Is Laser Hair Removal Safe?

Background on the Safety of Laser Hair Removal

Over the years, there have been countless patients with concerns over the safety of laser hair removal. Some patients hear the word “laser” and immediately wonder, “does it increase risk of cancer?” or “can it cause damage to my organs?” The short answer is, no, laser hair removal does not cause cancer, nor does it cause any damage to organs.

According to the National Laser Institute, in 2018 over 1.1 million laser hair removal procedures were performed in America, landing this treatment in the top five among all minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. While laser hair removal is widely considered a safe procedure, there are some risks of side effects that can vary given a patient’s skin type, hair color, treatment plan and adherence to pre- and post-treatment care1.

Is Laser Hair Removal Safe?

Potential Complications from Laser Hair Removal

Hyperpigmentation

The most common complication from laser hair removal is hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation is the temporary darkening of the skin. This can occur in patients with lighter skin tones that have had sun exposure and their skin is tan.

Hyperpigmentation is less common in darker skin types. Hyperpigmentation is not a burn and it does not last. It usually resolves on its own over the course of several days.  In rare instances it can last several months, but that is extremely rare.

We will not treat people whose immune systems are compromised due to use of various strong medications like those given post organ transplant or for cancer treatment. We take a medical history on each and every patient to look for any medications and/or past medical issues that may affect the laser hair removal process.

Expunging Myths of Laser Hair Removal Safety

It Doesn’t Damage Underarm Sweat Glands/Lymph Nodes

A common question that gets asked regarding laser hair removal for the underarm area is whether or not damage can be done to the sweat glands or lymph nodes. Hair follicles are located very superficially under the skin, just a few millimeters under the skin. Lymph nodes and sweat glands, however, are located much deeper and the lasers depth of penetration is too short to reach them.

No Studies Have Shown Laser Hair Removal Causes Cancer

Patients have also inquired if laser hair removal causes cancer. To date, there are no studies showing a cause and effect relationship between laser hair removal and skin cancer. There are Radiation Physics Societies that have websites indicating that laser hair removal is a perfectly safe procedure.

Laser Hair Removal Doesn’t Damage Reproductive Organs

Women have asked if having laser hair removal on the bikini area can damage reproductive organs. Again, the answer is no. While we prefer not to treat pregnant women; The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology published a paper indicating it is safe to have laser hair removal during pregnancy and that it will have no effect on the baby.

Experience & Training Matters

There is no shortage of facilities offering laser hair removal. When deciding where to go for laser hair removal treatments, always know who will be performing the procedure, their experience and in the event there is an issue, who would be able to provide support.

Patients should be treated by a trained medical professional who has a Cosmetic Laser License from the Georgia Medical Board. These practitioners know what type of laser and settings to use on certain skin types, so that it is both safe and effective.

At WIFH, all of our medical professionals are licensed laser practitioners and have been personally trained by Dr. Kulkin. Dr. Kulkin oversees each and every patient’s treatment and monitors his or her progress. He makes himself available to every patient in case there is ever a question or concern.

When researching laser hair removal services, it’s important that patients make sure to:

  • work with a laser operator who is a licensed laser practitioner, medically trained, fully qualified, and has extensive laser hair removal experience.
  • know who will be available to provide support if needed, in the event that the patient experiences an issue,
  • understand what laser device is being used and that it is safe for the patient’s skin type.
  • read reviews.
Citations
1. Nanni, CA., Alster, TS. (1999). Laser-assisted hair removal: side effects of Q-switched Nd:YAG, long-pulsed ruby, and alexandrite lasers. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1999 Aug;41(2 Pt 1):165-71. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10426883
About the Author

Shannon Burdette, BSN, MSN, FNP-C

Shannon Burdette is a licensed Family Nurse Practitioner and a Senior Cosmetic Laser Practitioner licensed by the Georgia Composite Medical Board. Shannon has over 13 years of experience with lasers, performing laser hair removal, laser tattoo removal, and laser skin procedures at WIFH.