Hair removal is a common practice for both men and women. It can be uncomfortable, expensive and time consuming. Laser hair removal is an effective way to reduce the amount of unwanted hair on your face, legs, underarms and bikini area without having to shave or wax.
Laser hair removal works by targeting the pigment in your hair follicles using intense pulses of light energy. The laser light heats up the hair follicle and damages it so that it can no longer produce new hair growth.
The process requires several treatments to achieve permanent results because each laser treatment only targets individual hairs. The number of treatments needed depends on your skin type, hair color and the area being treated.
Laser treatments are painless because they are performed while you are asleep with lidocaine numbing cream applied beforehand. There may be some discomfort during treatment as the energy pulses penetrate your skin but this can be minimized by applying ice packs to the areas where laser beams intersect.
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Hair Removal Laser For Women
Getting rid of unwanted body hair by using temporary hair removal methods like shaving, tweezing and waxing, can get tiresome. If you’re sick of the nicks from shaving or the burning pain from waxing, and you want longer lasting results, then you might consider laser hair removal.
One of the most popular cosmetic procedures out there, laser hair removal is a convenient way to finally be free of body hair that you don’t want. Anyone unfamiliar with the procedure usually has a lot of questions—including how much it costs. Here’s what you need to know about laser hair removal.
What Is Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal is a permanent form of body hair removal that uses pulses of laser light to destroy the hair follicle. Shaving removes the tip of the hair follicle and waxing removes hair from the root, and in both cases, those hairs will grow back. Laser light, on the other hand, essentially kills a hair follicle so that it will not grow back.
“Laser hair removal requires a true laser that targets pigment,” says Anna Guanche, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Bella Skin Institute in Calabasas, California, adding that the laser heats up and damages hair follicles. “When the pigment in the hair bulb is heated, it subtly damages the tissue around it and prevents it from growing a new hair.” Indeed, research has proven that laser hair removal is an effective way to get rid of unwanted body hair.
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During a laser hair removal treatment, you will first have a consultation to assess your skin type, hair type and overall expectations, says Dr. Guanche. From there, the specialist determines if you’re a good candidate, and if you are, you’ll move forward with the laser experience. There’s an option to apply a topical numbing cream to the area to minimize any discomfort from the procedure, and then the lasering happens. If you have coarse hair, it might be shaved prior to treatment.
“After the laser treatment is complete, a topical calming gel will be applied,” says Dr. Guanche. “Additionally, SPF is generally applied to the treated area (if exposed to the sun).”
The Average Cost of Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal is often considered a beauty investment. It costs more money than shaving or waxing, but over time, when treatments are no longer needed, you can save money on body hair removal costs.
Many factors affect the price of this procedure. “Costs for laser hair removal vary by body area treated, geographical location, the expertise of the person performing the procedure, and time to perform the procedure,” says dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, M.D., founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “Individual treatment session costs are generally in the range of $100 to $800.”
In 2020, the average cost of laser hair removal with no other related expenses was $389, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Below, we dig into the average costs for common treatment areas. Remember that the average prices listed below are per treatment, and you may need four to six treatments overall, according to Dr. Guanche.
Average Cost of Laser Hair Removal for Large Areas
If you are getting laser hair removal on large areas of your body, such as your back or legs, the cost will likely be more expensive than removing hair from small areas. “Generally, a large area like the back or legs can be upwards of $600 per treatment,” says Dr. Guanche.
Average Cost of Laser Hair Removal for Small Areas
Smaller areas of the body are going to be less expensive. This can include the bikini line, underarms and facial areas like chins, lips and sideburns. “The bikini can be anywhere from $250 to $350 per treatment, depending on whether it is a Brazilian [removing hair from the labial to the perianal areas] or normal v-shaped bikini [removing hair from the groin areas, leaving a V or patch of hair on the mons pubis],” says Dr. Guanche. She adds that the lower face and chin can average about $250 per treatment, and underarm hair removal can range between $175 to $225 per treatment.
