Cosmetic Procedures
Laser Hair Removal

A number of lasers and other handheld light devices have been developed specifically for hair removal. These devices offer long-lasting hair removal and some permanent hair reduction. When the hair re-grows, it tends to be finer and lighter.

What Lasers Treat
The lasers and other light devices designed for hair removal can be used on most parts of the body. Many of these devices effectively treat large areas. People often choose laser hair removal for their:

  • Back

  • Bikini area

  • Chest

  • Face, especially the upper lip and chin

  • Neck

  • Shoulders

What Happens During Laser Hair Removal?
If you are considering laser hair removal and want to know what would happen if you underwent this procedure, visit Laser Hair Removal: What to Expect Before, During, and After.

When See Results from Laser Hair Removal
When light from the laser or other light device hits a hair, the light vaporizes the unwanted hair. A 10% to 25% reduction can be expected after 1 treatment. Repeat sessions, usually 2 to 6, are required to see the best results. A session is usually performed once every 4 to 6 weeks.

Woman before laser hair removal

Same woman after laser hair removal

In experienced hands, laser hair removal can safely and effectively treat people with darker skin such as this African-American woman.

The woman's chin and neck shown 3 months after 3 laser treatments.

(Photos used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides)

Laser hair removal usually allows a patient to be hair-free for several months or even years. And most people see an overall reduction in hair growth. The hair that does grow tends to be finer and lighter in color.

If a woman wants to prevent hair re-growth on her face, she may want to ask about a prescription cream that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this purpose. With continual use, this cream can prevent the growth of new hair on the face once the hair has been removed.

A few dermatologists who specialize in treating skin of color have reported that combining laser hair removal with use of this cream tends to offer women with darker skin a quicker and more effective solution to unwanted hair.

Possible Side Effects
Having this procedure performed by a dermatologist or other physician who regularly uses these devices for hair removal will significantly reduce potential side effects.

Reports of burns, scarring, skin discoloration, and other complications have become increasingly common when this procedure is not performed or supervised by a doctor. Serious side effects are rare when a person is evaluated by a dermatologist and the doctor’s instructions are followed.

After laser hair removal, some patients may experience temporary darkening of the skin. This usually lasts about 3 months. Lightening of the skin also can occur and lasts about 2 months. Crusting, blistering, bruising, and scarring are rare in skilled hands.

How Long Results Last
Most people with dark hair who have 5 or 6 treatments will maintain their results for years. Over time, scattered hairs may re-grow.

Related Links
10 Questions to Ask Before a Cosmetic Procedure
Laser Hair Removal (AAD pamphlet)

Alexiades-Armenakas MR, Dover JS, Arndt KA. “Laser Therapy.” In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Rapini RP et al, editors. Dermatology. 2nd edition. Spain, Mosby Elsevier; 2008. p. 2099 and 2109-11.

American Academy of Dermatology, “2007 Media Backgrounder: Excessive Hair.”

American Academy of Dermatology. “Hair Disorders: Dermatologists Identify the Top 3 Causes of Tress Distress.” News release issued February 6, 2004, last accessed September 29, 2008.

Calendar V and Young CM. “Combination laser and eflornithine HCl 13.9% cream: A first-line therapy for Fitzpatrick type IV-VI patients with excessive facial hair.” J Am

Acad Dermatol. 2005; 52: P209.  

Ort RJ. “Laser Hair Removal.” In: Kaminer MS, Dover JS, Arndt KA, editors. Atlas of Cosmetic Surgery. United States of America, W. B. Saunders Company; 2002. p. 179-91.

Sadick N. “Lasers.” In: Sadick, Moy, Lawrence, et al. Concise Manual of Dermatologic Surgery. China, McGraw-Hill Companies; 2008. p. 90-1.

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

Women who have excess facial hair along with acne, irregular periods, deepening voice, and increased muscle should be evaluated by a doctor.





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Page last updated 11/13/08

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