Overview of Laser Hair Removal

In this procedure, a laser is used to destroy unwanted hair in the hair follicles. Hair removal requires several treatments, usually spaced 4 to 6 weeks apart. Experienced practitioners often can estimate the number of treatments that will be required to achieve the desired results. To achieve the desired percentage of hair reduction, some areas of the body, such as the back and legs, typically require more treatments than the face, bikini line, or underarms.

Before treatment, the targeted area is cleansed and dried and the unwanted hair is shaved to remove it from the skin's surface. As with all laser procedures, both the practitioner and the patient must wear eye protection during the procedure. The type and intensity of the laser used depends on the hair's location, color, and thickness, as well as the patient's skin color. Severe pain during the procedure might indicate the need to adjust the laser's intensity.

After the procedure, the patient may experience redness and discomfort that can be relieved by ice, anti-inflammatory ointment, or over-the-counter pain medication. Risks are few and complications are rare. Side effects include burns, blisters, and scarring. Serious complications (e.g., scarring) occur more frequently in settings that lack direct physician supervision. Patients are strongly urged to stay out of the direct sun for at least a week following treatment.

Publication Review By: Christopher J. Dannaker, M.D.

Published: 26 Jul 2006

Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015