Laser hair removal: everything you need to know—including cost, maintenance and effects
If you're considering laser hair removal, we've asked the experts the essential FAQs, like how much is laser hair removal, how does the process work and more
If you have a lot of questions about laser hair removal—including, how much is laser hair removal, how the process works and how you're supposed to maintain the results—you’re not alone.
Many women have opted for this long-lasting procedure over traditional hair removal methods, but it can feel a little overwhelming to work out if it's the right choice for you.
The truth is, there’s a lot to consider when choosing a hair removal method. Do you book an in-clinic laser hair appointment, opt for hair removal at home with one of the best IPL hair removal devices, or go another route entirely? The best way to make your decision about laser hair removal is to learn everything you can. So, dig in and see what the experts we asked have to say about the entire process—from cost to healing time and more.
Frequently asked questions about laser hair removal
Our experts have answered the most essential FAQs on the process, like how much is laser hair removal, how does the process work and more...
1. How does laser hair removal work?
The laser penetrates the skin, and the heat of the laser dissolves the hair follicle. Once the follicle is destroyed, its ability to grow hair is severely damaged.
Hence, laser hair removal is a semi-permanent solution, and you shouldn't see too much hair growth at all come through in the immediate aftermath.
2. What is the procedure like?
“The laser treatment will take place in a room set up specifically for laser treatments,” states the American Academy of Dermatology Association. “To perform the procedure, the skin is held taut and treated with the laser.”
Both you and the professional will wear protective eyewear and you will sit or lay down during the process. Depending on where the hair removal is, you may need to remove one or two garments of clothing.
“Many patients say that the laser pulses feel like warm pinpricks or a rubber band being snapped against the skin,” according to the AAD. It’s not particularly comfortable, but it’s not excruciating.
3. How long do the effects last?
Many people believe that laser hair removal lasts forever, but that isn’t always true. It lasts far longer than waxing, shaving, or hair removal creams—but it’s not quite permanent.
“It’s important to note that laser hair removal is considered to be a hair reduction process and not necessarily a removal process,” says Dr. K.L. Ong, senior consultant orthopaedic surgeon. “Our bodies are pretty resilient, and they look to regenerate younger hair follicles to take the place of weak or dead follicles,” he continues.
While the hair that grows back will be thinner and easier to manage, it’s normal for women who have undergone laser hair removal to return for touch-up sessions in the future, to maintain it.
4. How much does laser hair removal cost?
One of the biggest factors for women deciding whether or not to get laser hair removal is the cost. It’s certainly not the cheapest hair removal method out there—in fact, it’s expensive.
So how much is laser hair removal? According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a laser hair removal session in the U.S. is $389 (around £312 in the UK). However, this depends on which area you’re targeting, as small body areas won't cost as much as larger surfaces.
“To get the best outcome, most people need a course of eight treatments,” says Jane. That brings the average cost of laser hair removal to a little over $3,000 (£2,411) total. Of course, small areas might only need a couple of appointments, and large areas with coarser hair might require more than eight sessions.
Yes, it's pricey. But, Jane Lewis, managing director of The Skin to Love Clinic suggests that, “when thinking about the cost of laser hair removal, compare it to the cost of a lifetime using your current method—razor, wax or depilatory cream.” Once you are through with your laser hair removal sessions, you’ll never have to buy wax, strips, depilatory creams, razors or other at-home hair removal necessities again.
5. Is there an at-home laser hair removal option?
You might be wondering if there’s a cheaper alternative to seeing a professional that is still semi-permanent.
“Home laser hair removers are available,” explains Lewis. “The obvious advantage is that they are cheaper than using a clinic.
"However, for safety reasons, home removers are a lot less powerful, meaning it will be much longer before you start to see results.”
If you have the patience and the time, it might be worth it to try the procedure yourself at home. But for the best and fastest results, seeing a professional is the way to go.
6. Is it worth the time, cost, and discomfort?
With all these essential questions answered, you might now be wondering if laser hair removal is actually worth it. It has a high upfront cost, it’s mildly uncomfortable and it requires multiple sessions. However, some women swear by it. How do you decide if it’s the right decision for you?
