Laser Hair Removal | Ohio State Medical Center (2024)

What is laser hair removal?

Laser hair removal is a noninvasive cosmetic procedure that heats hair-producing follicles to inhibit hair growth. Using a beam of laser light, your doctor precisely targets, heats and damages the hair follicles that generate hair growth.

During laser hair removal, the laser reaches only actively growing hairs. Since hair grows in cycles, you’ll most likely need three or four treatments to get the results you’d like. Laser hair removal reduces growth, and hairs that grow back are often finer, lighter and less visible. Results vary depending on the type, thickness and location of hairs, along with other individual differences, including certain kinds of treatment-resistant hair.

Board certified plastic surgeons at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus perform laser hair removal and many other nonsurgical and surgical cosmetic procedures. If you’re considering laser hair removal, you can consult an Ohio State plastic surgeon to discuss your personal goals for treatment. You can also ask your Ohio State plastic surgeon about other procedures. Nonsurgical skin rejuvenationand therapies are available through Ohio State’s spa servicesto help give your skin a fresh and healthy look.

Why is laser hair removal done?

Unwanted hair can occur on any part of the body. Shaving, waxing and other ways to remove hair can be time-consuming chores. You may find yourself choosing clothes that conceal areas of hair growth. Or you may constantly need to pluck the same stubborn strands. Laser hair removal can simplify daily routines and give your skin a smoother appearance with less maintenance.

Benefits of laser hair removal include:

  • Elimination of the “stubble stage” when hairs grow back after shaving
  • Freedom from time-consuming hair removal routines
  • Long-lasting results
  • Precise targeting of specific hairs for removal
  • Removal of troublesome ingrown hairs

Ohio State plastic surgeons use laser hair removal procedures to treat hair all over the body, including:

  • Arms and legs
  • Back
  • Eyebrow
  • Face, chin and jawline
  • Pubic areas
  • Underarm areas

How to prepare for laser hair removal

During office visits, your doctor will review and discuss areas you’d like to treat and your expectations for laser hair removal treatment. Your doctor will complete a health evaluation and make treatment recommendations. The doctor may take photographs of the treatment areas.

You’ll learn more about your laser treatment and what to expect from your Ohio State plastic surgeon. Your doctor will also provide individualized instructions about how to prepare.

For several weeks leading up to your appointment, you can shave as you normally would. However, for a month to six weeks before your procedure, it’s important not to wax or pluck hairs in the areas to be treated. In order to work, laser hair removal requires hair follicles to have actively growing, pigmented hair roots.

You’ll need to avoid shaving for a few days before your treatment. Slight stubble helps the doctor to more easily locate and target hair follicles. Hair that’s more recently shaved can burn during laser treatments causing temporary discomfort.

What to expect during a laser hair removal procedure

Your doctor will schedule your laser hair removal treatment at one of Ohio State’s outpatient clinics in Columbus or surrounding areas. Before treatment, your doctor may recommend a topically applied anesthetic, especially for sensitive areas of skin. You’ll need to use the anesthetic about 20 to 30 minutes before the procedure to numb the areas to be treated.

Treatment steps for laser hair removal typically include:

  • Your plastic surgeon customizes laser settings to your skin type and areas targeted for treatment.
  • Your skin is cleansed and prepared for treatment.
  • Depending on the type and location of your laser treatment, you may get protective eyewear during your procedure.
  • For certain procedures, surgeons use a cooling method to protect the skin from intense heat. The cooling device may be part of the laser, or your doctor may apply a cooling gel to your skin. During treatment, you might feel a cold sensation on the surface of your skin.
  • The doctor directs quick pulses of light to each hair follicle. As a result, you may feel minor discomfort for just a few seconds, similar to the snap of a rubber band.
  • The laser hair removal treatment can be finished in minutes for small areas such as the chin or up to an hour for larger areas such as legs.

After laser hair removal

After each laser hair removal session, you can expect some redness and inflammation in the areas treated. Your skin may feel warm, similar to a mild sunburn. Your doctor may give you a soothing lotion or cream or an ice pack to help keep you comfortable.

Results vary by procedure and condition. Most people don’t see results right away. It can take from five days to two weeks before damaged hair goes away in treated areas. During that time, hairs fall out naturally or come out during normal skin-cleansing routines.

It’s good to let your skin rest and breathe for a while without heavy creams or lotions. However, most people can wear makeup the next day or other skin products as directed by the doctor.

You should wear high-quality sunscreen according to your doctor’s recommendations. To protect the treated skin, avoid sun exposure for the next three to four weeks after each laser treatment.

Results of laser hair removal

It generally takes several days or weeks to see full results as your skin continues to lose the damaged hair in treated areas. It may look like your hair is growing back as your body begins to shed the hairs. To treat each cycle of hair growth, you’ll most likely need to schedule three or four follow-up laser hair removal treatments. Results vary, depending on the thickness and density of your hair and where it is located.

Your doctor will discuss the frequency of follow-up appointments. These are usually a month or more apart. Although laser hair removal isn’t permanent, results can last for months or even years. You’ll enjoy smooth-looking skin and a reprieve from shaving, plucking or waxing for some time.

Risks of laser hair removal

The risks of laser hair removal vary depending on your hair and skin color, areas treated and other variables. Naturally darker or suntanned skin contains more pigment and can absorb more light energy from the laser treatment. If you have darker skin, your doctor may recommend other treatment options or a milder laser to avoid the possibility of skin damage or ineffective results.

The experienced, board certified plastic surgeons at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center take steps to protect your health and safety during any procedure. Your doctor will evaluate your condition, medical history and goals to see whether laser hair removal may be a good option for you.

