How effective is laser hair removal?

Arthur W. Perry, MD
Plastic Surgery
Early hair removal lasers did not kill hair; they heated up the follicles and "stunned" the hair. It fell out but returned in a few weeks. I always wondered why someone would pay for temporary hair removal when they could wax at a fraction of the cost. When the stronger lasers were made, we saw the first permanent results.

The lasers available now can kill black and dark brown hair, but still have a hard time with light brown hair. None can kill blond or white hair. If white hair persists after a course of laser hair removal, electrolysis can be used.

In the average patient, each laser treatment kills between 20% and 40% of the hair. After three treatments, about 80% of the hair is destroyed. After four treatments, about 90% of the hair is gone.
Straight Talk about Cosmetic Surgery (Yale University Press Health & Wellness)

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Straight Talk about Cosmetic Surgery (Yale University Press Health & Wellness)

The public’s recent exuberance toward cosmetic surgery has spurred an unprecedented demand for appearance-changing procedures. But how can an average consumer discern the hype from solid truth? ...
Anne M. Chapas, MD

Blonde, brunette, auburn, grey, pitch black? Your hair color has a lot to do with how effective laser hair removal is. In this video, dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas explains why.

Laser hair removal is extremely effective for some patients. This depends on hair color, skin type, hair texture, and the operator (i.e., person performing the procedure). I recommend a trained medical professional.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

In one of life's injustices, many of us have the frustrating experience of losing hair in the places we want to keep it (the scalp) and growing it in the places where we want to lose it (perhaps the back and shoulders for men, and the chin and around the bellybutton for women).

Though there are plenty of remedies that can eliminate unwanted hair, like Nair hair dissolver, waxing, and shaving, the latest hair-zapper is laser therapy.
Here's how it works: The brown pigment in the hair soaks up the laser light, acting like a firecracker fuse leading to the follicle lying 2 mm under the skin. The laser's heat travels down through the hair to zap the follicle so it can never grow hair again. Blond, red, or silver hair doesn't work because there's not enough brown pigment to fry. It takes several treatments to remove lots of hair in one area (it removes about 20 to 40 percent each time). The coolest thing is that the laser works like those military weapons, seeking out and frying hairs, even ingrown hairs, diving beneath the surface of the skin. They can grow, but they can't hide.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

You won't find laser hair treatment classified as permanent removal, but it does fall under permanent reduction. Typically, those who undergo laser hair removal see a 20 to 90 percent decrease in active, hair producing follicles. It's important to note that most people usually require multiple treatments.


Patricia Farris, MD

Laser hair removal is a very effective way to remove unwanted hair. The laser treatments are usually done every four to six weeks until the hairs in the treated area are removed completely. Laser hair removal is excellent for removing dark hair but it will not remove blonde or gray hair. Your dermatologist will likely recommend you apply a topical anesthetic prior to the laser treatment especially if you are treating sensitive areas. It is important to stay out of the sun after laser hair removal. Sun exposure can cause unwanted pigmentation in the areas where the hair has been removed.

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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.