Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal: What You Should Know Before You Zap

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How Risky Is Laser Hair Removal and What Are the Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal? Difference between IPL and Laser Hair Removal RoseSkinCo IPL Laser Hair Removal Handset

If you’re considering laser hair removal, you probably have one happy result as your goal: permanent hair removal!


But you should also be aware: while laser hair removal treatment can yield great results, it does have its risks. The most common side effects of laser hair removal treatment are mild and temporary, including skin irritation, pain, redness, swelling, and itching, but in some cases, the procedure can have long-term, more serious side effects, including scars and burns.


Before you decide whether to undergo laser hair removal treatment, you should have a clear understanding of the risks involved and possible permanent hair removal alternatives.


We’ll go over everything you need to know about the side effects of laser hair removal, including how laser hair removal works, answers to frequently asked questions, and how to avoid laser hair removal side effects.

How In-Salon Laser Hair Removal Works

Laser hair removal targets melanin in hair follicles with high-intensity single-beam lasers at a specific wavelength. The heat transmitted with the lasers destroys pigmented hair follicles so they can’t grow. This procedure provides a permanent reduction in body hair after multiple treatments.

7 Common Side Effects of Professional Laser Hair Removal Treatments

Many laser hair removal devices are FDA-cleared for use by medical professionals for cosmetic surgery purposes. They’ve been demonstrated to offer safe, effective permanent hair removal. That being said, the FDA does caution that laser treatment has risks.


The most common side effects of professional laser hair removal treatments are:


  • Redness – Laser hair removal can cause treated skin to appear red for a few days.
  • Irritation/Discomfort – Your skin may be irritated for a few days following treatment.
  • Swelling – The treated area may swell post-treatment, especially around hair follicles.
  • Pain – You may experience mild or significant pain during treatment as well as for a few days afterward. (See also: Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt?)
  • Itchiness – The treated area may itch like a rash following treatment.
  • Dryness – Your skin may feel tight and dry following treatment.
  • Temporary Skin Discoloration – You may notice dark or light spots on your skin.


These side effects typically last 1 to 3 days.

5 Less Common (And More Severe) Laser Hair Removal Side Effects

Laser hair removal also involves more serious, long-term side effects, including:


  • Blistering/Burns
    Blistering or burns can occur as a side effect of laser treatment itself or due to direct exposure to sunlight right after treatment. It can also occur due to treating broken, tattooed, tanned, or very dark skin.
  • Scarring
    Any marks left behind from laser hair removal typically go away after a few days, but in some instances, they can become scars. 
  • Eye Injury
    The light emitted from the lasers can cause injury or blindness – always wear any protective eyewear your physician provides you when undergoing laser treatment.
  • Cold Sore Outbreaks
    Herpes simplex can be stimulated by sunlight – if you have a cold sore, laser hair removal treatment may trigger the virus to become active and cause an outbreak on treated skin.
  • Permanent Skin Discoloration
    Laser hair removal can result in hyperpigmentation (areas of skin that are darker than surrounding skin) or hypopigmentation (areas of skin that are lighter than surrounding skin).
  • Infection
    The most common type of infection caused by laser hair removal is folliculitis, the inflammation and infection of hair follicles. 


The American Academy of Dermatology advises that laser hair removal can be dangerous in inexperienced hands – having your treatment performed by a medical doctor who is extremely skilled in using lasers and caring for skin can greatly reduce the risk of possible side effects.

Who Is Laser Hair Removal Ideal For?

Laser hair removal is worth considering for anyone who’s interested in a permanent reduction of body hair. But it’s not for everyone.


Laser hair removal is best for:

  • Individuals with light skin and dark, coarse hair
  • People who are willing to spend upwards of $1000 to treat an area
  • Anyone with a high pain tolerance
  • Someone who’d rather not take care of hair removal on their own


Laser hair removal may not be best for:

  • People with very dark skin or very light body hair
  • Those looking for a lower-cost hair removal option
  • Anyone nervous about pain and/or the possible side effects


Answers to Your Burning Questions About Laser Hair Removal Side Effects

Can laser hair removal increase your risk of skin cancer?

No. Laser hair removal does not cause cancer. It does not utilize harmful UV rays that have been linked to causing skin cancer. It’s also worth noting that laser hair removal mechanisms use non-ionizing radiation, it does not have the same long-term health risks as x-rays or other types of ionizing radiation including cancer.

Can laser hair removal cause permanent skin damage?

Typically, laser hair removal does not cause permanent skin damage. But when powerful medical lasers are involved, adverse side effects including permanent skin damage are a possibility. You can minimize the possibility of permanent skin damage by visiting a professional.

Can laser hair removal result in increased hair growth?

No evidence suggests that laser hair removal results in increased hair growth.


In some cases, laser hair removal may not offer the permanent, totally-hairless results you may have been expecting, but even if it doesn’t reduce your body hair as much as you’d hope, it certainly shouldn’t cause MORE hair to grow than you had when you started.

Is laser hair removal safe for sensitive areas like the face or bikini line?

Yes, laser hair removal is a safe option for the face and bikini line. It’s typically more painful, but it can still be done and it’s very effective on pubic hair and PCOS facial hair.

How to Care for Your Skin to Avoid Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal Treatments

Properly caring for your skin before and after treatment can greatly reduce the risk of laser hair removal side effects, especially serious ones. 

Before laser hair removal:

  • Shave the area you’re going to treat. Failure to shave the area can cause burns.
  • Clean the area. Be sure your skin is free of any creams or gels.
  • Wear proper eye protection to avoid eye injury.
  • Avoid sun exposure. Laser hair removal should not be done on tanned or burned skin.


Learn more: How to Prepare for Laser Hair Removal

After laser hair removal:

  • Moisturize. This helps with basically every common side effect – itchiness, dryness, irritation, etc.
  • Avoid sun exposure. For at least a week following treatment, use SPF 50+ on the treated area whenever it may be exposed to sunlight.
  • When in doubt, consult your physician. They’ll gauge whether any side effects are normal and may help to treat any abnormal burns or infections before they lead to scars.


Learn more: Laser Hair Removal Aftercare


Introducing IPL: A Gentle Alternative to Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal isn’t the only way you can achieve permanent hair removal. IPL handsets like Lumi offer permanent hair removal you can do on your own at home – without the pain and with far fewer side effects.


As far as IPL vs laser hair removal goes: it’s similar to laser, only it uses broader light pulses, making it less painful, easier to treat a larger area, and FDA-cleared for safe home use. IPL treatment is less taxing on skin as well, so there are fewer serious side effects. IPL is also significantly less expensive than laser – you can get Lumi for a one-time cost of $229 USD and use it to treat your entire body if you want to. IPL is worth looking into if you’re concerned about the side effects of laser hair removal.


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