Laser hair removal (and its first cousin, IPL) are common ways to keep our skin soft, smooth, and free of unwanted hair. As the summer months creep up on us and our wardrobes include more skin-revealing styles, it only makes sense that people want to use laser hair removal to get rid of any fuzz.
But is it safe to go bake in the sun after an IPL sesh? What about baking in the sun before a laser appointment? How about using laser hair removal when you have a fake tan going on?
There are so many questions to consider when it comes to laser hair removal treatments during the summer months. We’re diving into everything you need to know about sunning and laser hair removal safety for summer.
How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?
Laser hair removal is a common way to remove unwanted hair from your body. Laser hair removal uses one concentrated beam of light to destroy hair follicles at the source.
Time to put our scientist hats on: Essentially, when the laser emits light on the skin, the melanin (or pigment) absorbs the energy from that light. The energy heats the hair from the top to the bottom, all the way down to the root that lies beneath the surface of the skin.
In this process, the hair follicle is destroyed. But, like, in a totally safe and non-damaging-to-the-skin way.
Because the laser uses such concentrated light, it is quite effective. Results are unique to everyone since we all have different skin and hair, but many people see their hair completely gone after just four treatments. Still, that is four whole trips to and from your doctor’s office. No one loves traffic that much — there’s gotta be a better way!
Laser v. IPL: What Is The Difference?
IPL (AKA, intense pulsed light) is a technology that also uses light to remove hair, but it’s not the same as laser.
The most notable difference between these two hair removal techniques is the type of light used. While laser hair removal devices use a single-spectrum light, IPL devices use a multi-spectrum light. Because IPL emits scattered wavelengths of light, it does not provide the same concentrated energy around the hairs in the way that laser does. But is that a bad thing?
Not at all! IPL is a super effective way to see long-term results over large and small areas of skin alike. You’ll see noticeable hair removal results after just four uses and full results after twelve — all of which you can do from the comfort of your couch while you watch New Girl. Yeah, that’s way better than sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic IMHO.
Now, let’s get back to talking tanning! For the purpose of this article, we used the words “laser hair removal” frequently, but all of the information below can be used whether you are getting laser hair removal or IPL.
Time to dive into all of the juicy stuff you need to know for summer hair removal.
Is It Bad To Remove Hair If You Already Have a Tan?
So you already have a tan, goddess-like glow – congrats! We’re envious. But, oh no, you see some pesky hairs sprouting up on your legs (or anywhere on your body) and you want them GONE. We get it.
Here is what you need to know: Long story short, getting laser hair removal or IPL while you have a tan — whether it’s a fake or real one — won’t hurt you, but it can be annoying AF.
First off, a tan could make the laser treatment less effective since the contrast between your hair color and skin color has likely decreased due to time spent in the sun. But, that is really only scratching the surface.
After a tanning session, your skin is highly sensitive. It makes sense, after all your skin has been working overtime to protect itself from further damage — not that a tan or hair removal is actually damage, but you know what we mean. Using a laser treatment on heat-sensitive skin isn’t the best idea if you’re trying to avoid hyperpigmentation.
So, here is how to make sure your skin is prepped, ready, and safe before your next laser appointment or at-home IPL sesh.
What To Do If You Have a Real Tan…
Your skin is sensitive right now, so you need to let it rest. If you are currently rocking a nice tan, you should wait at least two weeks before your next laser treatment. In the meantime, try to stay out of the sun, especially on those areas that you want to treat with laser. Time to break out your fashionable big hats and swim cover-ups!
What To Do If You Have a Fake Tan…
IPL and laser devices cannot tell the difference between a fake tan and a real one. That means the treatment may be less effective, and hyperpigmentation may still be in the cards.
The first step is to wait to treat your skin until your tan is gone. If you want to speed up the process of getting rid of your fake tan, try exfoliating. Since tanner only affects the top layer of your skin, gentle exfoliation can help remove it.
Our Deep Exfoliation Glove is an easy way to buff away dead skin and that fake tan. Not only will you be super smooth after an exfoliating session, but your skin will be one step closer to being laser-ready. Just exfoliate with the glove 24 hours before using your IPL device, and you’ll be ready for your smoothest skin yet.
At only $20USD this is a really affordable exfoliating product because you can use it again and again.
