Laser hair removal targets hair follicles and destroys them with potent laser technology. But with technology that’s powerful enough to destroy hair follicles, you might be wondering… what does laser hair removal do to your skin? Can laser hair removal cause scarring? And if your skin is already scarred, will laser hair removal make it worse?
In short: When performed properly, laser hair removal should not cause scarring, but scarring can be a rare side effect of laser hair removal. And laser hair removal should not be performed on already-scarred or damaged skin.
Still have questions? Read on for everything you need to know about laser hair removal and scars.
TL;DR: Scars & Laser Hair Removal
Can laser hair removal cause scarring? The truth is, yes – in some rare cases, laser hair removal can cause scarring or other changes in skin texture. And laser hair removal scars can be permanent.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association advises that having your treatment performed by a qualified physician can greatly reduce the risk of possible serious side effects, including scarring. Still, anyone undergoing laser hair removal should be aware of the risks, no matter how rare.
Some side effects are normal and minor. They typically last only a few hours to 3 days after treatment. If you’re experiencing discomfort, swelling, redness, or itchiness after laser treatment, don’t worry – follow laser hair removal aftercare recommendations and chances are, this condition won’t lead to a permanent scar.
More serious possible side effects include:
- Cold sore outbreaks
- Changes in skin color
To reduce the risk of laser hair removal scarring and other serious side effects, only undergo laser hair removal if you’re a good candidate for it. Be sure to visit a medical doctor who’s skilled in laser treatments and follow all pre-treatment and post-treatment recommendations. If you do experience any burns or injuries from laser hair removal, see a dermatologist to treat the skin properly and minimize the chance of scarring.
Whatever you do, do not attempt to perform laser hair removal at home on your own. This could result in burns that result in laser hair removal scars. (IPL is a great laser hair removal alternative if you’re looking for DIY permanent hair removal.)
If you do notice laser hair removal scars on your legs or anywhere else, visit a dermatologist to discuss your treatment options.
We do not recommend doing laser hair removal over the top of existing scars. As a rule, there is no safe hair removal procedure for damaged skin, including scars. Laser hair removal on c-section scars or any other type of scars may damage the skin further.
What Types of Skin Damage Should Avoid Laser Treatments?
What’s your damage?
You don’t need a huge wound or serious scarring to postpone your laser appointment. Even Harry Potter’s lightning bolt would be enough for a dermatologist to say, “Huh, maybe we’ll skip the forehead today.”
Using laser treatment to remove unwanted hair from damaged skin can further irritate the skin, especially if your skin is sensitive. Ultimately, this will increase the damage and prolong the healing process.
Avoid treating areas with the following types of skin damage:
- Scrapes and cuts
- Chemical irritations
- Sunburns or other sun exposure-related issues
- Allergic reactions
- Skin conditions
- Scar tissue
- Severe acne scars
But I Really Want To Remove My Hair… What Do I Do?
If unwanted body hair on and around your scars is driving you crazy… well, we understand the feeling. Having a scar doesn’t mean you have to be hairy for the rest of your life – here are our best recommendations for dealing with body hair without damaging scars:
Gently Treat Around Damaged Areas
Having a scar on your leg doesn’t mean you have to have hairy legs forever. Going around scarred or damaged skin to remove hair is usually completely fine.
Accept That Your Skin Is Beautiful as Is
ICYMI: You do not need to shave off any of your body hair to be beautiful! If your desire to remove body hair has more to do with societal pressures than your own desire to be hairless, now might be a great time to zero in on self-love and take a break from hair removal while your skin heals.
Consult a Dermatologist
Your skin is unique and so are your scars. One person’s scars may heal healthily and almost imperceptibly – leaving minimal scar tissue that’s just as strong as other skin and able to withstand hair removal treatments. Another person’s scarred skin might be fragile and at risk of complications. If you’re curious, talk to a doctor about proper scar care and hair removal options on and around your scars.
Looking for an at-home laser hair removal alternative that won’t cause scarring? Meet Lumi.
Like laser hair removal, Lumi uses light and heat technology to target unwanted body hair. Lumi uses IPL (intense pulsed light) technology to destroy hair follicles at the root without damaging skin. It’s gentler than laser hair removal but still provides comparable permanent hair removal results. And unlike laser hair removal, Lumi is FDA-cleared for safe and effective home use.
IPL hair removal does not cause scarring when used correctly. While scarring and other skin damage can occur, it’s typically a result of improper pre-treatment care, improper aftercare, an unsafe device, previous sun exposure, or use on skin that is too melanated. Be sure to read all instructions before use and follow them closely.
Lumi should not be used directly over scarred or damaged skin, but it can be used on surrounding areas. Lumi’s flash window makes it easy to target specific areas and avoid others.
If you have a concern about your skin damage or have any specific IPL questions, consult with your dermatologist or doctor to make sure you are doing the right thing for your skin.
Is IPL Right for Me?
IPL technology detects melanin in the hair to target the hair follicle without burning the skin. That being said, it requires contrast between hair and skin color to work its magic. IPL may not be a good fit for very dark skin or very light hair. It works best on people with dark, coarse hair. Check the IPL skin chart to see if IPL might be a good fit for you.
Shop best-selling RoseSkinCo routines: