At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Laser hair reduction is a cosmetic treatment designed to remove unwanted body hair. It usually works best on those with fair skin and dark hair. It can often be used to reduce hair growth across large swaths of the body, and is often considered an affordable hair removal option for those wishing to drastically reduce body hair growth. Laser hair removal doesn't normally stop hair growth all at once, but hair tends to grow back finer and lighter after each treatment. The treatment may be more effective on some parts of the body than on others.
This cosmetic procedure uses laser light and heat to damage hair follicles, helping to reduce hair growth. People who choose laser hair reduction may suffer from abnormal hair growth, or may simply wish to reduce normal hair growth on the body, legs, face, or bikini line. Unlike some methods of hair removal, laser hair reduction can eventually lead to permanent reduction or elimination of body hair growth.
Intense pulsed light (IPL) lasers, diode lasers, alexandrite, and ruby lasers are all sometimes used to perform laser hair reduction. Other types, such as the Nd:YAG laser, may be used on patients with darker skin types, to prevent permanent changes in skin color. Skin must generally be kept protected from sunlight prior to treatment. Plucking, waxing, electrolysis, and other hair removal methods are generally discouraged prior to laser hair removal, though shaving usually remains permitted as late as two days before the scheduled procedure.
Like any surgical procedure, laser hair reduction carries a risk of side effects and complications. Normal side effects generally include up to three days of swelling and inflammation on the treatment area. More serious complications can include scarring, pigment changes in the treatment area, bacterial skin infection, or outbreaks of the herpes virus in those infected with it.
Though laser hair reduction is considered a permanent hair removal strategy, it usually takes several treatments for hair removal to become permanent. Each treatment is said to reduce hair growth by 10 to 25 percent. Physicians typically recommend letting at least four to eight weeks elapse between laser hair removal sessions. Permanent hair removal typically occurs after about six treatments, though some patients may find the need to receive additional maintenance sessions once or twice a year.