What happens before, during and after laser hair reduction?

Anne M. Chapas, MD

When dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas sees a patient for laser hair reduction, the first step is to have a careful discussion about where on the body hair should be removed. Learn what happens during and after the procedure by watching this video.

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD

When you come in for a consultation, you should have some hair growth so the dermatologist can see the distribution of the hair and evaluate its caliber and color in order to assess what kind of laser to use. So don't shave for a week, and don't wax or bleach your upper lip beforehand. On the day of your laser treatment, you must be cleanshaven but not waxed. Hair stubble in the root will help capture the heat of the laser energy, but you don't want it above the skin because it will absorb laser energy you want reserved for the follicle. Numbing cream is applied for fifteen to twenty minutes and then carefully washed off. That takes the sting out of the laser, which feels like a hot rubber band snapping on the skin. As soon as an area is treated, little black dots usually appear; this is stubble frying and rising to the surface. Sometimes it looks as if you have more hair after the session than before, but it will shed in the shower. These dots are replaced by red goose bumps (follicular edema). This is an effect we want to see, the clinical endpoint that shows the treatment worked. The red bumps are the result of the laser inducing folliculitis as a result of trauma to the follicle. This redness lasts from a few days to a week (and if those little black specks of stubble didn't shed before, they now come out).

Hair grows and sheds in stages, and a laser captures only hairs in the active growth phase, when the matrix is activated. Since only one third of hairs are affected at one time, most people require three to five treatments spaced at monthly intervals to take care of the other two thirds.

Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
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Laser hair reduction or removal directs a laser through the skin to the hair follicle to stop the growth of the hair. You will likely need repeated treatments.

Before treatment, you should avoid the sun as much as possible, which can make laser hair removal more effective. After treatment, you may need to apply cold packs or compresses to the treated area, since side effects can include inflammation or redness. Again, avoid the sun as much as possible, and when you do go out in the sun, be sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

If you have any questions about laser hair reduction or removal, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. He or she can guide you through all the treatment options for hair removal.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.