home, you should carefully research the numbing lotion to avoid further irritation.
Everybody’s pain threshold is different. Therefore some might feel more pain than others. Generally speaking, the pain can be comparable to snapping a rubber band against your skin, and it tends to vary from area to area, so more sensitive places (like the bikini area or the underarms) will likely hurt more than your legs.
Some people can experience mild crusting or peeling after laser hair removal sessions; while this might be annoying, it should not be a cause for concern. If you begin to see some crusting occurring try to keep the area hydrated and do not pick at the scabs in order to avoid infection.
Consult your doctor if any side effects won’t go away or if you have a severe adverse reaction to the procedure.
Waxing and shaving are chores that nobody looks forward to doing. Waxing is often painful and time-consuming and it is frustrating to shave only to have the hairs grow back in a matter of days. While some women decide to skip hair removal altogether (and that’s great too!), many others still dread having to shave or wax to remove unwanted hair. Laser hair removal is a more permanent solution to this issue, and though it used to be very expensive and inaccessible to most, nowadays there are many at-home laser hair removal systems on the market that make permanent and semi-permanent hair removal easier and more accessible.
The side effects of both at home and professional laser hair removal tend to be very mild and short-lived, and there are many benefits, which you can read about here. If you have been thinking about getting rid of your unwanted hairs more permanently, an at-home laser hair removal machine could be a great choice.
Let us know in the comments below what’s been your experience with laser hair removal! You may also be interested in our article discussing the differences between IPL and Laser.