What’s Included in the Cost of Laser Hair Removal?
The cost of laser hair removal typically includes the office visit, the application of topical anesthetic to numb the pain, the laser treatment and the post-care topical application of products like soothing agents and sunscreen, according to both Dr. Guanche and Dr. Hartman.
How Many Treatments of Laser Hair Removal are Required?
It might ultimately be a more permanent hair removal solution, but laser hair removal treatment is not a quick fix. Just one laser hair removal treatment may be enough to make hair thinner, lighter and more fine, but in order to be completely hair-free, you will have to get the procedure done four to six times. In the first year, Dr. Guanche recommends going every four to six weeks for touch-ups depending on how your hair is growing.
“It takes a number of treatments [to be completely effective],” says Dr. Guanche. “The laser treatment can reduce the size and diameter of hair, place it into remission completely, or not affect the hair at all. For this reason, multiple treatments are necessary at four to six week intervals.” You may even require yearly touch-ups for a few years following your first procedure.
Does Insurance Cover Laser Hair Removal?
For the most part, you shouldn’t expect your health insurance to cover the costs of laser hair removal. Dr. Hartman notes that you might be able to use a flexible spending account to cover the costs.
However, insurance might cover laser hair removal in rare cases, adds Dr. Guanche. This may include patients who have conditions such as pilonidal cysts or hidradenitis suppurativa (which are skin conditions that can be painful and may be able to be treated with laser hair removal). But, she adds, “In my experience, it is a daunting process to convince insurance companies to cover laser hair removal.”
Always ask the treatment office receptionist if they offer package options or flexible payment plans.
The Benefits of Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal might be expensive, but it also comes with a number of benefits including:
- Gets rid of unwanted body hair. This is one of the most permanent solutions to removing/reducing body hair out there.
- Makes skin smooth and even. Laser hair removal can “alleviate skin problems associated with hair growth like folliculitis and discoloration,” and it can also “reduce pigmentation problems associated with unwanted hair,” according to Dr. Hartman.
- Reduces time spent on removing body hair. Once you are done with laser treatments, you don’t have to spend any more time shaving or waxing. “There is no need for depilation, waxing, shaving and any of the irritation that goes along with these procedures,” says Dr. Guanche.
- No risk of ingrown hairs. Dr. Guanche points out that ingrown hairs, which often go hand-in-hand with shaving and waxing, are “a thing of the past after laser hair removal.”
The Downsides of Laser Hair Removal
There are also some cons to consider, including the following:
- Temporary discomfort with the procedure. Laser hair removal can cause side effects such as mild swelling, slight redness of the skin and temporary irritation that results in blistering, crusting, scarring or change in skin texture, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. However, some research has shown that side effects are limited and not serious.
- The out-of-pocket expense. Laser hair removal costs more than other hair removal methods.
- The possibility of pigmentation issues. Laser hair removal can cause pigmentation, depending on skin type. “The fairest skin types with the darkest hair fair the best,” says Dr. Guanche. “This is because the laser can more precisely target the dark hairs. This also allows for the practitioner to use higher energy to yield more results.” If you have dark skin and dark hair, the laser may also end up targeting the pigment of the skin, which can lead to burning or hyperpigmentation. When lasering on dark skin, the energy levels have to be kept lower to reduce those side effects, which results in more treatment sessions to achieve the desired results. “Darker skin types may require more treatments since energy levels would have to be decreased,” says Dr. Guanche. “Conversely, lighter hair types may require more treatments as well, since there’s not much pigmentation to absorb the laser energy.”
- Some inconvenience. “Sun avoidance and protection during the pre-treatment and post-treatment weeks is very important,” says Dr. Guanche, which is something to think about in terms of warm weather and possible vacations.
- The in-between period of treatments. In between treatments, Dr. Guanche says that you may have to allow hair to grow back without waxing or plucking them away.
