Laser hair removal has been popular for a while and for good reason. With a 93 percent Worth It Rating on RealSelf, the desire for smooth, hairless skin is something most people want.
Unfortunately, laser hair removal is not a one-and-done treatment. Since hair grows in cycles, you will need several treatments, an average of six, spaced four to six weeks apart. And then you’ll need once-a-year maintenance treatments. At an average of $300 to $600 per pop, it’s no wonder that people look to buy these packages in bulk.
Unfortunately, laser hair removal isn’t the best choice for everyone. Your skin tone, hair color, and how often you return for maintenance appointments all influence how well this treatment will work for you. We talked to experts to get their top tips to make sure you have an optimal laser hair removal experience.
1. Hair color matters
Laser hair removal is best for dark hair. Why? Because the hair follicles need pigment for the laser to “see” them as a target. And no, dying your hair won’t make a difference.
“Laser hair removal doesn’t work on blonde or gray hair as there is not enough pigment in the hairs for the laser to recognize it,” says Dr. Evan B. Shapiro, a New Hyde Park, New York OB-GYN.
So it’s great for those darker hairs. Not so great for facial peach fuzz (for that, check out dermaplaning).
2. Shave before the treatment
Break out your razor before your laser hair removal treatment to help the laser reach the hair follicles.
“Shave your hair the morning of your appointment, or the latest, the night before,” says Dr. Joyce Davis, a New York dermatologic surgeon. “The energy needed to travel down the hair shaft and wound the follicle is diminished if there is external hair. So, shave your hair as close to your appointment as possible, as not to lessen the effect of your treatment.”
Related: 7 expert tips for extra glowy skin
3. Skip other maintenance
While you need to shave before your treatment, skip any procedure that targets the hair follicle.
“Don’t wax your hair, or go for threading to remove hair, between treatments,” says Davis. “Lasers need to target the follicle to ‘kill’ it. Waxing and threading pull out hairs with the follicles and remove these follicles, so they are no longer under the skin for our lasers to treat. You are wasting your money if you do waxing/threading while getting laser hair removal.”
A reviewer on RealSelf talks about her hair removal temptation: “It’s really been a struggle to not pluck. They ask you not to pluck, but only shave, because the hair follicle has to actually be there for the laser to zap it. I hate shaving. Once the hair starts to grow back, it’s thicker and more noticeable, but I’m following the rules ’cause I want the best results.”
4. Stick to a schedule
Laser hair removal requires precise timing to be most effective. Skipping a treatment hinders results.
“Stay on track for the time intervals in-between treatments,” says. Dr. Paul Flashner, a Boston physician. “These are important because we need to catch the hair in a certain phase of growth in order to give desired results.”
5. Avoid tanning
It’s tempting to spend some time in the sun to reveal a nice tan as your hair is removed. Tanning can cause serious problems, especially hypopigmentation.
“Try to avoid the sun, sun lotions and tanning beds as much as possible, because we will have to decrease your settings on the laser which will affect your results,” says Flashner.
“I had laser hair removal resulting severe hypopigmentation all over my legs and arms,” said a reviewer on RealSelf. “The cause was that I had sun exposure prior to the treatment, combined with the laser strength being too high. It has been six months and my arms are 90 percent better. However, no real improvement has occurred on my legs at all.”
Ready to contact an expert? Find a doctor near you today.