Laser hair removal is, generally, a safe procedure. However, a patient may experience some side effects during and after the procedure that can be caused by a number of different factors. Before the actual procedure is performed, a complete consultation with the specialist to establish the possible risks associated with the patient’s skin type should be carried out. This is probably the most important step to ensure a safe and proper treatment. As with any type of cosmetic procedure, there is always an inherent risk of possible complications.
Most Common Side Effects
Below are some of the adverse reactions typically seen with this method of hair removal. Two main reasons for this are usually improper settings being used concerning laser intensity or the treatment being performed on skin that is already damaged, such as sun burn. If any of the following do occur after treatment, it is advised to notify the facility where the procedure was done, and/or seek medical treatment for anything painful or serious.
Changes in Skin Pigmentation
Laser treatment may damage the patient’s skin pigmentation. It can cause discoloration, particularly in individuals with darker complexions. Patches of lighter or darker skin may occur where the laser invades the epidermis. These changes in the pigment of the skin are more often than not temporary. Permanent changes to the pigment are generally rare.
Redness and Blistering
Some patients may experience redness on the skin after laser hair removal. Medical experts refer to this as erythema. It occurs when the blood vessels found close to the surface of the skin broaden to allow space for healing cells to the treated area. The redness usually goes away after 12-24 hours.
Blistering, on the other hand, is not a common side effect. It is frequently brought about by older lasers which do not make use of a cooling apparatus in the hair removal process. Nevertheless, contemporary laser machines may still cause blistering. The possibility of blistering is heightened if the patient spends a considerable amount of time on a tanning bed or in the sun before and after the procedure.
If blisters do occur, special precautions should be taken to make sure they heal properly. Never pick at or pop a blister, they should be left to heal on their own or with the aid of topical medications. Also, avoid direct sunlight on the affected site. These measures will help reduce the risk of possible scarring, infection and skin discoloration.
Skin Irritation and Burns
Crustiness and scabs are a common post-treatment occurrence, but they usually disappear after a few days. Though there is the risk of permanent scarring, very few patients have reported such an incidence. As with blistering, any sores should be left to heal on their own or with proper medical care, and direct sunlight should be avoided to lower the risk of excessive scarring.
Burns are a serious side effect and they are, on average, caused by inexperienced practitioner carrying out the procedure. It is always recommended that patients choose their specialists and clinic with extreme care. Any instances of skin burns should be treated by a medical professional.
Swelling is another common side effect of this procedure. This type of swelling, clinically referred to as perifollicular edema, normally goes away after 1-2 days. Some clinics apply ice to the treated area to reduce swelling, while others apply anti-inflammatory creams.
Since lasers utilize intense light and heat to affect the hair follicles, the patient is bound to experience some level of pain or discomfort, even if there are none of the side effects listed above. The level of pain experienced will depend on the patient’s individual tolerance. You will often read about or hear this being equivalent to when a rubber band snaps against the skin.
The initial treatment will probably be the most discomforting. Patients with thicker and darker hair experience more pain because a longer and stronger beam will be required to remove the hair. Patients also feel more pain on sensitive areas of the body that have minimal exposure, such as the bikini areas. Pain is often reduced by applying numbing cream before treatment or by using a cooling a device on the skin as the treatment is carried out.
Obviously if any complications are experienced, the pain will be much greater. You should always alert the person performing the procedure should the pain become too much.
Minimizing Your Risks
There are a few precautions that can be taken to lower the chances of possible adverse reactions to laser treatment.
Getting the procedure done at a doctor’s office or medical spa may typically be more expensive, but having a medical professional on site can be beneficial should anything go wrong.
Make sure that you get a proper and thorough consultation before having a treatment. This can be a vital step that will let you ask questions and gauge the professionalism and knowledge of those who will be doing the procedure. It is also crucial to determine if your hair and skin color are ideal for laser hair removal treatment.
Avoid the sun. This should start a few weeks before treatment and should carry on through a couple of weeks after treatment. This also includes any type of tanning sprays or lotions. The skin should be as natural and healthy as possible. If any side effects arise after treatment, the area should be shielded from direct sunlight to minimize any further damage.
Any reputable facility that performs laser hair removal should give their clients some type of checklist of how to properly prepare the skin ahead of time to reduce the possible risks involved and to make sure the treatment will be as effective as possible. It should be pointed out that even if every precaution is taken, accidents and unforseen reactions can happen.
Even though this method is normally safe when performed by qualified professionals, it is prudent to be aware of the possible side effects of laser hair removal and to be prepared just in case anything goes awry. Even though the cost of laser hair removal can understandably lead someone to choose one facility over another, it is just as important that the training, client care, professionalism and medical precautions of an establishment be taken into account when making a decision.