Laser Hair Removal vs. Waxing: Which Is Best?

Written by Jamie Cantu, LA, Licensed Aesthetician on September 15, 2020 No Comments

laser hair removal or waxing

While shaving is convenient and easily done in the shower as part of a daily routine, it’s among the least effective methods for removing unwanted hair. Compared to shaving, waxing and laser hair removal offer longer lasting and more complete hair removal. But which hair removal option is better?

Here’s a rundown on the differences between laser hair removal and waxing:

How Does Waxing Work?

Waxing for hair removal entails applying warm wax to the skin, followed by a strip of fabric. The strip of fabric is then quickly pulled off in the opposite direction as hair growth. When done properly, the hair is removed from the follicle resulting in smooth skin with no hair visible at the surface.

Waxing typically lasts for 3-6 weeks, at which point the hair begins to regrow and the area will need to be waxed again.

What is Laser Hair Removal?

While waxing leaves the hair follicle intact, laser hair removal specifically targets the follicle so hair cannot grow back. A technician may first numb and cool the area to be treated. The laser is then applied to the area to heat and destroy the hair at the root.

Because hair grows in stages and not every hair will be zapped with the laser at your first session, laser hair removal requires several treatment sessions to achieve a full result. However, the results of laser hair removal can last for months or even years with minimal periodic touch ups required.

Waxing vs. Laser Hair Removal

Candidacy

While waxing works well on any skin type, not everyone is a great candidate for laser hair removal.

Since the laser needs to ‘see’ the follicle for proper targeting, laser hair removal works best on those with pale skin and dark hair, which provides the greatest contrast. Laser hair removal also works better on course and thick versus fine hair.

Pain

Neither waxing or laser hair removal should be excessively painful if done right. Because waxing requires monthly visits, some find they get used to the quick pull of hair from the follicle while for others, waxing remains painful.

Laser treatments are sometimes prefaced with a numbing agent which minimizes sensation. Laser hair removal feels like a rubber band snapping against your skin, and the process is relatively quick. At the first session, you may feel the most pain, but in subsequent sessions, there will be fewer hairs to zap.

Ingrown hairs

One unfortunate side effect of waxing is the proliferation of ingrown hairs. Waxing can trigger awkward regrowth because hair is pulled out in the opposite direction of the follicle, thus damaging hair’s normal growth trajectory. Ingrown hairs occur when newly regrown hair fails to break the surface of the skin.

Laser hair removal does not cause ingrown hair since the injury to the hair follicles does not bend them.

Skin Damage

It’s normal to experience redness after waxing, which usually subsides within a few hours. However, waxing can cause long-term damage to the skin if wax is too hot or if it’s pulled off too slowly or at the wrong angle.

When performed by an experienced technician, laser hair removal will never damage the skin. The most common side effect of laser hair removal is a hot feeling along the treated area (similar to a minor sun burn), which typically resolves after a couple of hours.

Stubble

Hair regrowth after waxing can be stubble-like and hair can cause itching as it breaks through the surface of the skin.

Because hair grows in phases, you could have some minor regrowth between laser treatments or after. This regrowth, however, will appear finer and sparser with every treatment. Individual hairs will also be finer, and not prickly like stubble.

Result Quickness

With waxing, results are instant. Your hair is gone in seconds, and redness will subside within hours.

Laser hair removal takes time to work. Typically, hair can be completely removed from an area within 5-7 sessions, spaced one month apart. Shaving in between treatments is ok, while waxing is not recommended. Waxing will limit the laser’s ability to read your hair follicles at your next visit.

Result Permanence

Waxing will leave your skin feeling smooth, but rarely for longer than a month. Those who wax will need to do so monthly to maintain results. Waxing is also most effective when hair has grown back ¼ inch. This requires an awkward waiting period between appointments.

Compared to waxing, laser hair removal provides a more permanent result. Some patients may need quarterly or semi-annual maintenance sessions because new follicles can produce hair thanks to changes in hormones or age.

Cost

In the short-term, waxing appears to be less expensive than laser hair removal since a single session of waxing is often less expensive than a single laser hair removal session. However, the results of waxing must be maintained monthly which can definitely add up over the course of a year.

In contrast, laser hair removal has higher initial costs. But the cost of laser hair removal falls dramatically since most patients will only need minimal touch ups. Thus, laser hair removal is a less expensive option in the long-run as it provides near-permanent hair removal.

Considering electrolysis for hair removal? Read this blog post first on why we think laser hair removal is superior!


Jamie Cantu, LA

Jamie Cantu is a licensed medical aesthetician who is focused on proper skin care techniques to improve the appearance of skin. Jamie specializes in microblading, laser hair removal, microneedling, chemical peels, eye lash extensions, Hydrafacial MD, dermaplaning, and microdermabrasion.


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