Possible Permanent Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal is an in-depth procedure that involves penetrating heat energy below the surface of the skin. For this reason, it is important to understand the possibility of permanent side effects before you even begin treating.
Since laser hair removal is a medical cosmetic procedure, there is a possibility for long-term side effects if the treatment is not administered correctly, or if specific guidelines are not followed. One of the biggest risks in laser hair removal that could cause permanent damage is sun exposure. When you begin your laser hair removal treatment, your technician will educate you on the need to protect yourself from sun exposure for up to 30 days before your treatment. The reason for this is that when your skin is exposed to the sun, whether you are tanning, gardening, or have spent a day at the park, there is a layer of melanin that accumulates below the surface. This is your skin's response to the sun, which it uses to change the color to a tan or burn to protect the outer layer of the skin from potential sun damage.
For this reason, it is highly important to wear an SPF every time that you are in the sun, and if you plan on having a laser hair removal treatment, it is also necessary to have no sun exposure or continuous sun exposure. The reason for this is that your level of sun exposure will create melanin underneath the surface of the skin. If you have no sun exposure, there is no cause for alarm. However, if you have continuous sun exposure, that means that the melanin underneath the surface of the skin is consistent, so the laser settings can be adjusted accordingly. The real problems begin when a patient has had one or two times of unprotected sun exposure within 30 days, meaning that there are undetected layers of melanin below the surface of the skin. The reason that this is such a risk is because the laser hair removal technician will not be able to determine the actual color of the skin based on the melanin content since it is below the surface. This means that the laser settings could potentially be too high, risking burning or blistering the patient.
This leads us to the reason behind permanent side effects in laser hair removal. If you have unprotected sun exposure that you do not reveal to your laser hair removal technician, you could potentially burn or blister based on the laser hair removal settings. Often times, the mildest form of blistering that you will see is a crust, which looks like a scab that forms on the surface of the skin. This is something that will subside within a few days, but it is still necessary to bring it to the attention of your laser hair removal professional. If you have a deeper burn or blister, that is also something that needs to be treated right away. If a crust or blister is not treated, it can lead to dark cells on the surface of the skin, also known as hyperpigmentation.
Your laser hair removal center can recommend a form of treatment to you, which can often include a bleaching cream that is safe for the skin, like hydroquinone, to be administered to the area after it has healed completely. This is the best way to attempt to lighten permanently darkened areas so that they return to their normal color. Hyperpigmentation due to blistering is also something that is incredibly common for darker skin types and ethnic skin tones.
If you have a darker skin tone and are undergoing laser hair removal, you need to make sure to communicate well with your laser hair removal specialist as to whether or not the treatment is painful. Darker skin tones have a high melanin content, so the laser hair removal settings need to be watched very carefully. If you start feeling heat or extreme pain, it could lead to blistering because of the amount of heat energy going into your skin. If a blister does occur, it will also have to be treated with a lightening cream product after it has healed completely to bring the skin back to its normal color.
The bottom line is that it is important to take precautions and stick to the guidelines for your laser hair removal treatment. This is the best way to prevent severe scarring, blistering, and burning, which can often happen due to sun exposure or improper treatment.
This article was written by Bethany North. Bethany is a licensed esthetician with experience in hands-on experience in chemical peels, microdermabrasion, facials, laser hair removal, makeup applications, skin analysis, waxing, spray tanning, and product ingredient assessment. She has also worked as a salon sales and training consultant, as well as a consultant for beauty and hair care product lines in branding and marketing.