Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt? What To Expect Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt? What To Expect

Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt? What To Expect

February 29, 2024

8 min read

Did it hurt? No, not when you fell from heaven… when you zapped all of your body hair off with lasers?

Laser hair removal has become increasingly popular, and for VERY good reason: it can help you get rid of unwanted body hair for good. But you might be wondering… is laser hair removal as painful as it sounds? And if so, is it worth the pain?

As far as hair removal methods go, laser hair removal is a pretty painful one. (And, um, it can be especially painful to part with the cash to pay for it.) But everyone’s experience is different – some report mild, fleeting pain sensations while others describe it as the worst pain they’ve ever experienced.

If you’re considering getting laser hair removal treatment for the first time, understanding the pain you’re in for can help manage expectations and alleviate (totally valid!) fears you may have.

We’ll cover how bad laser hair removal hurts, how the pain compares to other types of hair removal you may be more familiar with, what to expect before, during, and after laser hair removal, and one pain-free alternative to laser that also offers permanent hair removal.

Not to be all click-baity, but… read on to learn the TRUTH about how much laser hair removal hurts! 😜

TL;DR:

In-salon laser hair removal? Ouch. At-home IPL? Painless. Skip to learn more about the only pain-free, permanent alternative to laser hair removal.

How Bad Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt?

Well… pretty bad.

Laser hair removal uses very powerful, concentrated lasers designed to target and destroy hair follicles. The thing is… your skin is in between those hair follicles and that potent laser. And there’s just no way around that. 

Laser hair removal sensations are often described as pinpricks, elastic rubber band flicks, warm pinching, stinging, burning zaps… the list goes on. They’re over quickly, but it’s not exactly easy on your skin and can leave lingering pain, sensitivity, and discomfort for days afterward.

“Laser hair removal is the worst pain I’ve ever felt”Reddit user

That being said, laser hair removal treatment pain depends on a LOT of factors, including:

  • The area you treat – Underarms, upper lips, and the bikini area tend to hurt more since the skin is thin there. Areas where the skin is thicker like arms and shins often don’t hurt too bad.
  • Pain reducers used – Using a numbing cream during treatment and/or taking an over-the-counter pain reliever before treatment can help reduce the pain.
  • The type of machine used – Certain types of lasers and machines with cooling technology can help to alleviate discomfort.
  • Skin sensitivity – People with sensitive skin may experience far more pain and discomfort than others.
  • Time of the month – Skin tends to be more sensitive during menstruation. Getting a laser hair removal treatment done while you’re on your period could be significantly more painful versus another time of the month.

And even beyond that, pain is SO subjective. Judging pain level isn’t exactly a science – one Reddit user’s “worst pain I’ve ever felt” could be another blog reader’s “hey, that actually wasn’t that bad.” But the consensus seems to be that as far as hair removal methods go, laser hair removal is a pretty painful one.

What Hurts the Most?

So, what type of hair removal hurts the MOST – and how does laser hair removal stack up?

Some say laser hair removal is the worst pain. We can get behind that – it’s a different type of pain at least, one that can be unexpected and intense.

Others say epilating or waxing is the most painful hair removal method.

The answer to this question is a totally individual one. But it also depends on how you look at it. For example, laser hair removal can be very painful, but it’s almost like a pain investment. Treatment tends to hurt less with every session. And, if all goes according to plan, after undergoing a full treatment regimen, you won’t need to experience any hair removal pain ever again – whereas short-term solutions might be less painful in the moment, but they’ll have to be repeated forever.

Plus, if you consider *all* the pain & frequency of pain, even shaving could end up being the most painful. While pain usually isn’t as intense during the hair removal process, shaving often results in irritation, itchiness, ingrown hairs, nicks, etc that you just don’t typically get using other hair removal methods.

Related: Bikini Hair Removal Methods (Ranked by Pain Level)

What to Expect Before, During, and After Laser Hair Removal

Before Laser Hair Removal:

Every laser hair removal clinic is different – be sure to follow any prep instructions your technician shares with you. But generally, you’ll need to stay out of the sun, avoid using certain skin products, and shave (not tweeze or wax) within 24 hours of your appointment. Arrive at your appointment with clean skin and wearing loose, breathable clothing to minimize irritation.

During Laser Hair Removal

Well, you guessed it… expect some pain. Womp, womp.

