Everything you need to know before getting laser hair removal (2023)

If you've been debating laser hair removal, you have come to the right place. As you're surely aware, there's a lot to consider and it's important to do your research first whether you're looking for a clinic or considering investing in at home device.

Only once you've read up on the pros and cons of laser hair removal and the subsequent side effects can you make a decision if the treatment is right for you.

Not only does laser hair removal help remove unwanted hair, but it also can help with other issues like ingrown hairs, which are prone to causing hyperpigmentation, especially in deep skin tones.

While we've come a long way in accepting our body hair, we totally understand that for some, permanent removal is still the goal. In that case laser would definitely be worth the investment.

However, it's important to remember that laser doesn't always result in permanent hair removal and there are many other methods like waxing, threading, shaving and tweezing. Not to mention at-home IPL devices.

The one thing you can be sure of with laser hair removal is that it takes time and money. Sadly it's not a one and done job and normally 8-12 treatments are recommended, spaced over 4-6 weeks. However this can vary based on the individual and area you are treating.

To answer some of your burning questions, we spoke to experts at Pulse Light Clinic and sk:n clinic about everything you need to know prior to getting laser, as well as sharing our personal experiences after having the treatment ourselves.

Below you’ll find straight facts and have all your laser myths busted – from triggering hair growth (rarely) to having to avoid sun exposure (always).

1. The process sounds painful, but isn’t too bad

Dr. Daron Seukeran, Group Medical Director at the sk:n clinic explains that laser hair removal works by sending the light of a laser through the pigment in the hair. “This (light) converts to heat, which damages the hair follicle and hair bulb.” In our experience we found it to be a quick, sharp pain which was more painful on thinner skin near the nose, chin and temples. Thankfully, the lasers used on us had a cooling mechanism (basically a constantly running cold blast of air right where the laser was pointing) which really helped. We also found it more painful if our body temperature was raised due to running across town to make it on time for our appointments. So time management really does help.

Everything you need to know before getting laser hair removal (1)

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2. Patience pays off

It takes two or three weeks after your first treatment to see a difference, and 8 -12 treatments to get the full result. You also have to be really regular with your appointments because your hair follicles are all at different stages of their growth, so you want to make sure each one has a chance to get zapped. Basically if you stop, your hair will grow back.

“Laser hair removal gets to the root of the problem, literally,” says Lucy Dawe, Senior Consultant at Pulse Light Clinic. “The laser will target the hair that is in its active growth stage. Clients may find hair to appear finer and less noticeable after one treatment but a course of treatments is essential to see optimal results.”

3. You’ve got to use a hair trimmer/shave the area before you laser (same goes for makeup)

The laser can react with hair on the skin’s surface which will cause some irritation and sometimes that dreaded burnt hair smell which we learnt first hand, yay. Thankfully for us, we knew the whole ‘shaving = thicker darker hair’ was a really common beauty myth and came shaved before our subsequent appointments.

Remember, you have to make sure you've prepped properly before each visit for the optimum results.

Lucy says these are the key things to remember:

  1. The area must be cleanly shaved within 24 hours prior to the treatment. Electric razors are not recommended as the hair is typically left too long.
  2. Do not tweeze, wax or pluck the area being treated between or prior to sessions. Only shave the area.
  3. The treatment area needs to be free from makeup, lotion, deodorant and sun cream- inform the practitioner before treatment starts if you require wipes.
  4. The area cannot be treated if it has been exposed to sun within 4 weeks prior to treatment.
  5. Fake tanning products cannot be used 3-4 weeks prior to treatment; the area should be thoroughly exfoliated to remove all residues.

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    4. It’s actually a pretty fast process

    A full face appointment can take as little as 20 minutes and that's including a quick chat and makeup removal at the start.

    5. You can’t go to the gym afterwards

    It's important to remember that the heat from the laser stays in your skin for 24 hours. That means no gym, saunas or hot showers, get it? If you do, you run the risk of creating a lovely warm environment for bacteria to multiply, resulting in spots and irritation.

