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.


    Is it OK to not shave before laser hair removal? ›

    Many people also wonder if they should shave before their treatment. The short answer is yes, you should shave — but it's important that you don't wax for a week before your treatment. If the hair on your treatment area is too long, you could risk getting burned.

    What can you not do during laser hair removal? ›

    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.

    Can I shave between laser sessions? ›

    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.

    Can I shave 3 hours before laser? ›

    It is important to shave before your laser hair removal appointment, 24 hours before is recommended. Shaving on the day of your session can be dangerous and should be avoided completely. This is because when you shave the razor may lift a layer of skin off as it passes over your skin.

    What should you not do before laser? ›

    Skin must be clean and free of makeup, lotions, oils, deodorant, sunless tanning products, numbing cream, etc. Products on the skin can increase the likelihood of adverse reactions from the laser. Avoid physical activities that increase body temperature for at least 2 hours before treatments.

    Do you shave your armpits before laser? ›

    Shave the day before to give your skin time to relax, especially if you experience razor burn or rashes when shaving. You will also need to refrain from waxing or plucking hairs as these hair removal techniques will decrease the effectiveness of the laser. Avoid creams, lotions, and deodorants before your appointment.

    What should you not do before a laser session? ›

    Any treatment areas should be shaved completely prior to treatment. Legs should be shaved around 24 hours prior to your appointment to avoid irritation. Do not wax, tweeze, epilate or use chemical depilatories for two weeks before treatment, or at all in between laser treatments.

    What happens if you shave less than 24 hours before laser hair removal? ›

    Therefore, if you shave less than 24 hours before your scheduled appointment then there won't be enough hair present to burn, and this can cause irritation to the treatment area.

    What are the do's and don'ts before laser hair removal? ›

    How to Prepare for Laser Hair Removal
    • Clean Your Skin Before the Treatment. ...
    • Stop Waxing or Plucking. ...
    • Shave the Treatment Area. ...
    • Avoid Sun Exposure. ...
    • Use Medications with Caution. ...
    • Use Skin Products Carefully. ...
    • Avoid Alcohol. ...
    • Refrain from Drinking Coffee.
    29 Mar 2022

    How long does hair laser removal last? ›

    You may need 12 treatments or more to completely eliminate hair growth. After that, the need for touchups should be minimal. Some people may require semiannual treatments at first. Others may find that they don't need a touchup for 5 years or longer.

    How many hours after laser can I shower? ›

    How long after laser hair removal can I shower? Ideally 24 hours, but if you must shower wait at least 6-8 hours after your session. Use tepid water and avoid using any harsh products, scrubs, exfoliating mitts, loofahs or sponges on your treatment area.

    What happens after 1 session of laser hair removal? ›

    Indeed, even after your first laser hair removal session, you will see results. Unwanted body hair will start shedding after your first session and you will see the difference. Laser hair removal is superior to other hair removal methods in many ways.

    Is 2 sessions of laser hair removal enough? ›

    Generally, clients need about two to six laser treatments in order to completely get rid of hair. You can expect to see about a 10% to 25% reduction in hair after your first treatment. As you continue your treatments, more and more hair will fall out, and you'll notice that it continues to grow back more slowly.

    What should I expect after my first Brazilian laser hair removal? ›

    After your first Brazilian laser hair removal treatment, your groin area will feel a soreness similar to the one you feel after a decent workout. For the first hour or two after your treatment, you might notice redness and slight swelling, but it won't last long.

    What happens if you shave immediately before a laser appointment? ›

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

    Is 8 weeks too long between laser hair removal? ›

    For most people, it's best to wait between four and eight weeks between each treatment, and we generally recommend six treatments for optimal results.

    Does Brazilian laser include crack? ›

    A "Brazilian" laser session typically removes all of the hair in the pubic region, the vulva, the perineum, and around the anus. If there is significant hair growth in the butt crack, or on the buttocks themselves, your healthcare provider may offer this area to be treated as well.

    Can you get laser on your period? ›

    Can I have my treatment when I am menstruating? Yes - you can still have laser hair removal treatment while on your period. We advise you to wear a tampon or menstrual cup if you would like to have the Brazilian area treated.

    How painful is laser hair removal? ›

    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.

    How soon after laser can you shave? ›

    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. A few days following your laser hair removal treatment, you may notice your hair shedding. This is completely normal and is a sign the treatment worked.

    Do I shower before or after laser? ›

    It's the root of the hair the laser targets, so the root must be present for your treatment to work best. Take a shower right before your appointment and clean the treatment area, making sure to remove dirt and oil from the skin.

    How painful is underarm laser? ›

    There is minimal pain during underarm laser hair removal. In fact, many patients are surprised when the process is over. The most common comparison we hear is that the laser feels like getting a rubber band lightly smacked against your skin.

    How many laser sessions are needed for underarms? ›

    Overall, it can take three to four sessions to achieve your desired armpit hair results, due to the stages of individual hair growth. Keep in mind that, while laser hair removal is marketed as “permanent,” you will likely need follow-up treatments in the future to maintain your smooth underarms.

    Does laser make your underarms darker? ›

    There is at least one benefit of laser hair removal for you underarms that you may not have considered – the fact that it can resolve darker pigmentation in your underarms. This will ensure that your underarms aren't excessively darker than the skin on the rest of your body.

    Will I notice a difference after one session of laser? ›

    After Your First Treatment: You probably won't notice much difference after your first laser hair removal treatment at the London clinic. It takes some time for the effect on your hair to become visible and you will need more treatment sessions before re-growth starts to slow down.

