Laser Therapy for Unwanted Hair

In laser/light therapy – also known as intense pulsed light therapy – a hand-held device applies flashes of light to the skin in the treatment area. Sometimes a cooling spray, air or gel also is applied. Patients may feel a tingling or stinging sensation, but discomfort is generally minimal. Multiple treatments are needed in some cases, usually over monthly intervals. Treatments can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the treatment area.

Possible Risks

As with any treatment, there are risks associated with it, though they are minimized in the hands of a qualified ASDS dermatologist. These include:

  • Pain
  • Blisters
  • Burns
  • Skin pigmentation problems
  • Scarring

What you should know

Intense pulsed light systems are different from lasers in that they can deliver hundreds of wavelengths in each burst of light. The light is filtered to allow it to perform as precisely as a laser. Like a laser, the burst of light to the hair causes damage to the follicle.

Before (top) and after (bottom) laser hair removal to the jawline.

Photo courtesy of Pearl E. Grimes, MD - Los Angeles, California

What to expect after the procedure

Following treatment, patients should expect:

  • Redness and swelling of the hair follicle, which is a normal occurrence.
  • Pain and discomfort, which can be easily treated with over-the-counter pain medicines.
  • To be given a prescription for a topical antiseptic cream to be applied after treatment.
  • To avoid direct sun exposure for at least one week following all laser hair removal procedures.

How to prepare for the procedure

Before the procedure, an ASDS dermatologist will usually review the patient’s medical history and conduct a physical exam. This is the time for the doctor and patient to discuss expectations, potential risks and outcomes of the procedure. Patients also should:

  • Avoid sunbathing, tanning beds, waxing, chemical peels or collagen injections for two weeks prior to the procedure.
  • Avoid perfumes, deodorants or any potential irritants in the treatment area before and after treatment.
  • Avoid aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements due to increased risk of bleeding.