What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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Before laser hair removal, the hair in the treatment area might be trimmed with a pair of scissors. You might also be fitted with special goggles to protect your eyes from the laser beam. The doctor might apply a topical anesthetic to your skin to reduce any discomfort during treatment.

During the procedure

The doctor will press a hand-held laser instrument to your skin. Depending on the type of laser, a cooling device on the tip of the instrument or a cool gel might be used to protect your skin.

When the doctor activates the laser, the laser beam will pass through your skin to the tiny sacs (follicles) where hair growth originates. The intense heat from the laser beam damages the hair follicles, which inhibits hair growth. Some discomfort in the skin is possible, and you'll likely feel a sensation of cold from the cooling device or gel.

Treating a small area, such as the upper lip, might take only a few minutes. Treating a larger area, such as the back, might take several hours.

After the procedure

You might notice redness and swelling for the first few hours after laser hair removal.

To reduce any discomfort, apply ice to the treated area. Your doctor might also suggest an aloe gel or other type of cream or lotion, as well as over-the-counter pain relievers. If you have a skin reaction immediately after laser hair removal, the doctor might apply a steroid cream to the affected area.

After laser hair removal, avoid sun exposure — both natural sunlight and tanning beds. When your skin has healed, use sunscreen whenever you're in the sun.

You might also prepare yourself for possible hair shedding in the first few weeks after treatment. Don't mistake this for hair regrowth.

May. 10, 2012