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Tips: What To Do Before And After Laser Hair Removal

Written by Erin Foster, LA, Licensed Aesthetician on March 2, 2021 34 Comments

before and after laser hair removal

Originally published on August 3, 2017. Updated March 2, 2021 to include additional information  

In recent years laser hair removal has grown to become one of the most popular hair removal techniques. Advancements in laser-based technologies have made the procedure a safer and better alternative to electrolysis.

Any laser-based treatment has the potential to yield undesired results. Common side effects of laser hair removal are swelling, redness, or irritation of the skin. All of which typically resolve on their own overtime without further intervention.

Laser hair removal is not a permanent hair removal solution, but with proper preparation results can last for years. Hair that does grow back will return thinner and more sparsely. To maximize your results, and limit any unwanted side effects, read through the following helpful tips on what to do before, during and after your treatment.

Before Laser Hair Removal

Your laser hair removal appointment will begin with a consultation. This office visit can last anywhere from 10-20 minutes. During this time, your doctor will review your medical history, discuss your goals with you, and explain how the treatment works.

Laser hair removal is most successful for those with light skin and dark hair because this contrast helps the laser ‘see’ your hair. This doesn’t mean you can’t receive treatment if you have blond hair or dark skin. During your consultation, your doctor will help you weigh the risk versus benefits for your skin and hair type.

When you’re ready to begin treatment, the following pointers will help maximize your results. Of course, follow your doctor’s advice if it differs from these guidelines.

  • Always go for an in-person consultation with your provider before committing to a treatment. An experienced provider will be able to assess your candidacy and estimate the number of treatments you may need
  • During your consultation discuss the types of medications you are currently taking. Some prescriptions can cause photosensitivity, which can lead to burns.
  • Stop using skincare products with strong ingredients like retinoids, salicylic acid, hydroxy acid, and benzoyl peroxide.
  • Your treatment will be more successful if your legs are pale. Greater contrast between your skin and hair follicles yields better results. Schedule your treatment for the fall or winter, or avoid all forms of tanning (i.e. tanning from the natural sun, tanning beds, spray tans, and self-tanning products) for 6 weeks prior to your treatment. Laser treatments on tanned skin can result in long-term pigmentation issues.
  • Avoid plucking, waxing, or bleaching your hair for 6 weeks prior to your appointment as plucking out hair by the root will decrease the effectiveness of your laser treatment.
  • Shave the day before your treatment (as directed by your provider). Shaving encourages the hair follicle to enter its active growing stage which is the ideal stage for laser targeting. Within 24 hours of your appointment, shave the area(s) to be treated. Do not wax or pluck. Shaving removes longer hairs while keeping the root intact. It’s the root of the hair the laser targets, so the root must be present for your treatment to work best.
  • Take a shower right before your appointment and clean the treatment area, making sure to remove dirt and oil from the skin. Avoid using any skincare products (including moisturizer) after you cleanse.
  • Avoid lotions, oils, and deodorants prior to treatment. Arrive to your appointment with clean, dry skin. Moisturizers, creams, lotions, or oils can prevent the laser from accessing the root, as can sweat or other debris. If you are treating your underarms, avoid wearing deodorant until after your appointment.
  • Follow your doctor’s orders and discontinue blood thinners, such as aspirin, anti-inflammatory medications, or antibiotics prior to your treatment. If you’ve taken any new medications since your consultation, let your doctor know.
  • At least two weeks prior to your appointment, refrain from Botox and dermal fillers. Also, avoid any treatments that increase skin sensitivity such as microdermabrasion or chemical peels. In the week prior to your treatment, discontinue using products that cause photosensitivity.

During Your Laser Hair Removal Treatment

During your laser hair removal appointment, your doctor or technician will review with you the area(s) to be treated. If you’re treating a bikini line or facial area, the technician may draw a line on your skin to indicate the treatment boundary.

The treatment area will be cleansed and prepared while your technician reminds you what to expect. Everyone experiences the sensation of laser hair removal differently. Most describe the feeling as similar to a rubber band being snapped against your skin. Your doctor may prepare the area with a numbing cream if pain is an issue for you.

While areas undergoing treatment must be exposed, all other areas of your body will be covered with your clothing or strategically placed sheets, similar to a massage. During treatment, everyone in the room will wear protective eye-wear, including you. This does not mean you won’t see flashes of the light, but you can rest assured your eyes are protected.

After Laser Hair Removal

The most common, yet short-lived, side effect of laser hair removal is swelling and redness in the treatment area. For the first few hours, you might even feel like you have a mild sunburn. Swelling and redness should subside within 1-3 days. During this time, it’s safe to use aloe vera or topical cooling creams to reduce discomfort.

Your hair will not fall out immediately during treatment, but slowly over the following few weeks. Because each of our hair follicles are on separate growth cycles, it’s normal to experience some patchy re-growth. These areas will be treated at follow-up visits, until regrowth has been eliminated.

