Laser Hair Removal Risks and Contraindications
Laser hair removal is not without risk, so it is mandatory that it is performed under proper medical supervision and in a certified centre which provides risk assessment. Several types of complications can occur following laser hair removal treatment. Most are mild and only last a few hours to a few days. If you have any doubt, do not hesitate to consult our doctors.
There is no evidence that laser hair removal causes skin cancer as the light energy from the device remains at the level of the skin.
There are no research studies which prove permanent hair removal treatments have any negative effects on the fetus of a pregnant mother. Even so, we don’t recommend the treatment to women during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Safety precautions should always be taken when using medical grade lasers to avoid damaging eyes. Every person in our treatment rooms wears specific goggles or protective shells for their eyes.
Burning during laser hair removal is mainly associated with patients with darker skin tones, tanned skin or recently UV exposed skin (even without tanning), or the prior taking of beta-carotene or self-tanning pills. These burns manifest themselves as scabs or bubbles and occur when the outermost layer of the skin exceeds its heat tolerance. In this situation, infection is a concern and therefore a mild antiseptic disinfectant should be applied and the wound protected from light and oxygen. The use of a petroleum jelly dressing will allow the new skin to develop as the burn heals. This normally takes less than 21 days. Scabs may cause some hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation that is mostly reversible. However, in rare circumstances, the scars remain visible and reduce in size with time. In this case, the Epilium & Skin consultant will recommend appropriate medical treatment.
Pigmentation Irregularities can manifest themselves in two ways; hyperpigmentation (an increase in the normal skin colour), or hypopigmentation (a decrease in normal skin tone). The risk of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation depends on the patient’s skin type. Hypopigmentation occurs on pigmented areas or areas with burn injuries. These problems are generally temporary but may last several months. In some cases, they may require a specific treatment with creams that your GP will need to prescribe. Hypopigmentation disappears mostly with early sun exposure.
A haematoma is a severe, localised build-up of blood vessels which results in bruising. These can occur in patients taking anticoagulant medication such as aspirin or anti-vitamin K. If you are taking these medications it is of the utmost importance that you share that information during consultation, as you may not be eligible for treatment.
Paradoxical Hair Regrowth
Paradoxical regrowth is one of laser hair removal’s risks if done in a non-recommended area. In some areas of fine, downy hair growth the treatment can stimulate further hair growth. We do not recommend laser hair removal treatment for this type of hair.
The main factors encouraging this paradoxical re-growth are hormonal disorders associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, and the taking of certain medications such as corticosteroids and Finasteride®.
The areas prone to the risk in women are the neck, cheeks , and arms. In men these areas are the cheeks, neck, and shoulders. All skin types can be affected, but types III and IV should be most careful. Phototype III corresponds to an intermediate skin tone, brown hair with brown eyes. This is a skin type in which sunburn is rare and the skin gradually bronzes with exposure to sun. Phototype IV corresponds to a dull skin, brown hair and normally brown or black eyes. This skin type is also where sunburn is limited and strong bronzing takes place.
Treatments which involve lasers using short pulses and too few sessions may explain the continuing growth of down-like hair. This form of treatment requires a number of sessions and the use of a laser with a long pulse such as the ND:Yag.
What Areas are at Risk for Paradoxical Hair Regrowth?
Today, laser hair removal technologies can treat a majority of areas where one might consider hair unsightly. Legs, underarms, and bikini zones are easily treated, but it is necessary to note that it is not the same for all the parts of the body. Some areas require extra attention on the part of the practitioner during the first consultation. A laser treatment on downy, fine or clear hair may cause a paradoxical regrowth or stimulation. We characterize this phenomenon by the transformation of the fine hair into a thick/coarse hair follicle, or by an escalated production of hair in a previously treated area where hair was not present previously. The experts at Epilium & Skin will be able to tell you if you are at risk for this particular side effect.
Areas of Laser Hair Removal at Risk in Women
Epilium & Skin does not recommend to treat the forehead, cheekbones, temples, sideburns, or jawline for women. On the body of a woman, we do not recommend treating the upper arms, chest, stomach, lower back, and buttocks. If the practitioner finds that the hair is dense and the hair is thick/coarse enough, some laser hair removal sessions in these areas can be considered. An alternative option could be treatment by electrolysis hair removal sessions. However, in areas with high hormonal concentrations, the result may not be satisfactory. In young people with highly developed hair growth, we recommend that you start the treatment after performing a hormonal assessment, and with the prior consent of your endocrinologist.
Laser Hair Removal Contraindications
Before starting a laser hair removal treatment, we need to inform you about the contraindications:
- Keloids (coloured or raised scars)
In the majority of cases, you should avoid the use of lasers on these skin conditions:
- History of haemorrhaging or excessive bleeding
- Chemical or powder burns
- Poor blood circulation (heavy leg syndrome)
- During pregnancy
- Taking of photosensitising drugs
- If you are on a specific regime of vitamin A and/or carotene
- Anti-acne treatments
- The use of anticoagulants
- An evolving skin infection
- An ongoing severe allergic reaction