When you arrive at the office, your doctor will clean the area being treated and in some cases may offer you a topical numbing cream. Your doctor may also provide protective goggles or glasses (hair removal, but make it fashion!) for you to wear throughout the procedure. Then, they will begin the treatment by passing the laser over the entire area you want treated. You may smell smoke or burning hair. (You know all those times when you left the curling iron in your hair just a little too long? That smell.)

Depending on the size of the area, appointments could take just minutes (upper lip) or up to an hour (full back). 

After Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal treatment is as short as a zap, but you still might experience some pain, redness, itchiness, or irritation for days afterward. (See our Laser Hair Removal Aftercare Guide to know what to expect.)

Moisturizing treated skin generously (like, multiple times a day!) will help your skin heal and feel more comfortable. You can also apply a cold compress or an aloe-based body lotion to calm the skin.

Just like before your treatment, it is important to avoid any prolonged sun exposure to the treated area in between laser sessions. If you will be outside for any length of time, it is best to cover up the area and always use a strong broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen.

It will also help to wear loose, cotton clothing for a day or two. 

After your first laser hair removal treatment, it’s time to start planning for the next one! People generally need 6-10 rounds of treatment for full permanent hair removal results, and those treatment sessions need to be spaced out anywhere from 4-10 weeks apart depending on the area treated. 

Pain-Free Alternative to Laser Hair Removal

Interested in laser hair removal alternatives that still offer permanent hair removal without the pain? IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) technology might be worth looking into. It’s very similar to laser hair removal with one key difference: it’s way, WAY less painful!

Like laser hair removal machines, IPL devices target unwanted body hair using light and heat. However, IPL utilizes broad-spectrum light pulses for a gentler treatment that’s safe to do at home.

Personal hair removal devices like Lumi can be used from the comfort of your own home and are virtually painless. If you’re an “I’ll do it myself” kind of gal, these devices can remove the stress of repeat visits to a clinic (and leave a much smaller financial footprint on your life – keep your coins!).

IPL devices offer you the flexibility of at-home treatment and a completely pain-free hair removal experience. It offers a permanent reduction in body hair in just 8-12 weeks. IPL is worth considering if you’re interested in permanent hair removal but pain and cost are two main concerns of yours.

Laser Hair Removal Pain Questions

Why does laser hair removal hurt?

Some amount of pain/discomfort is an unavoidable part of the technology. Laser removal utilizes very powerful, concentrated lasers designed to target hair follicles. But there’s no way to the hair follicle other than through the skin. Numbing creams, specialty laser machines, and avoiding certain popular treatment areas can make laser hair removal hurt less, but the truth is it’s not exactly easy on your skin. 

How quickly does pain subside after a laser hair removal treatment?

Usually, any resulting redness, pain, itchiness, or discomfort subsides within 1-3 days. But in some rare cases, laser hair removal treatment can result in burns or other injury. If pain persists for longer than 3 days or if it’s unbearable, speak to a physician.

Does laser hair removal hurt less each time?

Yes! Laser hair removal results are gradual. As hairs thin out and weaken over time, each laser hair removal treatment should hurt less. Plus, knowing what to expect and how to prepare for it can help, too. 

How long does full-body laser hair removal take?

Treatment times vary depending on your provider, but full-body laser treatment typically takes 2-3 hours. 

Is traditional laser hair removal worth the pain?

This depends! Laser hair removal can yield excellent results – many people who’ve gotten laser treatment say the pain they experienced was worth the permanent hair removal they achieved. 

But the thing is… permanent hair removal doesn’t need to involve so much pain anymore. With the rise of IPL technology, you can get permanent hair removal without the pain (and the cost!) of laser hair removal. If pain is a big concern to you, we’d go with IPL over traditional laser hair removal!

Is IPL less painful than in-salon laser hair removal?

Yes, IPL is less painful than in-salon laser hair removal. IPL’s light pulses are less concentrated and therefore less intense than laser, making treatment more comfortable and safe to perform on your own at home. IPL also offers customizable treatment – while some may experience discomfort at the highest intensity levels, most don’t feel any discomfort at all at low-intensity levels.

Are there any body parts where laser hair removal is reported to be more painful?

Yes. Underarms, upper lips, back, and bikini area are often reported to be the most painful since the skin is thin there.