    6. Get ready to think seriously about the sun

    Your dermatologist will advise what is best for you, but you might need to avoid sunbathing and sun exposure as much as possible before and after treatment. Also if you have a tan you’ll need to wait till it fades before you can start your treatment. Again, your dermatologist will check in with you about upcoming holidays to make sure you don’t have a holiday coming up which might affect the timing of your next appointment.

    7. Laser treatment can trigger more growth in some cases

    It’s true, particular types of hair can be stimulated into growing longer and thicker. But don’t worry, if your hair isn’t suitable, your dermatologist will let you know.

    “Yes, in a rare number of cases laser hair removal can stimulate growth,” says Lucy. “We have found the most common reason for stimulated hair growth is when certain types of finer hair, known as vellus hairs are stimulated into growth by the light from the laser."

    8. You might need to switch up your beauty regime and products

    Scrubs, glycolic acid and retinol creams should be avoided two days before and after treatment. We also started using face mists and added extra hydration to our regime as we found our skin got drier.

    It’s recommended that for a two week period before and after laser, you avoid chemical peels and similarly you should wait 1-2 weeks before using fake tan.

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    9. Laser hair removal has more than one benefit

    We were surprised to learn that laser can actually help with irritating ingrown hairs. “Aside from clearer, smoother skin and permanent hair reduction, laser hair removal also boasts benefits including helping to reduce ingrowing hairs and less irritation of the skin. This is because the treatment encourages hair to grow straight,” said sk:n’s Head of Medical Standards, Lisa Mason.

    10. You can’t pluck, dye or wax the hair

    Plucking, waxing and bleaching impedes the process. If you want to be hairless throughout the process, go the shaving route instead. You’ll need these tips to make each shave last longer though.

    Everything you need to know before getting laser hair removal (11)

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    11. It works on all skin tones

    The hair just needs to be dark enough to be drawn to the laser. sk:n use long pulsed ND:YAG lasers – which are safer for treating pigmented or darker skin tones.

    “Older laser hair removal technology was previously not recommended for people of darker skin tones, in particular those with Black or Asian skin,” says Lucy. “The energy from the laser targets the pigment in the hair, with the pigment of the skin being shallower, this could lead the laser to be attracted to the skin rather than the pigment in the hair. Putting darker skin tones at risk of burning.”

    12. You might need to go back for top up treatments

    Most people report 90 percent permanent reduction in hair growth but fluctuating hormones can make hair grow back. "Depending on your hair growth and each individual clients' case, at the end of the treatments we may recommend some top up treatments which could take place with larger periods in between quarterly, or twice a year," advises Lucy.

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    Keeks ReidContributing Beauty EditorKeeks Reid is the Contributing Beauty Editor at Cosmopolitan UK.

    Laura CaponSenior Fashion & Beauty WriterLaura writes about everything beauty and fashion related for Cosmopolitan UK and specialises in makeup, plus-size fashion and the world of YouTube.

    FAQs

    What is the best way to prepare for laser hair removal? ›

    Any treatment areas should be shaved completely prior to treatment. Legs should be shaved around 24 hours prior to your appointment to avoid irritation. Do not wax, tweeze, epilate or use chemical depilatories for two weeks before treatment, or at all in between laser treatments.

    Can I shave less than 12 hours before laser? ›

    It is important to shave before your laser hair removal appointment, 24 hours before is recommended. Shaving on the day of your session can be dangerous and should be avoided completely. This is because when you shave the razor may lift a layer of skin off as it passes over your skin.

    What are the do's and don'ts before laser? ›

    Below are the dos and don'ts before a laser procedure.
    • Clean Your Skin Before the Treatment. ...
    • Stop Waxing or Plucking. ...
    • Shave the Treatment Area. ...
    • Avoid Sun Exposure. ...
    • Use Medications with Caution. ...
    • Use Skin Products Carefully. ...
    • Avoid Alcohol. ...
    • Refrain from Drinking Coffee.
    29 Mar 2022

    What makes you a good candidate for laser hair removal? ›

    The best candidates for this type of hair removal are those who have pale skin and dark hair. The contrast between light skin and dark hair allows the melanin to be easily targeted. Blond, fine hairs cannot be targeted by the lasers and therefore, cannot be removed with this method.