- Potential for ineffectiveness: Experts note that effectiveness of the laser can be influenced by genetic predisposition, medications taken and nutritional factors. For example, people taking testosterone may not have as effective long-term results due to the medication.
Is Laser Hair Removal Permanent
Hair removal from a destroyed hair follicle is permanent. However, people who undergo hair removal can expect that some hair in the targeted area will grow back.
Over time, it is possible to treat the area again to reduce the number of hairs that regrow. In some cases, it may even be possible to eliminate all hair.
Whether or not hair grows back depends on numerous factors, including the type of hair that regrows and the skill of the person removing the hair.
Most people find that when hair regrows, it is lighter and less noticeable than it was before. This is because the laser may damage the hair follicle even when it fails to destroy it.
If a hair follicle is damaged but not destroyed, the hair will eventually regrow. It can be difficult to destroy every single hair follicle, so most people will see some hair regrowth.
When hair regrows, it is possible to treat it again, so people who want to remove all the hair may need several treatments.
In some cases, hair may be too light, too short, or resistant to treatment. In these cases, a person might choose to use other hair removal methods, such as plucking stray hairs.
How long does laser hair removal last?
Laser hair removal is permanent when the hair follicle is destroyed. When the hair follicle is only damaged, the hair will eventually regrow.
The amount of time it takes for the hair to regrow depends on the person’s unique hair growth cycle. Some people have hair that grows more quickly than others. Hair that is in a resting phase will grow back more slowly than hair that is in another phase.
Most people can expect some hair regrowth within a few months. Once this happens, they can opt for more removal treatments.
Does skin or hair color make a difference?
Hair removal works best on people with light complexions who have dark hair. This is because the pigment contrast makes it easier for the laser to target the hair, travel into the follicle, and destroy the follicle.
People with dark skin or light hair may need more treatments than others and may find that more hair grows back.
To permanently remove hair, the technician must know how to target the hair and choose the right type of laser. Research published in 2013Trusted Source found that lasers that produce longer wavelengths work best on dark skin.
Side effects and risks
During treatment, some people experience burning, stinging, or discomfort. For this reason, many technicians apply a numbing cream to the area they are treating. However, some people may have an allergic reaction or skin irritation in response to the numbing cream.
Minor side effects are common, and may include:
- changes in the color of the skin, particularly in people with dark skin, which are usually temporary
- skin redness
- blistering or crusting of the skin
Sometimes, irritation related to hair removal can cause scarring. Damaged skin can also become infected. Though rare, skin infections can spread and become life-threatening.
Providing a detailed medical history and discussing risks and benefits can help the provider determine the right treatment, reducing the risk of serious side effects.
Following hair removal, a person should avoid sun exposure. The sun can irritate the skin, which increases the risk of blisters and scars.
People who experience intense pain, a fever, crusting, blisters, or other signs of skin damage or infection should seek medical attention.
Cost of laser hair removal
According to 2017 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a hair removal session is $293.
Most people require multiple sessions, so people should talk to their treatment provider about how many sessions they will need to work out the overall cost.
Because laser hair removal is almost always a cosmetic procedure, insurance is unlikely to cover it.
The total cost of laser hair removal depends on several factors, including who performs the treatment. Skilled providers such as dermatologists and plastic surgeons may charge more but are less likely to cause injury or side effects.
Other factors affecting the cost include:
- the number of treatments required
- how much hair regrows
- the number of hairs targeted
- the size of the area requiring treatment
Removing a small amount of hair from a region such as the upper lip will cost less than removing hair from the entire leg.
Laser hair removal can significantly reduce the amount of body hair a person has. In most people, some hair will regrow over time.
Even when hair does regrow, there will be less overall hair, producing a smoother appearance. To get a realistic understanding of what to expect from laser hair removal, discuss treatment goals with a doctor or hair removal specialist.
Some skin complexions and hair types produce better results than others. The only way to know for sure what to expect is to talk to a doctor, a dermatologist, or another skilled practitioner.