Laser Hair Removal: How it Works, Costs, Pain and Safety

Adobe Stock

In this article, we’ll take a look at what laser hair removal is, how it works, what it costs, how painful it is, how safe it is, and what side effects come with the treatment.

Laser hair removal sounds like an expedient and easy way to rid yourself of unwanted hair, and it is! However, it can be mildly painful depending on your pain tolerance and the body part receiving the treatment. Here’s what you need to know and answers on the safety of laser hair removal.

How does laser hair removal work?

Laser hair removal works by converting light energy into heat, which in turn causes permanent damage to hair follicles, destroying them so that they don’t grow back. The light from the laser is absorbed by the melanin and the root of the hair.

The laser procedure targets hairs that are in their active growth phase. Following the treatment, those destroyed hair follicles will not grow back.

Why multiple laser hair removal treatments are required

As mentioned previously, laser hair removal treatments target hairs that are in the active growth phase. However, there are four phases of hair growth: anagen, catagen, telogen, and exogen. Hair follicles will be in different stages of growth at different times. Because of this, laser hair removal requires multiple treatments.

Laser treatments target three phases of hair growth: anagen (a 2-7 year phase), catagen (a 2-week phase), and telogen (a 3-month phase).

Laser hair removal can be expensive

Because of the expense, laser hair removal isn’t an option for everyone. The average cost of laser hair removal is $389 for a single session, according to 2020 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, while other estimates range from $280-$350 for a session. But keep in mind, this is only part of the total price, which may also include additional related expenses such as prescriptions for medication.

Keep in mind, most health insurance plans do not cover laser hair removal, which is considered cosmetic surgery. Most insurances are also unlikely to cover any complications that arise from such procedures. Additionally, other factors such as your hair growth and type of skin may affect the cost. However, some specialists may also have packages available that include multiple sessions.

How painful is laser hair removal?

First a disclaimer…Everyone has a different level of pain tolerance, so what could be mild or not painful at all to one person could be painful to another. Most physicians say laser hair removal causes minimal pain, especially when compared to other treatments such as waxing. The amount of pain also can vary depending on where you are receiving the treatment. Laser hair removal tends to be more painful along the bikini line, for example, but can be more painful to some people due to the fact that laser hair removal takes longer and so it extends the duration of mild pain.

How safe is laser hair removal?

Laser hair removal is generally a safe procedure for most people. However, there is some concern for people who have darker skin tones. The reason the procedure is more concerning for those with darker skin pigment is that laser hair removal works by targeting melanin, the substance that colors skin and hair. Therefore, the laser treatment practitioner must target the melanin in the hair without damaging the skin, which becomes more difficult depending on hair color and skin tone.

Experts say this doesn’t necessarily mean that people with darker skin tones should avoid laser hair removal. The newer, more advanced laser hair removal devices have been equipped with improved built-in safety designs that significantly reduce the chances of burns to the skin, as well as hyper- and hypo-pigmentation reactions, Mind Body Green reports.

What side effects can you expect from laser hair removal?

Side effects with laser hair removal are rare. However, some of the potential side effects include skin pigment changes, skin redness and irritation, changes in skin texture and scarring, and excessive hair growth.