    Do you tip after every laser session? ›

    “Tips are always appreciated but voluntary. A client will get the same service whether they tip or not. Because laser hair removal takes multiple sessions, Karavolas advises that tipping is typically done after each visit.

    What if I miss a spot shaving 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 you get laser with ingrown hairs? ›

    Laser hair removal can actually remove ingrown hairs rather than simply alleviate the irritation that they cause. You can get laser hair removal even while you have ingrown hairs and the treatment will still be as effective and even lead to permanent hair removal after enough laser hair removal sessions.

    How many sessions does it take for laser hair removal to work? ›

    As a general rule of thumb, the majority of patients need four to six sessions. Individuals rarely need more than eight. Most patients will see results after three to six visits. Additionally, treatments are spaced out about every six weeks since individual hairs grow in cycles.

    Why do I have more hair after laser? ›

    Patients may notice more hair 1 – 3 weeks after laser hair removal sessions as follicles in the growing cycle begin to shed. During this process, exfoliating the skin, once swelling and redness have dissipated, can help hairs shed faster, leaving skin feeling smoother.

    Why is laser hair removal every 4 weeks? ›

    Given that only 85 per pent of hair follicles are in the anagen phase at any one time, and this is the most effective phase for laser hair removal, it is important to cycle your laser hair removal treatments every four to six weeks to ensure all hair follicles are treated over your treatment series.

    How many laser sessions do I need for Brazilian? ›

    Generally, 6-8 sessions are required to get your hair permanently removed. However, as Brazilian laser treatment for hair removal targets only a small area, a session usually takes 10-15 minutes.

    What should you not do after a laser session? ›

    While your skin recovers, avoid exfoliating, shaving, and plucking new hair, extreme workouts, or harsh massages on the treated area for the first five days post-treatment. We recommend avoiding steam rooms, hot tubs, and hot showers to protect your already sensitive skin from chlorination and sweating.

    Why do I have stubble after laser hair removal? ›

    As your follicles shed the remaining hairs, you may notice some stubble in the treatment area. The best way to get rid of stubble and help your skin heal is to exfoliate following the instructions our team gives you after your facial laser treatment.

    How many days rest after laser treatment? ›

    As a part of the immediate Lasik recovery process, you have to close your eyes for at least 2 to 4 hours after you have undergone the surgery. On average, Lasik treatment recovery time for some people may go from 1 week to 10 days while some others may take up to 6 weeks to get completely healed.

    How long until lasered hair falls out? ›

    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.

    Is 3 sessions enough for laser hair removal? ›

    So, how many laser hair removal sessions are necessary to get rid of your unwanted hair for good? The answer depends on your individual needs, but most people can finish their initial treatment within 4-6 treatments. When the sessions are done, you will enjoy the numerous benefits of a life without unwanted hair.

    How long after laser will I see results? ›

    Most people start to see their hair fall out three to five days after their laser hair removal session. The hair follicles in the targeted areas are damaged with each laser pulse. Once the hair follicles are damaged, they release the hairs they were growing, and they can't grow any more hairs.

    What happens if you miss a month of laser hair removal? ›

    Don't panic, and don't give up on your hair removal journey. If you miss a laser hair removal session, it's important to get back on schedule right away. The reason for this is because the hair that hasn't been treated during its growth cycle will return when it is in its growth phase.

    What is better laser or waxing? ›

    When it comes to removing unwanted hair, laser treatment is the best method. It's a long-term solution that's far less painful than waxing. If you're prone to ingrown hairs, it's the only method you should choose, as it completely destroys the hair follicle.

    What are the do's and don'ts before laser? ›

    Below are the dos and don'ts before a laser procedure.
    • Clean Your Skin Before the Treatment. ...
    • Stop Waxing or Plucking. ...
    • Shave the Treatment Area. ...
    • Avoid Sun Exposure. ...
    • Use Medications with Caution. ...
    • Use Skin Products Carefully. ...
    • Avoid Alcohol. ...
    • Refrain from Drinking Coffee.
    29 Mar 2022

    What questions should I ask before laser hair removal? ›

    Questions to Ask a Laser Hair Removal Technician Before Your Treatment
    • When Should I Start Treatment? ...
    • How Many Treatments Do I Need? ...
    • Am I an Ideal Candidate for Laser Hair Removal? ...
    • Are There Side Effects? ...
    • What Equipment Do You Use? ...
    • Is Your Staff Trained Properly? ...
    • Is Downtime Necessary? ...
    • What If I'm Taking Medication?

    Is it better to trim or shave before laser hair removal? ›

    Ideally, you should shave the treatment area about 24 hours before your laser hair removal treatment. This will give the hair time to grow back a bit so that the laser can more easily target the hair follicle. If you are unable to shave before your appointment, don't worry – our staff will be able to do it for you.

    How do you stay calm during laser hair removal? ›

    Drink Water Before Your Session for Laser Hair Removal

    It also helps stabilize your pain tolerance. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol is always a strong recommendation since both can lower your pain threshold by dehydrating your body. Be sure to drink water to flush your system of any caffeine or alcohol.

    What happens a week after laser hair removal? ›

    One Week After

    During this time, you will notice some hair shedding. This is entirely normal and is a part of the natural cycle of hair loss and regrowth. This is why multiple treatment sessions timed while the hair follicles are at their active growth stage is highly recommended.

    Do you tip during laser hair removal? ›

    Tips are always appreciated but voluntary. A client will get the same service whether they tip or not. Because laser hair removal takes multiple sessions, Karavolas advises that tipping is typically done after each visit.

    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.


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