What are the possible Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal?

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Using lasers to permanently get rid of unwanted hair may have unwanted, but usually mild side effects. Laser hair removal utilizes heat to disable the root of a hair follicle by closing the blood vessels that feed the hair. Usually, a short-lived irritation will form around each hair follicle. Small red bumps may also be present after treatments in places where hair is coarsest.

These side effects of laser hair removal are short lived, usually dissipating within hours in the majority of cases. However, the redness can occasionally persist for up to 24 hours, before this side effect completely disappears.

The red bumps which that may form after hair removal treatments are a possible side effect known as “follicular edema.” Follicular edema is a response to the thermal energy of the laser. Sometimes referred to as “ant bites,” this side effect occurs during and shortly after the completion of laser treatment.

The duration of this side effect can be between 30 minutes and 48 hours. Patients are directed to avoid shaving until the red bumps disappear to avoid irritating the skin. For some patients, a hydrocortisone cream or the simple application of a cold compress can be used to alleviate the swelling and restore the skin to its natural state.

Blisters or burns constitute more serious, and far less common, side effects of laser hair removal. They may occur for a number of reasons:

  • Improper fluence (too much energy is absorbed by the skin because of improper settings by the laser hair removal practitioner)
  • Wrong laser (different lasers are used for laser hair removal treatment, depending on the patient’s skin type)
  • Too much tanning (skin that is too tanned will compete with the laser for the energy and consequently absorb too much heat at the surface rather than the base of the hair follicle)
  • Improper Cooling (if the patient pulls away, the laser malfunctions or the laser energy comes in contact in another manner without proper surface cooling)

To eliminate or lessen the side effects of laser hair removal, it is important to identify an experienced practitioner with the appropriate laser equipment for your skin type.


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