    What happens if I don't shave before laser? ›

    As we mentioned a little earlier, if you don't shave before your appointment, the laser will singe the hair resulting in a burn to your skin. In addition, if the hair hasn't been shaved properly, treatment will not be as effective, and it may result in small temporary grazes on the top layer of your skin.

    How soon can you shower after laser hair removal? ›

    How long after laser hair removal can I shower? Ideally 24 hours, but if you must shower wait at least 6-8 hours after your session. Use tepid water and avoid using any harsh products, scrubs, exfoliating mitts, loofahs or sponges on your treatment area.

    What happens if you shave between laser appointments? ›

    Yes, you can shave between sessions. Some hair growth is expected between treatments (usually a four to six-week gap between treatments). It's perfectly okay to shave any region of the body between laser hair removal sessions. We strongly recommend that all clients shave before each session.

    Does Brazilian laser include crack? ›

    A "Brazilian" laser session typically removes all of the hair in the pubic region, the vulva, the perineum, and around the anus. If there is significant hair growth in the butt crack, or on the buttocks themselves, your healthcare provider may offer this area to be treated as well.

    What happens after 1 session of laser hair removal? ›

    Indeed, even after your first laser hair removal session, you will see results. Unwanted body hair will start shedding after your first session and you will see the difference. Laser hair removal is superior to other hair removal methods in many ways.

    Can I shave an hour before my laser? ›

    “When Should I Stop Shaving?” When you're getting ready for your laser hair removal procedure, make sure you shave the night before or the morning of your treatment. The reason for this precaution is simple – you want to remove as much hair as possible so that it doesn't absorb most of the laser's energy.

    How do you stay calm during laser hair removal? ›

    Drink Water Before Your Session for Laser Hair Removal

    It also helps stabilize your pain tolerance. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol is always a strong recommendation since both can lower your pain threshold by dehydrating your body. Be sure to drink water to flush your system of any caffeine or alcohol.

    What type of hair responds best to laser? ›

    Coarse hair responds better than fine, or vellus, hair. It really doesn't matter that much if you have thinner hair, the laser is seeking the pigment, not the density of the hair follicle.

    What questions should I ask before laser hair removal? ›

    Questions to Ask a Laser Hair Removal Technician Before Your Treatment
    • When Should I Start Treatment? ...
    • How Many Treatments Do I Need? ...
    • Am I an Ideal Candidate for Laser Hair Removal? ...
    • Are There Side Effects? ...
    • What Equipment Do You Use? ...
    • Is Your Staff Trained Properly? ...
    • Is Downtime Necessary? ...
    • What If I'm Taking Medication?

    Is 1 laser session enough? ›

    Laser hair removal is a simple, effective option for women and men. But as you may or may not know, one session isn't enough to destroy hairs permanently. You need to undergo multiple treatments to achieve your ideal results.

    Do you tip every laser session? ›

    “Tips are always appreciated but voluntary. A client will get the same service whether they tip or not. Because laser hair removal takes multiple sessions, Karavolas advises that tipping is typically done after each visit.

    Will I notice a difference after one session of laser? ›

    After Your First Treatment: You probably won't notice much difference after your first laser hair removal treatment at the London clinic. It takes some time for the effect on your hair to become visible and you will need more treatment sessions before re-growth starts to slow down.

    Can I shave 2 days before my laser? ›

    Many people also wonder if they should shave before their treatment. The short answer is yes, you should shave — but it's important that you don't wax for a week before your treatment. If the hair on your treatment area is too long, you could risk getting burned.

    What happens if you shave less than 24 hours before laser hair removal? ›

    Therefore, if you shave less than 24 hours before your scheduled appointment then there won't be enough hair present to burn, and this can cause irritation to the treatment area.

    Why do I have stubble after laser hair removal? ›

    Stubble, representing dead hair being shed from the hair follicle, will appear within 5-30 days from the treatment date. that is normal & they will fall out quickly. Exfoliate to speed up hair shedding. Anywhere from 5-30 days after the treatment, shedding of the hair may occur & this may appear as new hair growth.