Make sure to follow these tips following your laser hair removal treatment session:

  • Attend any scheduled follow-up or maintenance treatments as directed by your provider in a timely manner
  • Avoid the sun (and tanning beds) and wear a high-quality sunscreen as UV exposure can irritate the treated skin and complicate the hair removal process.
  • For the first 24-hours after your appointment, avoid all types of heat. Hot showers or baths, saunas, steam rooms, and exercise can lead to discoloration or infection. After 24 hours, it’s ok to return to the gym, but continue to avoid the sun for up to 2 weeks. UV light, including that from tanning beds, can lead to scarring or permanent pigmentation.
  • “Sun-less” tanning options like spray tans or self-tanning products can be used between treatment sessions as long as their use is discontinued 2 weeks prior to your next treatment.
  • Continue to shave, instead of plucking, tweezing, or waxing, if you need to remove hair between treatments
  • Gently exfoliate the treated skin 2-3 times per week using a loofah or washcloth. This minimizes the risk of developing ingrown hairs.
  • Keep the retinoids and hydroxy acids on hold for up to one week after your treatment. Instead, use a gentle cleanser and soothing, moisturizing lotion. Wait at least two weeks before scheduling microdermabrasion, chemical peels, Botox or dermal fillers.
  • Take lukewarm showers for the first week after your treatment
  • Avoid using perfumes or deodorants for 48 hours after your treatment

When To Schedule Your Next Treatment Session

You’ll need between 2-6 appointments to achieve your final results. Typically, areas of quick hair growth, such as the upper lip, will require repeat appointments every 4-8 weeks. In areas where hair grows slowly, such as the back, appointments may be spaced every 12-16 weeks.

Scheduling your full treatment series ahead of time can help you better prepare for each appointment, and you’ll reap the best results.


Erin Foster, LA

Erin Foster is a licensed aesthetician experienced in analyzing and determining which treatments are best for each individual client’s needs. She has diverse knowledge in skin care products and ingredients. Erin specializes in laser hair removal, IPL, V-Beam, chemical peels, HydraFacials, Cooltouch, and microdermabrasion.


34 Responses to “Tips: What To Do Before And After Laser Hair Removal”

  1. Avatar Barbera says:

    My mother and I have always wanted to try doing laser hair removal for our peach fuzz and armpits and now that we are finding somewhere to make an appointment I wanted some tips on what we should do to prepare. You mentioned in the article how before laser hair removal you should have a talk with the provider about any medications that you are currently taking. I have no idea that photosensitivity could lead to burn with hair removal. Thanks for the advice that I can pass on to my mother.

  2. Avatar Larry says:

    Thanks for the tip of avoiding using products with ingredients like retinoids and AHA. My wife has been thinking about getting some laser hair removal, but has some sensitive skin that has had her using some stronger skincare products with those exact ingredients. If she does decide to go through with the laser hair removal, we will be sure to not use those strong products before the removal.

  3. Avatar Zidane says:

    Thank you for your tips on what to do before and after laser hair removal. I especially appreciate your tip on exfoliating 2-3 times per week after removal to reduce ingrown hairs. We’ll share this with our clientele (were in Australia).

  4. Avatar Ashley says:

    Thanks for your tip to get a consultation with a professional before you get treated to make sure that it’s right for you. I appreciate your advice to use a lot of sunscreen after treatment and avoid going tanning. My sister is considering hair removal and is trying to prepare for the process.

  5. Avatar Zachary says:

    Great tips! I like how you mentioned about going an in-person consultation with the provider before committing a treatment. I’m going on the vacation and in order to look perfect, I need laser hair removal. I’ll definitely consider recommendations while choosing the right services.

  6. Avatar Jason says:

    It is always important to follow after care instructions. The type of laser used for treatment is also important. Darker skin types require gold standard long pulsed nd:yag and lighter skin tones are great for alexandrite or diode laser. It is important to know what type of laser is being used on you. Some times clinics will use an IPL or BBL for hair removal, IPL is an outdated approach and can cause burns especially on darker skin tones. The treatment will hurt and cause some irritation but that is normal because your hair follicle is being impacted by the laser which is destroying the follicle. MedLaser USA has the most affordable and effective lasers in the industry which can help any clinic lower the cost of treatments passing those savings on to clientele. Visit us a http://www.medlaserusa.com

  7. Avatar Steele says:

    I had no idea that the medicines I take may lead to burns in case I decide to have a laser hair removal procedure! I am considering having it, and I will make sure to take all of my pills to the doctor. I hope they are not harmful to this procedure, and I will not have to stop taking them.

  8. Avatar Oscar says:

    I’m glad you mentioned avoiding the sun after laser hair removal. My wife is planning on getting laser hair removal next week, and so I’m trying to familiarize myself with the process to be able to help her out in any way that I can. Thanks to your tips, I have a better idea on how to help her care for her skin after the treatment!

  9. Avatar Alexandria says:

    I was at a brunch the other day with my friends and they were all talking about hair removal treatments. It was an interesting topic of discussion that led a lot of us to wonder what to do before you get a treatment. They would all love to know that taking a shower before will remove dirt and oils to make the process smoother.

