Is laser hair removal safe?

Dr. Doris Day, MD
Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)

Laser hair removal can be very safe, but there are some key guidelines to follow. In this video, dermatologist Doris Day, MD, explains the most important rules, and why it's important to be evaluated by a dermatologist before receiving treatment.

Dr. Gary Goldenberg, MD
Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)

Laser hair removal is safe but complications may occur. This is exactly why you need to see a trained medical professional. In some states, only a physician can perform the procedure. Your risks (and rewards) depend on many factors, such you the color of your hair, your skin type, the texture of your hair, and the person performing the procedure.

Dr. Jeffrey A. Benabio, MD
Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)

Laser hair removal is a common and effective way to permanently remove hair. It is safe, but remember these tips:

  1. Hair removal lasers target the pigment in hair (that's how they work). Hair lasers can damage darker or pigmented skin as the laser will target both the hair and the skin, burning it. This can lead to permanent skin discoloration.
  2. Tanned skin is dark skin, and laser hair removal should never be done on people with a tan. 
  3. Laser hair treatments hurt. Some people find it too painful, while others don't mind it. Numbing creams can lessen the sting; however, they can only be used in small amounts. Large quantities of numbing cream can be toxic and has led to death in extreme circumstances. 
  4. The light from the laser can be damaging to your eyes. Be sure you're wearing approved safety glasses at all times. 
  5. Laser hair removal can be additive - once you've treated one area, you might want to treat lots of other "hairy spots" which can be harmful to your wallet. 
Dr. Ronald M. Shelton, MD
Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)

Laser hair removal is very safe but all treatments have risks. Laser hair removal requires several treatments to use light energy to target the hair follicles in the dermis and generate heat. This heat destroys the hair follicles so the hair growth is inhibited. Many patients can obtain 80% reduction of hair growth but it is not absolute and there are no guarantees. Risks include post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (darkening), hypopigmentation (lightening of skin color) and scarring, exacerbation of cold sores, and burns. The risks are minimized by not treating someone who has recently obtained a sun tan, and not using the treatment of patients with skin of color.

Dr. Howard L. Brooks, MD
Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)

Laser hair removal is safe and effective for most patients. The lasers used target pigment within the hair. Therefore, it is not used on patients with grey, blonde or light red hair. Also, this is the reason that tanned skin and people of color have to be careful when having laser hair removal performed. For lighter skinned patients, I use a diode laser in my practice and an ND:yag laser for people of color.

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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.