Laser Hair Removal Information Side Effects, Treatment, Effectiveness

Permanent Hair Reduction Information

This document discusses laser treatment for hair removal, a long, in-depth read that is in addition to our laser hair removal FAQ, designed for people about to start their depilation hair treatment whereby this document is for men and women still in the thinking phase.

Tweezing, shaving, waxing or laser, most of us have tried to remove unwanted hair on our body in one way or another. Waxing, plucking and shaving are quick, inexpensive the procedure is straightforward but, they are temporary measures. Laser hair removal is the third most popular beauty based procedure in the world, with over 27 million treatments carried out over 2014. Laser technology has advanced a great distance from when it started in the early 90’s, from slow & very painful, only able to treat light skin tones; to fast, less painful and able to treat all skin types.

Undoubtedly if you have spent any time on the Internet looking into laser hair removal you will have been bombarded with this laser is better than that laser and so forth. Currently, there are three primary laser technologies available.

Laser machine technologies

  • Alexandrite Laser (755nm)
  • ND: YAG Laser (1064 nm)
  • Diode Laser (800-810 nm)
Within these technologies lies brand names
  • Candela
  • Lumenis

Soprano XL (unfortunately the Soprano has problems when in gentle mode, a mode the company brought out to lessen the pain caused. When in this mode it has caused growth of hair instead of removing it, oh how embarrassing; we would suggest discounting this brand from your research)

We are sticking to the above list of brands, they are the major respected brands and all offer safe (in skilled hands) effective hair reduction results. All the major clinics and salons in Ireland that offer Medical Grade Laser hair removal use one of the above brands.

A few frequently asked questions

How successful is laser hair removal

Most people respond well to laser hair removal but there are always exceptions to the case. Some hair may not respond or be resilient to the laser process, despite there are no guarantees that it will work for you, it is still quite rare for people not to respond to laser depilation.

How much hair is removed after the first laser removal session

In nearly all cases the client will see a visible reduction after the first session. As we discussed in the hair growth cycle, we are treating a percentage of hair on each visit. Effective hair reduction is normally within 6 sessions, some clients do not need to return after four sessions. In some rare cases, up to ten sessions may be needed, although this is quite rare and around 1 in 100 people may experience this. If hair reduction is not being attained it is normally due to a hormonal balance issue with the client or is being caused by medication the client is taking.

How many laser hair removal treatments do you need

All medical grade FDA approved laser hair removal machines are designed to reach effective hair reduction within 6 sessions. In some rare cases, up to 10 sessions may be needed. Under normal conditions if a client is not gaining results it is normally due to a issue with hormones or medication.

How long does laser hair removal last

Hair is shed within two weeks after the laser treatment, hair regrows following a 4-week cycle and thus, each laser treatment is 4 to 6 weeks apart to catch all hair within a 6 session treatment length. After the 6 sessions have been carried out the client will often need one or maybe two sessions per year after that.

Apart from the laser technologies and brands above we then also have IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) This is not a laser and many salons do market it as a laser or IPL Laser when in fact it is a light emitting device.

To further confuse the market we now have many cheap brands coming onto the market based on the Diode technology, not FDA approved. For the consumer, it is very understandable that confusion is everywhere and often have to go off of the word of the clinic or the Internet.

Marketing, the fear factory used to influence you to purchase from XYZ business

At Zest, we are very much about truth in marketing, and undoubtedly it does cost us, clients. We do not run permanent marketing messages saying 80% off of laser hair removal when the costs of hair removal dived in price many years ago, to us it is an underhanded tactic; yes it works, but just because something works does not mean it is ethical. If a company is happy to have unethical practices what else are they pleased to lie about?

Despite being some conditions to the treatment, Medical Grade IPL is just as effective at hair reduction as a Medical Grade Laser Machine.

The biggest myth in hair removal is the IPL narrative, we have already addressed IPL and hair removal. As outlined in the article Laser VS IPL The facts behind laser and IPL hair removal we exposed that, in fact, IPL will produce the same level of hair reduction as a laser will. Of course, there are conditions to that statement and you can read all about it in that specific article.

Why do companies lie? Because fear sells and it is easy to spin a lie based on some, loose truth. For some reason each and nearly every company thinks they need to persuade you to use them, via marketing practises that are shady at best and furthermore must believe that there is not enough business for everyone.