Potential risks of laser hair removal include:

  • Swelling and inflammation around hair follicles
  • Changes in coloring – especially if the skin is darker
  • Irritated skin
  • Blisters and crusting
  • Scarring
  • Skin texture changes

Your Ohio State plastic surgeon will review these and other risks before recommending laser or other skin procedures.

Laser Hair Removal | Ohio State Medical Center (2024)


What disqualifies you from laser hair removal? ›

The Complete List of Laser Hair Removal Contraindications
  • Pregnancy. Although there's no evidence to suggest that laser hair removal isn't safe for your unborn baby, it is generally not recommended. ...
  • Breastfeeding. ...
  • Medical conditions. ...
  • Medication. ...
  • Sun tan. ...
  • Dark skin. ...
  • Keloid scarring. ...
  • Tattoos.

What no one tells you about laser hair removal? ›

A common misconception is that laser hair removal is a permanent solution, but the reality is that its a semi-permanent solution. You can expect up to a 90% reduction in hair growth and thickness, to the point where you won't need to shave as much.

What makes you a bad candidate for laser hair removal? ›

Blond, fine hairs cannot be targeted by the lasers and therefore, cannot be removed with this method. Waxing is a better choice for light colored hair. Individuals with darker skin tones or who tan easily, may have a harder time getting results from laser hair removal.

What are realistic expectations for laser hair removal? ›

The results vary from patient to patient. The color and thickness of your hair, area treated, type of laser used, and color of your skin all affect the results. You can expect a 10% to 25% reduction in hair after the first treatment. To remove the hair, most patients need 2 to 6 laser treatments.

Can I shave 4 hours before laser? ›

Perfect Shaving

Left it a little late and your appointments in 1 hour – well there's no reason why you can't shave just before. However, I recommend you do your shaving one day prior, because shaving can often leave the skin red and irritated.

What happens if you miss a spot shaving before laser? ›

If you forget to shave, the effectiveness of your treatment may diminish. The laser, instead of focusing on the follicles, might target surface hair. This can lead to heightened discomfort, potential stinging, and a risk of burns. Surface impurities like dirt and oil can also reduce efficacy.

Do people ever regret laser hair removal? ›

Regret usually stems from choosing the wrong provider. While laser hair removal itself is rarely regrettable, what can lead to regret is choosing the wrong provider. A cheap, inexperienced clinic may use outdated equipment or incorrect techniques, leading to less effective treatment or even unwanted side-effects.

What happens if I stop laser hair removal after 4 sessions? ›

If treatment is stopped before all of the hair follicles have been destroyed, some may continue to grow. It is important to complete the recommended treatment plan to achieve the best results. Sometimes, the patient sees hairs are thicker and darker after the treatment when they have original light and fair hair.

Should I laser my pubic hair? ›

' Yes, it is safe to laser the pubic area for most patients. It should be noted that this is one of the more sensitive areas when it comes to laser hair removal, but it is quick and effective. Many patients also believe it is overall less painful than waxing.

Why am I more hairy after laser? ›

No one actually knows why this happens with laser patients, but after treatment, the laser can do the opposite of what you're expecting and actually stimulate hair growth. And, if that wasn't enough, the hair can actually come back thicker and darker!

Can hair get worse after laser? ›

In rare instances, laser hair removal may cause thicker, darker hair to grow or regrow in an adjacent area to the one being treated. This condition is known as paradoxical hypertrichosis. Paradoxical hypertrichosis can occur anywhere on the face or body.

What happens if you do too much laser hair removal? ›

Overdoing laser hair removal can result in skin irritation, redness, and swelling. This can happen if the skin is exposed to too much laser energy, causing damage to the surrounding skin tissue. The skin can become sensitive, making it more prone to burns and hyperpigmentation.

How long until hair falls out laser? ›

What happens right after the treatment? Do the hairs fall out right away? In many patients the skin is slightly pink for 1-2 days; in others (generally, fairer patients) there is no pinkness after laser hair removal. Hairs begin to fall out in 5-14 days and may continue to do so for weeks.

How to speed up shedding after laser hair removal? ›

Moisturise: Keep your skin hydrated with a high-quality, fragrance-free moisturiser. This makes it easier for the shedding hair to push through the skin. Avoid hair removal methods: Resist the temptation to use tweezers, wax, or other hair removal methods on the treated area.

What is the most effective laser hair removal machine? ›

The Best Technology AND The Best Machine
  • Alexandrite laser: Alexandrite lasers are very effective at removing dark hair on light skin. ...
  • Nd:YAG laser: Nd:YAG lasers are safe for all skin tones, and they are effective at removing both light and dark hair.

Is stubble ok for laser hair removal? ›

Shave Before Treatment

You should shave within 24 hours of your scheduled laser appointment. Your laser technician cannot treat areas that have hair above the skin. You cannot even receive treatment if there is rough stubble because this may create too much heat for the pigment of your skin.

What are three contraindications for laser hair removal? ›

Before starting any treatment, the first consultation will help to identify any of the following contraindications:
  • A tan.
  • Photosensitizing treatment (roaccutane, cortisone, antibiotics, etc.)
  • Herpes.
  • Skin infections or diseases.
  • Skin lesions.
  • Tattoos.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Breastfeeding.

What conditions contraindicate hair removal? ›

Skin irritation, sunburn, rashes, etc. would be a contraindication to laser hair removal. Some medications that cause photosensitivity could also be a contraindication.

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

If the hair is long, this can lead to the laser burning the skin because it traveled the length of the hair and attacks the closest source of melanin. In this case, the skin. However, if the hair is short enough, it will only target the hair until it reaches the root of the follicle.

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