How Long After Laser Hair Removal Should You Wait To Tan?
So, you just got lasered and know you are itching to get back into the sun. Yes, we know laying out under a high UV can be tempting, but tread lightly. After a laser hair removal session, your skin is sensitive and needs time to recoup. If you expose your skin to excessive UV rays, you are not really giving your skin the time it needs to properly heal.
This is why we highly HIGHLY recommend avoiding sunbathing and tanning beds at all costs. Like, not even for hair removal purposes. We just generally don’t recommend it if you want your skin to be smooth and youthful for the long term.
If you have to go out and spend time in the sun, protect yourself. Throw on a wide-brimmed hat and long-sleeve shirt, and keep a tube of SPF on you at all times. Oh yeah and make sure you actually apply it too.
The best practice is to stay away from tanning and sunbathing for two weeks after a laser hair removal treatment.
What Are Other Tips To Make Sure You Remove Hair Safely in the Summer?
We are all about helping you love the skin you're in, and one of the best ways to do that is to practice safe sunning. We know that it is not realistic for everyone to avoid the sun completely. Some of us live in hot, sunny climates where it is not always reasonable to stay covered up all summer long (not to humblebrag or anything).
So, here is what you should know to practice safe sunning and safe hair removal this summer.
Try To Avoid the Sun
We’ve talked about this one quite a bit already, but it’s because it is THAT important. You do not need to avoid laser hair removal completely in the summer, but if you are going to use laser or IPL, you really need to be careful with those UV rays.
Sun makes your skin more sensitive to heat. Laser makes your skin more sensitive to a variety of external elements. Avoid sun exposure two weeks before you laser and two weeks after. This one is a non-negotiable. If you want to break a rule, do not let it be this one.
Don’t Laser Areas Typically Exposed to the Sun
Some of your body parts see the sun a lot more than others. Your legs, feet, hands, and arms are just some of the body parts that see the sun and see it often. In the summer especially, more and more of your skin is exposed to the sun’s harsh rays.
Even if your skin does not look super tan to the naked eye, your skin is still being exposed and affected by the UVA and UVB rays.
Certain areas are summer no-brainers, like your underarm and bikini line. These areas see less sun on the daily, so they’re ready for a little IPL love. As for areas that are more frequently exposed to the sun — like your legs and arms, for example — SPF is your new best friend.
Wear Sunscreen Every Day
Wait…you’re not wearing sunscreen every day already? Even if you do not use laser, you should be wearing sunscreen every. single. day.
Heck, even in winter you should be putting on SPF. Our skin is constantly being exposed to the suns rays. UVB rays can penetrate clouds and windows, so we’re never really completely safe from the sun. Unless we wear sunscreen, that is.
Not only does SPF prevent you from getting sunburns and making skin incompatible with laser, but it can help slow down premature signs of aging. Most importantly, it can protect you from skin cancer. If you haven’t already, it’s time to find a great SPF and make it your new best friend.
Give Your Skin Time To Heal
Time heals all wounds, literally and metaphorically. It also can help expedite the healing process of your skin post-laser. We’ve mentioned the two weeks multiple times now, but we’ll say it again. Wait two weeks to expose yourself to the sun after treatment.
Any other precautions you should take during that time? We’ve got plenty. Directly after your laser treatment, your skin is very sensitive. Laser is a lot for your skin to handle, and even if it looks completely fine, you’re best leaving it alone as much as you can.
This is especially important for the first 48 hours after your treatment when your hair follicles are most sensitive and more vulnerable to infection. Because of this, you should avoid the ocean, chlorinated pools, hot tubs, saunas, and exercising for two days post-treatment.
Excessive sweat could cause a rash… ew. You should also hold off on any further skin exfoliation like using a body scrub or a loofah.
After 48 hours, feel free to dive back into the water and get your sweat on.
Get Ready for Smooth, Tanned Summer Skin
Whether you’re a laser hair removal veteran who just needs a yearly touchup or a newbie who needs the treatments a lot more frequently, we could all use some help getting to know exactly how to make this hair removal method safer and more comfortable.
We hope this guide helped you get a better sense of how to make sure you are doing laser hair removal right this summer.
If you want to get some hair removal sessions in before summertime, why not try one of our at-home IPL devices? There’s still time before the UV gets too high.