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.

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    What you should know before doing laser hair removal? ›

    8 things you should know before having laser hair removal
    1. You can't pluck, dye or wax the hair. ...
    2. The area should be shaved beforehand. ...
    3. You should avoid sun exposure. ...
    4. It's a quick process. ...
    5. You can't get it over tattoos. ...
    6. It's not too painful. ...
    7. The results can take a few weeks. ...
    8. Exercise and hot showers should be avoided afterwards.
    Sep 16, 2020

    How do I prepare my body for laser hair removal? ›

    How to get ready for your laser treatment
    1. Avoid any tanning. ...
    2. Leave at least 4 weeks before getting you laser treatment if your skin is tanned.
    3. Avoid waxing or plucking before laser hair removal. ...
    4. Do not bleach your hair. ...
    5. Clean the treatment area before your session.
    Jun 3, 2020

    Do you have to fully shave before laser hair removal? ›

    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 happens if you don't shave properly before laser hair removal? ›

    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.

    Can I shave 2 hours before laser hair removal? ›

    Shaving Before Laser Hair Removal Treatment

    It is best not to shave immediately before your treatment as this can disturb the skin. Also be sure to avoid abrasions or cuts if at all possible. For best results, use a new razor: remember this might be the last time you need to shave!

    Can you shave between laser hair removal? ›

    Yes, you can shave in between each session of laser hair removal. During your course of treatment you can shave any hairs that may regrow. After your first laser hair removal session you will notice that you won't need to shave as much as before. After 2-3 sessions you may only need to shave once in a 4-6 week period.

    How soon after laser can you shave? ›

    Everyone's body is different so the best thing to do is touch the skin to determine the sensitivity before shaving. 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.

    Can I shave 4 hours before laser? ›

    One of the most important things you can do to get ready for your appointment is shave the treatment area no less than 24 hours before your appointment date. Shaving before laser hair removal is important because the hair needs to be the right length for the laser to treat it effectively.

    What should I avoid after laser hair removal? ›

    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. Dead hairs will begin to shed 5-30 days after your treatment.

    How soon can you shower after laser hair removal? ›

    To limit skin irritation after laser hair removal, you shouldn't take a hot shower or a hot bath for 48 hours. If you want to bathe or shower, keep the water at a lukewarm temperature. This is because you want to avoid excess heat on the targeted areas of your laser treatment.

    What can I expect after my first laser treatment? ›

    After the procedure

    You might notice redness and swelling for the first few hours after laser hair removal. To reduce any discomfort, apply ice to the treated area. If you have a skin reaction immediately after laser hair removal, the doctor might apply a steroid cream to the affected area.

    Can I pull hairs out after laser? ›

    You should not pull out loose hairs after laser hair removal. Laser hair removal targets the hair follicle to permanently remove hair from the body. For successful results the follicle has to be present so the laser can target it. Waxing, plucking or threading removes the root of the hair follicle.

    Why is my hair growing back after laser? ›

    However, even though laser treatments damage hair follicles, they're not destroyed completely. Over time, the treated follicles may recover from the initial damage and grow hair again. It's a tall order to eliminate every hair follicle in a given area. Therefore, you may notice a tiny amount of hair regrowth.

    How long should my hair be for laser hair removal? ›

    "Freshly shaved is the best for treatment." If you can't resist waxing, allow hair to grow in for at least one week before a laser appointment. And although it takes several months for full laser hair removal, you can also shave in between visits.

    Is getting laser hair removal worth it? ›

    While laser treatment doesn't get rid of hair forever (only electrolysis is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for permanent hair removal), it does drastically reduce hair growth—to the point that many patients won't see any for months or even years, and the hairs that do crop up are often thinner ...

    Can I get laser on my period? ›

    Answer: Laser Hair removal can be done at any time even during your period. Having your menstrual period at the time of your Laser Hair Removal should not be a problem. It will not cause problems, be more painful and your laser specialist is a medical care giver processional so I would not worry and go through with it.

    What happens if you shave right before laser? ›

    Make sure you don't shave immediately before your laser hair removal treatment, as this increases the odds for inflammation and swelling.

    How do I prepare for Brazilian laser? ›

    To ensure your treatment is effective, the root of the hair needs to be present in the follicle without any hair sitting above the skin. This means you need to shave the area 12 hours before your appointment and avoiding waxing, epilating or use of depilatory creams at least two weeks prior.