I just want effective results, no surprises coupled with a fair and reasonable price

You want effective laser hair removal that is also a fair and reasonable price. You wish to know that when you visit a clinic, you will see the expected results within six sessions. Again, ethics are thrown out of the window. Laser coupons have caused more problems for clients than effective treatments. Price point differentiation seems to be the only tactic many clinics use.

Would you like to buy your laser top-ups now? Time to exit, stage door, left

If you visit a laser clinic and instead of 6 sessions and one session a year you are having 9, 10, 11 or, even more, sessions than it is easy to sell you, the laser top up.

When clinics all over the country are selling top-ups in groups of three, you have to start asking questions of how ethical is that salon chain. When you have had effective laser treatments within the manufacturers standard of 6 sessions; one or at the most two sessions is needed for the maintenance.

Why on earth would you want to buy three years of maintenance sessions?

It is in my humble opinion that if a clinic is selling laser top-ups and pushing top-ups than something is going to be wrong with the initial sessions. Turning machines down is one of the biggest dramas within the industry. The only reason salons turn down the settings is either to have you in more often or to lessen the chances of injuring you, i.e. inexperienced operators.

My laser is better than your laser

Candela, CYNOSURE and Lumenis are all best of the breed, medical grade machines. They all produce the most effective laser hair removal available on the market, and they are all over €80,000. Funny enough, have a little Google search around complaints and ineffective treatments and you will find salons all using the above, more proof that turning down machines and inexperienced staff, is a real issue in this unregulated industry.

Recent studies that covered Alexandrite, Pulsed Diode, Nd: YAG lasers and intense pulsed light (IPL) all formed the conclusion that in the specified usage range, they all achieved semi-permanent hair reduction. With the data is not supporting the increasing complaints and injuries, it was reasoned training and cost-cutting measures are the greatest problems, the industry faces.

Laser hair removal will only work on hair that is actively growing, the reason why we need 4-6 treatments, to treat an area effectively with laser hair removal. In a previous article, we discuss the hair growth cycle and why you need a course of laser

More laser depilation FAQ’s

Does laser hair removal hurt

The pain caused by the laser is similar to an elastic band being flicked against the skin. Despite the advancement in laser technologies and painless treatment is not possible. The latest technologies in hair reduction cause less pain than the early laser machines such as the Ruby Laser.

Does laser hair removal work on a man's back

Man's back laser hair removalYes, just like any other part of the body, a man’s back is one of the most popular treatment areas. With advancements in laser technology and larger spot sizes, the area covered in a single flash, we are able to finish a session in some cases within 15 or twenty minutes.

What is hirsutism?

One of the contradictions is hirsutism, this is when women have excessive hair growth, caused by a medical condition or some medications. When you have your consultation you will be asked what medications you are currently taking.

Is hair distribution the same in all people?

The short answer is no. Genetics control our hair distribution, colour, thickness and influences all the characteristics of the hair. Asian races and people from the Mediterranean areas often have thicker, darker hair. European people tend to have a fairer and thiner hair distribution to the body. This does not mean that certain races will be more successful than others with hair removal. The contradiction to this is people that have extremely fair hair, these people at times are not suited to laser depilation.

No. The amount and distribution of body hair is largely determined genetically. This may vary according to racial or familial characteristics. For example, those of Asian or Mediterranean background may tend to grow darker, thicker hair than fairer, European individuals.

How does the treatment work?

Through a handpiece the laser beam is aimed at the hair being treated, the light is absorbed by the pigment in the hair shaft and the melanosomes of the hair bulb. Each laser technology has a light wavelength specific to the skin type being treated, the duration of the laser beam heats up the hair and interrupts or destroys the mechanism that creates the hair growth. The treatment only affects the hair currently in a growth phase and the light wavelength only treats the hair without damaging the surrounding tissue.

What is the Fitzpatrick Skin Scale?

It corresponds to how easily we burn, the Irish skin is always, type I or II even though many think they are type IIII or V. The skin type corresponds to what laser will be used for the treatment. As a rough guide as it does vary from person to person, the Alexandrite Laser will be used for types I, II and III and the ND YAG will be used for types IV, V and V!.