    Do you smell after laser hair removal? ›

    Colonization by odor-producing bacteria is thereby transferred away from the skin to the hairs. With the removal of hairs it is possible that these bacteria now remain present on the skin and the skin flora is changed leading to increased body odor." She did point out, however, that it is rare.

    What can you not do after getting laser? ›

    Avoid make-up on the treated area for at least 48 hours. Avoid the application of perfumed products or bleaching creams for 48 hours. Avoid scratching the treatment area if blistering or crusting occurs, as this can cause scarring. Avoid waxing, tweezing and threading for the complete duration of the treatment course.

    Can I pluck in between laser? ›

    Laser Hair Removal Dont's

    You should not pluck or wax the unwanted hair between treatments. Processes such as plucking and waxing will interfere with the root of the hair follicle and the whole follicle itself.

    Can I shave immediately after laser? ›

    If you shave too quickly you may irritate the skin even more, so waiting at least three or four days after your treatment is usually ideal. A few days following your laser hair removal treatment, you may notice your hair shedding.

    How long after laser will hair fall out? ›

    Do the hairs fall out right away? In many patients the skin is slightly pink for 1-2 days; in others (generally, fairer patients) there is no pinkness after laser hair removal. Hairs begin to fall out in 5-14 days and may continue to do so for weeks.

    What hurts more Brazilian or laser? ›

    Like the underarms, laser hair removal tends to be more painful along the bikini line. It's said to feel similar to waxing, but the difference is that laser removal takes longer. However, you might find the discomfort worth the long-term results.

    Is it normal to have hair in your bum for a girl? ›

    Yes, butt hair is totally normal! Most women have some sort of butt hair. It may be thin and peach-fuzz-like, or it may be thicker and more coarse, like pubic hair. You may have thin hair, like the kind on your legs or back, on your butt cheeks.

    How many laser hair removal treatments are needed for butt? ›

    If you want to get laser hair removal on your bum, you can expect to need four to six treatments, resulting in a 70 percent reduction in hair growth. Using a prescription cream like Vaniqa can help slow and reduce hair growth even more following laser removal.

    How can I speed up the shedding process after laser? ›

    What Can I Do to Speed up Shedding? Shedding is a good sign, since it means the LHR treatments are effectively removing your hair. But if you want to help speed up this process, you can gently exfoliate your skin using a shower loofah or body scrub after laser hair removal.

    Is 3 sessions enough for laser hair removal? ›

    So, how many laser hair removal sessions are necessary to get rid of your unwanted hair for good? The answer depends on your individual needs, but most people can finish their initial treatment within 4-6 treatments. When the sessions are done, you will enjoy the numerous benefits of a life without unwanted hair.

    What should I do the night before laser? ›

    Shave, don't wax!

    Laser will only work on hairs that have the root still intact, so don't wax, epilate or use depilatory creams before treatment. To prepare for your laser hair removal, shave the area 12-14 hours before your appointment with a clean, sharp razor.

    Can you get laser with ingrown hairs? ›

    Laser hair removal can actually remove ingrown hairs rather than simply alleviate the irritation that they cause. You can get laser hair removal even while you have ingrown hairs and the treatment will still be as effective and even lead to permanent hair removal after enough laser hair removal sessions.

    How painful is laser hair removal? ›

    Yes, laser removal does cause discomfort, but it typically causes much less discomfort than other forms of hair removal, especially waxing. Many individuals describe laser hair removal as akin to the feeling of a rubber band snapping against your skin.

    How long after laser hair removal do you see results? ›

    Most people start to see their hair fall out three to five days after their laser hair removal session. The hair follicles in the targeted areas are damaged with each laser pulse. Once the hair follicles are damaged, they release the hairs they were growing, and they can't grow any more hairs.

    Does laser hurt less each time? ›

    Yes, laser hair removal does hurt less the more sessions you have. After each session hair is becoming lighter and the amount of hair is reduced. If you leave too long in between sessions you may find treatments are a little more sensitive.

