If you’re considering having laser you’ve probably been told about all the benefits, and there are plenty! However it’s not as easy to find information about the negatives or the risks of Laser Hair removal. While this is not to be worried about, it’s better to have all the facts. I’ve been carrying out these treatments for 15 years so I’m going to tell you the risks of Laser and what to watch out for.
It Won’t Work?
You may not consider this as one of the risks of laser hair removal, but I suppose you are risking your money! If your hair is blonde, grey, light red or silver/white – basically hair which has lost its colour or has very little colour – it won’t work. This is because there’s not enough colour (melanin) to absorb the laser light, and so not enough heat is created to destroy it. You may get a very small amount of reduction, but in my opinion it’s not worth you paying for it.
Most of the time Laser works like a treat, but not on every single person every time. There is a small percentage of the population who don’t respond even though they are a perfect candidate. A perfect candidate by the way, is someone with fair skin and dark hair. Fine hair is much harder to get rid of, whereas thick coarse hair is much easier to destroy.
A Bad Reaction
A normal reaction for Laser is slightly red irritated looking skin, with swollen follicles. So you might look like you’ve got lots of chicken pox, or like ‘plucked chicken’ skin. A small blister is rare, and not too much to worry about, just don’t pick it and it should heal fine.
However if the wrong laser is used or the settings are too high for your skin, you could get a burn. Or if you laser tanned skin this could also cause a problem.
Instead of the heat just disappearing after a laser treatment, it may start to get worse, with lots of blisters, oozing skin and then crusting. You should get this looked at. The skin may then turn pigmented / dark brown in colour and not turn back. (If you’ve ever burnt your hand on the cooker and your skin is scarred, then this is just the same.. too much heat for the skin to take)
Just make sure that you go somewhere that has the right Laser for you. If the correct Laser system is used on the correct skin colour by someone who is experienced then you should have nothing to worry about.
If you have really dark skin, you are more difficult to treat. Firstly you have to be careful which laser is used, as some lasers are not suitable. There’s also a risk that darker skin can suddenly change colour and go lighter after having laser. Before you start cancelling your appointment – this is quite rare – and studies show that in most cases the skin reverts back to normal about 3-4 months later.
You need to be careful about going in the sun /daylight for 4 weeks after laser. Think of laser light intense sun light or mild sunburn. You wouldn’t go in the sun immediately after would you? It’s just too much light and heat for your skin to take. You should protect the skin which has been lasered in daylight with a sun cream. If you don’t do this, you can cause permanent pigment damage, when the skin goes lighter or darker forever, and won’t go back. After 4 weeks though, you can carry on as normal, the risk has gone.
It Causes More Hair not Less?
This last one is a fairly new revelation. It’s now been proven that Laser can cause something called ‘reactive hair growth’ or hypertrichosis. What this means is the warmth created from the treatment can cause new hair to grow that wasn’t there before!
It’s believed this effect is more likely from low powered laser – either low powered machines or treatments carried out at low settings. So you may want to think twice about getting a home laser device. Most of the time they are not powerful enough to cause enough damage, which means there’s a chance they can be doing the opposite and making you more hairy!
One study found that 3 people out of 489 had extra hair grow after Laser treatments. They all had dark skin and fine dark hair. You can read that study here. The theory is that very fine downy hair is ‘spurred on’ by the warmth created from Laser which makes them stronger and thicker. Studies suggest it affects around 1% of the population – with dark skin types being most at risk.
From my experience, you can combat the effect of reactive hair growth by heavily cooling the surrounding areas. For example if you are getting laser on your jawline, and you have downy hair on your neck, you can prevent your neck becoming more hairy. A machine like a ‘Cryo Cooler’ can be used to cool your neck at the same time, to stop the heat spreading there and reduce any risk of this happening.
I hope I’ve not totally put you off having Laser Hair Removal. If you know what the risks of laser hair removal are then you are well prepared, and there’s less chance of you having a problem. To reassure you (despite this list) it really is a great treatment and in 15 years I’ve had very few issues. If you have any other questions about the risks of laser, you can always email me here.