The idea of permanent hair removal is quite tempting. Isn’t it? Well, laser hair removal may seem like a blessing to you, especially if you tend to get ingrown hair or uneven skin tone as a result of other hair removal methods.
While laser hair removal treatment is mostly considered to be safe, there might be side effects linked to it. So, before you decide to spend a fortune, know more about the possible downsides of this procedure too.
In this article, we bring out the truths and break the myths about laser hair removal and tell you what you should consider before going for it.
Is Laser Hair Removal Permanent?
Even though laser treatment is termed as a ‘permanent’ hair removal procedure, that might not be the case. In laser treatment, a specialised beam of radiation is targeted to a particular area on your skin. The laser produces heat which either damages or destroys the hair follicles. A hair follicle is a sac-like structure from which the hair shaft grows out.
Usually after the first treatment, all the hair follicles are not destroyed. But because most of the hair follicles are damaged, you do not get any hair growth for a prolonged period of time. Also the new hair that grows out is usually finer and lighter in colour . Some of you might require multiple laser treatment sessions to get satisfactory results. Your hair is likely to grow lighter and thinner with every treatment session.
Also, you might need maintenance sessions later to keep the desired area hair-free.
Possible Side Effects Of Laser Hair Removal
Laser treatment is generally considered to be a safe procedure if performed under the supervision of a dermatologist. This treatment is well tolerated by most people but some may experience adverse reactions post treatment. Consider getting a patch test done by your doctor before going for the full treatment.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association the most common side effects of laser treatment are:
3. Some amount of swelling 
These symptoms usually disappear by themselves within a short span of time. Your dermatologist will prescribe a topical ointment to apply on the treated area if deemed necessary.
Other less common adverse effects of laser treatment include:
1. Changes In Skin Colour Of The Treated Area
The treated area of your skin may become a shade darker or lighter than the rest of your body, but it is usually temporary. In very rare cases, the discoloration of the skin treated with laser may become permanent.
2. Crusting Or Scarring
In some people laser treatment may cause hardening of the treated area which may lead to a scab or a scar. Taking good care of the treated skin as per your doctor’s recommendations will speed up the healing process. A mild moisturiser can be used to relieve irritation.
3. Skin Infections
Since the hair follicles and its surrounding cells may be damaged during the laser treatment, the area of the skin is like a wound. Thus the laser treated area may get infection if proper care is not taken during the healing period . If you see any signs of infection such as eruptions or fluid oozing from the treated area, consult your doctor immediately to avoid further complications.
4. Burns Or Blisters
Laser therapy involves usage of equipments that can produce considerable amounts of heat. Excessive heat can cause burns on your skin, if not handled properly. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you get the laser therapy done by a qualified medical professional only.
Also, avoid exposing your laser treated skin to direct sun until it is healed completely. This will help you avoid sun damage or blisters on the treated skin.
4. Eye Injury
The strong laser beam used for hair removal is capable of causing injury to the eye, especially while being used on the face. Appropriate eye protection gear should be used to avoid any adverse effects of laser on the eye.
How Long Does It Take For Hair To Grow Back After Laser Treatment?
Hair regrowth after laser treatment may be seen anywhere between a few months to even a few years in certain cases. Initially hair regrowth may be seen in 4 to 6 weeks of the laser therapy. But after a consistent treatment of 4 to 6 sessions, you may need a touch up every 6 months or a year to remain stubble free.
Also, how fast your hair grows back depends on a number of factors such as the following:
1. Area of Hair Removal Treatment
Laser hair removal is more effective in certain areas of your body than others. Hair on your face such as the upper lip, chin, sideburns or neck grow back faster than your body hair such as those on your back, arms and legs. The rate of regrowth post treatment varies from person to person but the new hair is usually sparse and finier, making it less apparent.
In very rare cases, some people develop a condition called paradoxical hypertrichosis. Individuals with this condition tend to develop darker and thicker hair in areas surrounding the laser treated skin.