    Is laser hair removal cancerous? ›

    Can laser hair removal cause cancer? It's a myth that laser hair removal can cause cancer. In fact, according to the Skin Care Foundation, the procedure is sometimes used to treat certain forms of precancerous lesions. Different lasers are used to treat sun damage and wrinkles.

    What happens if I stop laser hair removal? ›

    What Happens If You Wait Too Long Between Laser Hair Removal Treatments? In short: nothing. And that's the problem! If you want too long between treatments, your hair follicles won't be damaged enough to stop growing hair.

    How long after laser can you see results? ›

    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.

    Is it better to wax or shave before laser? ›

    You must avoid plucking, waxing or bleaching the hair for six weeks prior to treatment. Preserving the root and the pigment of the hair is imperative for the success of the laser treatment. It is important to shave the area to be treated the day or night before your appointment.

    How can I ease the pain of laser hair removal? ›

    Tips for Managing Pain During Laser Hair Removal
    1. Schedule the Procedure Around Your Period. ...
    2. Stay Hydrated. ...
    3. Medicate Before the Appointment. ...
    4. Shave Beforehand. ...
    5. Avoid Scratching. ...
    6. Choose the Right Pain Relievers. ...
    7. Wear Loose Clothing. ...
    8. Use Sunscreen.
    Jan 18, 2022

    Why do I have bumps after laser hair removal? ›

    Since the heat of the laser opens up your pores, your skin will be sensitive to these very tiny infections. They happen the same way as any acne would – dead skin cells and bacteria can't escape, so they create a puss-filled bubble as your body tries to get them out.

    Does laser hair removal 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.

    Can I shower before laser hair removal? ›

    Shower. 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 laser hair removal feels like? ›

    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.

    Can I do laser hair removal every 3 weeks? ›

    General guidelines are to wait four to six weeks between treatments on the face, and to allow eight to 10 weeks between laser hair removal on the rest of the body. Because your treatment area involves your arms and legs, three weeks between sessions is likely too short.

    How do I maintain my skin after laser hair removal? ›

    How To Care For Your Skin After A Laser Hair Reduction
    1. Avoid Hot Showers/Saunas. The laser treatment works on the principle of using heat to destroy hair follicles. ...
    2. Avoid Strenuous Exercises. ...
    3. Avoid Makeup And Harsh Skin Products. ...
    4. Avoid The Sun For A Week After Each Session.
    Nov 21, 2019

    Does laser hair removal make your armpits smell? ›

    "Although it can be found online in blogs and various discussions, I have found no credible evidence to substantiate a correlation between laser hair removal and body odor," said Dr.

    How do you prevent acne after laser hair removal? ›

    Breakouts post laser hair removal can be avoided by cooling the lased area immediately, applying an antibiotic ointment for 3 days post laser, sun protection, avoiding hot showers a steam for 2-3 days. You can use vitamin c serum and skin lightening creams in between laser sessions to avoid getting post acne marks.

    Is 6 sessions enough for laser hair removal? ›

    Most people need somewhere from 4 to 6 sessions for optimal results, and it's encouraged that you come back for maintenance treatments once a year or so. When scheduling your hair removal treatments, you'll need to space them out by several weeks, so the full treatment cycle can take a couple of months.

    Is laser hair removal cancerous? ›

    Can laser hair removal cause cancer? It's a myth that laser hair removal can cause cancer. In fact, according to the Skin Care Foundation, the procedure is sometimes used to treat certain forms of precancerous lesions. Different lasers are used to treat sun damage and wrinkles.

    What should I do before and after laser hair removal? ›

    Avoid sports and strenuous exercise for two days following the treatment for laser hair removal. Walking is encouraged though. Avoid very hot baths, showers, steam baths or saunas, and don't swim in strong chlorinated water for two or three days. Don't use bleaching creams or perfume products for 24 to 48 hours.

    How long before laser hair removal should I stop plucking? ›

    In the six weeks leading up to your treatment, you should avoid tweezing, waxing or plucking any unwanted hairs. At least three weeks before and following treatment, you should use extra sun protection or even avoid the sun. Doing so prepares your skin for the procedure and protects it as it heals.

    What can you not do after laser hair removal? ›

    Do not pick/scratch/wax/thread/tweeze the area. Avoid picking or scratching the treated skin. do not use any other hair removal methods or products, other than shaving, on the treated area during the course of your laser treatments, as it will prevent you from achieving the best results. Hair growth varies.


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