  10. Avatar Mitch says:

    Thanks for sharing these do’s and don’t tips to us, I just forwarded it to my wife and she said it was very helpful.

  11. Avatar Mitch says:

    I’m glad that I found your article or blog. It’s so helpful. I’ve always wanted to do laser hair removal but I’m afraid to do it.

  12. Avatar Monica says:

    It’s interesting that you suggest to not use skincare products before receiving laser hair removal treatment. My sister-in-law is interested in getting laser hair removal on her legs so that she doesn’t have to spend so much time shaving during the summer. She really likes to use skincare products so this is a really good tip for her to stop using them prior to receiving the treatment. I think she would really benefit from talking to a professional to learn more about the process.

  13. Avatar Ridley says:

    Thanks for the laser hair removal tips. I’m going to get it done on my back, so this is all great to know. I’ll have no problem avoiding the sun because I don’t even like swimming or anything!

  14. Avatar Amanda says:

    Thanks for pointing out that you shouldn’t wax, bleach, or pluck your hair for 6 weeks before your appointment because that can make the treatment less effective. Unfortunate I read that too late hehe

  15. Avatar Raymond says:

    I’m thinking of getting laser hair removal soon. I thought it was helpful how you suggest taking a shower before the appointment and avoiding things such as moisturizers too. I’ll keep this in mind to ensure my appointment is as successful as possible.

  16. Avatar Jocelyn says:

    I’m tired of shaving my legs all the time, and I’m thinking about getting laser removal so I don’t have to worry about this anymore. Your article had great information regarding this, and I liked how you said to shower right before my appointment and clean the treatment area to remove all dirt and oil. Thanks; I’ll keep this in mind if I get my leg hair removed with a laser.

  17. Avatar Daphne says:

    Thanks for the tip to get an in-person consultation. I’ve been thinking about getting laser hair removal soon. Your advice will help me find a good company that does hair removal for women!

  18. Avatar Kate says:

    Hi Erin,

    Great!

    Can you please tell me the disadvantages of using the products which have ‘alfa hydrody acid’?

    Thanks,
    Kate

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Kate,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your great question! We recommend shying away from AHA use per-treatment to prevent any irritation. It’s just a good idea to cease use before your session.

      Hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  19. Avatar Sammy says:

    Cosign the tip: “Stop using skincare products with strong ingredients like retinoids or alfa hydrody acid (AHA)” before treatment. I did my upper lip and used a retinol serum before treatment. The area was really red and irritated post lasering. So take heed of this everyone!

  20. Avatar Vivian says:

    Great tips 🙂

  21. Avatar Eileen says:

    Thanks for the tip to have a consultation in person before we schedule an appointment for laser hair removal. I’m thinking about getting laser hair removal on my legs so I won’t have to spend time shaving them once the weather heats up. I’m glad I read your article and learned how to find the right hair removal treatment center!

  22. Avatar Charlotte 3 says:

    Thanks for the tip on avoiding the sun after getting laser hair removal since it can irritate the skin!

  23. Avatar Taryn says:

    Great tips Thanks a lot for sharing a great post

  24. It is very important to get the knowledge of pre and post laser hair removal treatment becuase all permanent hair removal medical procedures have some side effects.

    Thank you for sharing the post Erin, it is helping people looking for information on pre and post cares.

  25. Avatar Hailey says:

    Helpful tips! Thanks a lot for sharing these great tips with us. I found this post very helpful for me. Thanks and keep sharing.

  26. Avatar AE says:

    I was afraid to do laser hair removal 🙂 After reading this article, I will try it

  27. Avatar Ellie says:

    Great tips on here, my own provider did not tell me some of these. I asked her about it and she said its all correct. Very helpful!

  28. Avatar Ross says:

    Great tips, thanks for posting Erin.

  29. Avatar Haven says:

    Thank God for aloe vera! Do you suggest to have laser hair removal on cold weather or hot weather? Does that matter at all?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Great question Haven! I’m not sure temperature would make much of a difference, as long as treated area is not exposed to overly hot or cold for a prolonged period of time. However, It may be beneficial to due laser hair removal during the fall and winter so treatment area is not exposed to high UV.

      Thanks again for reading!

      WD Staff

  30. Avatar Linda says:

    Hi what is your opinion on taking any NSAIDs, hydrocortisones or any ANTI INFLAMMATORY topicals or orals after having laser hair removal? I would think that its working against the Laser hair removal by rushing to the follicle and helping calm it when we are trying to injure the follicle after all. Thoughts??

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Linda,

      Great question! I have not seen specific evidence of anti-inflammatory use decreasing the effectiveness of laser hair removal but it is in an interesting concept. We do, however, advise patients to try and avoid taking anti-inflammatory medications before and directly after treatment as it can increase their chance of bruising (due to thinning of the blood).

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  31. Avatar Shirley says:

    Great info on what to do before treatment. my provider told me what to do after laser but not before i come in. Thanks 🙂

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