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The enduring appeal of laser hair removal extends beyond preparing for the summer – which is just around the corner.
See, laser hair removal has always enjoyed great popularity for those of us who want a long-lasting and more permanent solution than other tried-and-tested hair removal methods.
The premise is simple: lasers prevent hair follicles from growing hair by damaging them through the concentrated power of heat generated by the laser beam. This prevents and discourages future hair growth in the target area.
Like any cosmetic procedure, however, laser hair removal is not completely risk-free.
While most side effects apart from the usual inflammation, irritation, and changes in skin color are rare and unlikely, it doesn’t mean they don’t occur; there are other side effects that you should be aware of prior to opting for laser treatment.
Additionally, side effects from laser hair treatment will be subject to great variation depending on factors such as a person’s skin type and hair color.
The same is true for post-laser care, as not all patients can be expected to follow the doctor’s recommendations to the letter.
That said, let’s discuss the side effects of permanent laser hair removal.
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Redness, Swelling, and Irritation
Laser treatment essentially works by deploying a hot laser beam on your hair follicles to burn them.
The same is true for IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) treatment. IPL works by deploying concentrated light on the skin, which is converted into heat that subsequently kills the cells that hairs are composed of.
However, while both types are really effective as far as hair removal treatments are concerned, temporary inflammation, soreness, and discomfort may be expected for several hours after treatment.
Depending on how sensitive your skin is, your dermatologist may opt to apply a fast-acting topical anesthetic to prevent hyper-reaction to the treatment. Otherwise, he or she may recommend you to apply a cold compress, ice bag, or a cold shower to reduce discomfort.
Hyperpigmentation / Hypopigmentation
One of the most common side effects of permanent laser hair removal includes hyper or hypopigmentation – minor changes to the color of treated skin.
Lighter-skinned patients are more inclined to risk darker color changes. On the other hand, darker-skinned patients may be more inclined to experience lighter skin color changes.
As with inflammation, such changes in pigmentation should be short-lived; changes in your skin’s pigmentation should return to normal over time.
The risk of infection with laser hair removal treatments is very small – but it doesn’t preclude the possibility of it happening.
Any wound stemming from hair removal treatment can be the site of an infection, especially if it is not treated or handled properly.
One of the most common infections involving laser hair removal is folliculitis or inflammation of the hair follicles.
Proper post-treatment wound care, good hygiene, and sanitation practices, as well as proper maintenance of hair removal tools greatly reduce the risk of developing any sort of infection.
Consult your dermatologist immediately if you suspect that your skin may be experiencing an infection.
Despite being rare, any hair removal treatment involving light and heat may pose a risk to thermal burns. Consult your dermatologist to make sure that you are getting the appropriate treatment for your unique skin conditions, and that your skin color matches the device you intend to use.
If you are performing treatments yourself using a particular device, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the hilt – this way you can avoid risking burns from improper use of the device.
In relation to skin burns, blistering may seldom occur if treatment isn’t skillfully carried out by an experienced operator. Skin is typically cooled prior to applying laser treatment, which prevents burning and blistering, but one false move from an unskilled hand can expose you to blisters.
One of the tenets of proper post-treatment care is to avoid exposing your skin to the sun for a few days after the procedure – this helps your skin recover and regenerate, and prevent blistering.
Crusting and scarring
Crusting in the treated area may occur to some people. It’s not a big deal, but it can be uncomfortable. If left unchecked, crusting may develop into scars or scabs.
Proper post-treatment care is crucial. By taking steps such as moisturizing, monitoring and protecting the affected area from direct sunlight, as well as following dermatologist’s recommendations, you can prevent crusting from developing into scabbing and scarring.
Permanent laser hair removal treatments are not recommended for areas immediately surrounding the eye due to the risk of developing serious eye injuries.
If you want to use laser hair removal for areas around your face, make sure your eyes are protected.
Most side effects involving permanent laser hair removal treatments are rare apart from inflammation, irritation, and pigmentation changes. The rest of the other side effects can be avoided by proper post-treatment care, good hygiene, and by following your dermatologist’s recommendations.
Discretion goes a long way in ensuring that your laser hair removal treatment is a resounding success.
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