    What hurts more tattoo or laser hair removal? ›

    Pain or sensation from laser hair removal is often described as an elastic band snapping against the skin. In comparison to having a Tattoo, the pain difference is chalk and cheese. Getting a Tattoo is far more painful than laser hair removal.

    How many sitting does it take for laser hair removal? ›

    A person may on an average need about 6-8 sittings, at intervals as prescribed, to permanently damage most of the hair follicles in the particular area being treated.

    Does laser work better on thick or thin hair? ›

    Laser works best on thick, coarse dark hairs as there is an abundance of melanin present. The energy from the laser is rapidly absorbed by thick heavily pigmented hair which makes treatment very effective.

    Is darker hair better for laser? ›

    Yes. Laser hair removal is actually most effective on very dark hair as the laser itself is attracted to the pigment in the hair follicle. The more pigment in your hair (and darker hair has more pigment) the more effective laser hair removal can be.

    Is there anything better than laser hair removal? ›

    But electrolysis seems to work the best. The results are more permanent. Electrolysis also carries fewer risks and side effects, and you don't need the maintenance treatments required for laser hair removal. The downside is that electrolysis must be spread out over more sessions.

    How do I prepare for my first laser? ›

    How to prepare for laser hair removal
    1. Stop plucking and waxing. Once you decide to go with laser hair removal, it's important to stop any other hair removal method that takes out hair at the root. ...
    2. Shave 24-48 hours before treatment. ...
    3. Refrain from tanning. ...
    4. Use caution with certain medications.
    2 Oct 2015

    What to do before laser to make it hurt less? ›

    Acetaminophen or Tylenol taken one hour before your appointment may help reduce your pain experience. Be sure to avoid NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and Alieve, which can thin the blood and cause bruising and bleeding during treatment.

    Is it better to trim or shave before laser hair removal? ›

    Ideally, you should shave the treatment area about 24 hours before your laser hair removal treatment. This will give the hair time to grow back a bit so that the laser can more easily target the hair follicle. If you are unable to shave before your appointment, don't worry – our staff will be able to do it for you.

    Should I shower before laser hair removal? ›

    Things to do before laser hair removal:

    While the treatment area itself will be cleaned before treatment begins, it is a good idea to have a bath or shower before coming in - remember no lotions, oils, or fragrances on the treatment area though!

    What part of laser hurts the most? ›

    The upper lip is easily the most painful area, since the skin here is thinner than anywhere else on your face. “It feels like a rubber band snap, very quick but very snappy,” explains Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., dermatologist and founder of Capital Laser & Skin Care.

    What body part hurts the most for laser? ›

    The underarms are among the most painful areas of the body to undergo laser hair removal because the skin is so thin. This isn't necessarily the case for the rest of your arms, though, where the pain is much milder.

    What laser area hurts the most? ›

    The Spot: Underarms

    The pain level is 9, and Dr. Tanzi's patients identify this level as the most painful area of the body regarding laser hair removal. When removing hair it feels like a thick needle, but it is useful for removing hair from underarms.

    Can I shave the same day as laser? ›

    When you're getting ready for your laser hair removal procedure, make sure you shave the night before or the morning of your treatment. The reason for this precaution is simple – you want to remove as much hair as possible so that it doesn't absorb most of the laser's energy.

    What should you not do after laser? ›

    Skin should be patted dry & not rubbed during the first 48 hours. No makeup & lotion/moisturizer/deodorant for the first 24 hours. Keep the treated area clean & dry, if further redness or irritation persists, skip your makeup & moisturizer, & deodorant (for underarms) until the irritation has subsided.

    What should I apply immediately after laser? ›

    Keep the Skin Moisturized

    Your surgeon will most likely recommend a particular type of moisturizer for you to use after a laser treatment. It's common for people to apply petroleum jelly to the skin after an ablative treatment, such as Fraxel re:pair.

    Can I get laser on my period? ›

    Can I have my treatment when I am menstruating? Yes - you can still have laser hair removal treatment while on your period. We advise you to wear a tampon or menstrual cup if you would like to have the Brazilian area treated.

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