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Laser Hair Removal: What to Expect During and After Treatment

Before laser hair removal treatment takes place you will always have an initial consultation (see What to Do and Expect Before Laser Hair Removal Treatment).

At your first actual appointment for treatment the therapist will first of all ensure that the area to undergo laser hair removal is clean and free of cosmetics.

A topical anesthetic cream is then often applied to the skin to reduce the discomfort of the treatment. Most lasers now have a cooling device too in the form of a cool gel, refrigerant spray, or water-cooled contact plate that further lessens any painful sensation. The cooling device helps protect the skin from burning and reduces the risk of skin discoloration.

The patient and therapist (and anyone else in the room while laser treatment is performed) have to wear protective googles.

The laser works by pulses and each one feels like the snapping of a rubber band or warm pinpricks against the skin. Most patients are able to tolerate the sensation without the need for anaesthesia and feel it as discomfort rather than real pain. If you feel you need something you can use over the counter pain relief to reduce the pain you feel during and after treatment.

Each pulse treats an area of about 2 square centimeters and about ten hairs. Once the pulse from the laser has been experienced, the ideal result is that the hairs treated by the laser are immediately vaporized with no need for further removal but in many cases you need to wait for shedding to take place (see below).

The length of each laser treatment session depends on the size of the area of excess hair to be treated - with just a few minutes for the upper lip and up to an hour or more for larger areas.

You will probably experience a small amount of swelling and redness around the hair follicles during and after treatment and skin might feel like it has been sun-burnt. Ice packs may be used to reduce this at the end of the treatment session.

Sometimes you may get some blistering of the skin and then a topical antibiotic ointment may be supplied which you apply a couple of times a day until the area has healed. A mild steroid cream may also be prescribed to hydrate the skin and reduce swelling and redness or you can use an aloe vera based cream for a few days to soothe the skin. Follow the directions provided by the clinic.

You should avoid exposure to the sun after treatment but cosmetics can be applied right away. During a course of treatment you should avoid any form of hair removal in the treated area which pulls hair from the roots such as waxing, sugaring, threading or plucking.

Within 10 to 25 days you should see shedding of the remaining hair from follicles in the treated areas. As it has to come through the skin to be shed don't be alarmed if it looks like hair is growing back. You can help speed up the shedding process by gently exfoliating the area in the shower with a loofa. After that period you may see your skin peppered with little black dots called “pepperspots.” These will shed eventually over time. Continue to exfoliate to help the process along.

You will also experience some normal regrowth of the hair that was dormant during treatment. When there is enough regrowth you should attend your next treatment session to further reduce the amount of hair. This usually happens within a 6 week to 3 month period.

Laser hair removal treatments continue in this way until you are happy with the reduction in hair growth experienced. You then go for maintenance treatments on an as need basis.

If you are not clear whether your laser session has been successful and feel that shedding has not occured you should return to the clinic for advice. It may be that the wrong level of laser was used or some areas were missed and they may need to correct this. Sometimes touch-ups are included in the cost.

Additional Articles about Laser Hair Removal:

Home Laser Hair Removal Appliances
Given the cost of Laser Hair Removal is it worth investing in a machine for home use?

Cost of Laser Hair Removal
Find out the typical cost of laser treatment on each area of the body and decide whether it is worth it for you.

Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal
What side effects can you expect from laser hair removal? Should you be worried?