2. Skin And Hair Colour
Laser hair removal is typically most effective if you have a light skin tone with dark hair. The melanin in the hair absorbs the laser better and gives better results. If you have grey, white or blonde hair, laser hair removal will not be much effective for you. However, the current advances in laser technology has made it possible to make laser hair removal available for people of all skin and hair color.
3. Phase Of Hair Growth
The hair on your body are at different stages of growth at any given point of time:
- Anagen- growing phase
- Catagen- transitional phase
- Telogen- resting phase
- Exogen- shedding phase
Laser treatment can target only the hair in the anagen or growing phase which are present within the follicle under the surface of your skin. Therefore, you might require multiple sessions of the treatment spanned over an appropriate period of time to get rid of all the hair in a particular area.
Myths Associated With Laser Hair Removal
Myth 1: Laser Therapy Causes Infertility
The laser beam used for hair removal works only at the surface of your skin. It does not reach your internal organs. Thus, there are almost no chances of laser treatment affecting your fertility. However, the effects of laser treatment on pregnant and nursing mothers are unknown. Therefore it is best to avoid laser treatments during pregnancy or while you are planning to conceive.
Also, you experience some hormonal changes post birth which can affect your hair growth pattern. So it makes sense to plan laser hair removal after you have given birth and are done with breastfeeding.
Myth 2: Laser Hair Removal Can Cause Cancer
The type of laser radiation used for hair removal is usually completely safe and does not penetrate too deep into your skin surface. Laser beams used for hair removal do not contain the high energy UV radiations. The high energy radiations are the ones that can damage your DNA leading to cancer.
No direct association of laser hair removal treatments with cancers have been found. If done under proper medical supervision laser therapy for hair removal does not elevate the chances of cancer. 
Myth 3: Laser Hair Removal Is A Very Painful Procedure
The level of discomfort felt during laser therapy varies from person to person. Some people may feel a pin-prick like sensation or a little heat. But lasers today come with cooling fans which reduce the heat sensation. Your dermatologist may also use a cooling gel or an anesthetic ointment right before the procedure to minimise the discomfort.
Laser hair removal is definitely less painful than other methods like waxing. If done under a certified professional, it is safer and quicker without any risks of cuts or wounds. The first session may be a little painful for you, but it gets better with more sessions.
Myth 4: It Causes Hair To Grow More Dense And Frequent
The hair that grows back in the area treated with laser, is actually thinner and finer. Laser damages or destroys the hair follicles from which the hair grows. So an effective laser hair removal therapy can not result in a more dense regrowth in the treated area. Actually there should be a reduction of about 10 to 25% reduction in hair growth after each session of laser therapy.
Myth 5: You Will Get Permanent Hair Removal In A Single Session
Laser therapy can only destroy hair that’s in the growing phase, and not the ones lying dormant within the follicle. Within a few days of the therapy the dormant hair will start growing actively. So a minimum of 4 to 6 sessions, spaced over a few weeks, are required to destroy all the hair in the targeted area. However, the number of sessions required by you will depend on a number of factors like your hair type, rate of regrowth and so on.
When To See A Doctor?
Laser therapy involves the usage of advanced equipment for letting you achieve the desired results of hair removal. It is best to consult a doctor at all stages of this procedure.
Post therapy, you should immediately see your dermatologist in case you develop fever, rashes or other symptoms of a systemic infection which is very rare. Do not use antibiotic creams or ointments without consulting your doctor if you doubt a bacterial or fungal infection.
Laser therapy may be one of the best ways to get rid of the unwanted hair on your body. But you should understand the pros and cons of this treatment and if it is suitable for you or can give you the desired results. Your dermatologist is the best person to decide the most effective laser treatment for you and also to design the treatment regime. Learn about the side effects of laser therapy well in advance to make an informed decision. Remember that your skin and hair is unique, so are its reactions and requirements.
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