Hair growth cycle and Fitzpatrick skin type classification

Location Telogen
Back 3-6 3-6 6-12
Thigh 3-6 3-6 6-12
Arm 3-5 1-2 4-7
Calf 3-4 4-5 7-9
Axilla 2-3 3-4 5-7
Upper Lip 1-2 3-4 4-6
Bikini 3-4 2-3 5-7
Hair cycles at varying times, thus frequency of sessions varies.
Type I Always burns, never tans *
Type II Always burns, sometimes tans *
Type III Sometimes burns, always tans
Type IV Rarely burns, always tans
Type V Moderately pigmented
Type VI Black skin
Fitzpatrick classification of skin types.
* Denotes Irish Skin

Is laser hair removal permanent

There is no hard and fast rule to this question as it varies considerably in each person as genetics plays a large role in the distribution of hair. A Laser gives a permanent hair reduction and after the course of laser depilation, it will permanently reduce the number of body hairs. It will not attain a permanent removal of all hair and some clients have a patchy regrowth. This is the core reason why most individuals will require a maintenance session per year. Some clients respond better than others and have very little regrowth at all, the most common is stray hairs or a little patchiness. The most common number of maintenance sessions is 1 or at most 2 sessions per year.

Laser hair removal side effects

Clinical trials and peer-reviewed research has been in place for many years now, and you will find many peer-reviewed documents referenced throughout our content. Laser hair removal in skilled hands with medical grade equipment is extremely safe. We have included in the chart below the most common issues within the industry and it centres around inexperienced operators and inferior machinery.

Side effects can include the following

Irritation and redness to the area treated. A slight redness and some itching sensation are a normal side effect for the first few days after treatment. After the laser procedure, a calming gel is applied often Aloe vera based designed to cool and minimise the effects caused by the laser treatment.

Slight blistering. Occasionally, some people experience a crusting or slight blistering of the skin. Relatively rare and indicates the operator has used an incorrect setting. If you have had a laser treatment and you, have developed blistering swimming or prolonged immersion in water should be avoided. Pat the skin dry after showering or bathing do not rub the area. We must stress that blistering is extremely rare and we have not had the occurrence within our clinic. It is of our opinion that blistering is caused by the operator selecting an incorrect setting for the clients skin, or a too aggressive treatment.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. A common side effect of the laser treatment is hyperpigmentation where the skin appears darker over the treatment area. In most cases this will subside after a few days, it may indicate the incorrect laser technology is used; although this is not a hard and fast rule. The light is attracted to the melanin in the skin, darkens, crusts over and sheds off, after this the skin is left with a more even skin tone and is the basis of skin rejuvenation therapy.

Injuries from misuse of laser machines

  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Scarring
  • Textural Changes
  • Incorrect or invalid responces

Most common treatment mistakes

  • Excessively high energy output
  • Wrong Machine Used
  • Wrong Skin Type Selection
  • No Cooling

Are laser treatments safe?

Lasers are one of the single biggest advancements is aesthetic and medical treatment, there is no published evidence that laser treatments increase the risk of cancers or other skin disorders. Medical Grade Laser Machines are a class 4 laser product and in unskilled hands, as indicated above can cause many skin damaging effects, It is imperative that you select a laser clinic with extensive experience with the treatment of laser procedures. Despite the FDA being an American licensing system, it is the safest guide we have in the selecting of laser equipment. Many salons are offering laser hair removal with Pulse Diode Lasers that are not FDA approved. We recommend choosing a clinic that uses CYNOSURE, Lumenis or Candela equipment. Before you sign the bottom line ask questions, you only get one skin and saving a few euro can leave you with a lifetime of scarring and other disorders. A month does not go by where we do not have an inquiry from a client asking if we can fix the damage that has been caused by inexperienced operators and cheap machinery. The FDA approval system put the equipment through extensive tests. By selecting an FDA approved laser machine you are guaranteed that the machine has passed exhaustive testing and that only leaves the experience of the operator to contend with.


International Journal of Medical Physics, Clinical Engineering and Radiation Oncology, 2015, 4, 41-48 Published Online February 2015 in SciRes.

FDA Removing hair safely

Emma Ryall on EmailEmma Ryall on FacebookEmma Ryall on GoogleEmma Ryall on LinkedinEmma Ryall on Twitter
Emma Ryall
Educator, Proprietor, Aesthetician at Zest Skin Clinic & Laser Hair Removal
Licenced Aesthetician, CIBTAC, ITEC and CIDESCO accredited professional therapist with over 14 years industry experience, specialising in skincare. Emma is also a master trainer City & Guilds – Accreditation No: 500/5753/4
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