Dr. Ong says that laser hair removal is worth it if:
- “You are absolutely sick and tired of having to shave all the time—particularly in the difficult to reach areas and sections with sensitive skin”
- “Ingrown hairs after shaving or waxing is an issue for you”
- “You just prefer smooth and hairless skin”
For some women, investing the necessary time and money in the short-term is worth the near-lifetime of low-maintenance skin. For others, it’s not. You just have to weigh the pros and cons and decide what’s best for you.
Does laser hair removal work on all hair and skin tones?
You might have assessed all your options and decided you are ready to take the leap and get laser hair removal. But Dr. Monica Michel, founder of SOMA MD, says there are a few other things to consider before taking the plunge, such as the color of your hair and your skin tone.
For one, “Laser targets pigment, so it doesn’t work as well on hair that has no pigment like light blonde, light red, and white hair,” Dr. Michel explains. “So, if you’re a natural blonde, this may not be the ideal treatment for you.”
Additionally, laser technology has changed a lot within the past several years. For some skin tones and types—especially darker complexions—it’s imperative that you seek out a medi spa or clinic with the newest laser technology.
“Because the laser technology used in laser hair removal attacks pigment, certain lasers may not work as well on darker skin tones, and can actually damage the skin and discolor it,” warns Dr. Michel. Generally, laser is fine for darker skin tones, but there may be better hair removal options for dark skin out there.
Be sure to talk to practitioners and ask about the types of lasers they use and whether they’ll be suitable for your skin/hair type. Any reputable clinic will also carry out a small patch test first, to check the treatment will be right for your skin.
Skincare dos and don’ts before and after laser hair removal
Dr. Michel also mentions some important tips to keep in mind, if you have decided to undertake laser hair removal:
- Don't wax beforehand (but do shave)—“To get the best results, do not wax or tweeze before your session, as this removes the hair follicle and the laser can no longer target it properly,” says Dr. Michel. “If you have to wax, do it at least a week before. To ensure the hair follicle is exposed, I recommend shaving before a session.”
- Don't tan beforehand—Avoid tanning, including spray tans. ”The laser targets pigment, so if you recently got a spray tan, it could remove some of your color and damage your skin,” Dr. Michel warns.
- Do wear sunscreen afterwards—It's imperative to wear one of the best sunscreens for face and body (if exposed) everyday, but especially after undergoing laser hair removal. You’ll also have to treat your skin with extra care after the procedure, because it will have just gone through a lot of trauma, and therefore will be more sensitive. “Avoid direct sunlight, be sure to wear sunscreen, and above all else, follow your doctor’s aftercare instructions,” Dr. Michel recommends.
- Do keep it moisturized—Laser hair removal can dry the skin out or even cause some irritation at times—especially on the face. So always be sure to use your best moisturizer or even invest in one of the best moisturizers for dry skin after lasering. And ensure to stay informed on whether you should apply sunscreen or moisturizer first.
- Don't spend time in the sun—Stay out of the sun for a few days afterward (the longer the better), as this can aggravate the skin. And if you're one who's tempted by using coconut oil for tanning or baby oil to help you tan, avoid these at all costs—at all times but especially after using laser hair removal.
There's lots to consider when it comes to laser hair removal, but you can always ask your dermatologist what they think or seek out reviews from people who have gone through laser hair removal treatments before as well. There’s no shortage of information out there to help you make an informed choice. And remember, there is no right or wrong—it's all about making the best decision for you.
My Imperfect Life thanks Dr. K.L. Ong, Jane Lewis of The Skin to Love Clinic, and Dr. Monica Michel, founder of SOMA MD for their time and expertise.
Aleesha is deputy editor and beauty & fashion lead for My Imperfect Life, where she heads up the beauty, fashion and eCommerce pages. Previously she was shopping writer for woman&home and gained an AOP awards nomination after working on their news team. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 and has since worked with a number of brands including, Women's Health, Stylist and Goodto. When she’s not testing new products, Aleesha spends her time soaking up the newest bestsellers and Netflix releases, learning about different wines, attempting new languages and travelling as much as she can.
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