Facial Folliculitis Caused by Syneron EMAX Laser Hair Removal?

I am 32 and have pale skin and dark brown hair. I...

I am 32 and have pale skin and dark brown hair. I have PCOS and get random dark facial hairs on my chin, neck, upper lip, and lower face areas. It began with chin and neck hairs and, through time, has expanded to the other above-mentioned areas. In the past, I would both wax and tweeze these areas in order to remove the dark hairs. However, as I got older, I have found that more of my previously peach fuzz/blonde hairs have been turning darker on their tips. So, about four to five months ago, I began laser treatments with the Syneron Elos powered EMAX laser since it reportedly treats both blonde and dark hairs and I have both on my face (dark hairs, some peach fuzz, and other non-peach fuss random longer blonde hairs).

First off, this is an extremely painful laser (at least, for me) and has me in tears each time. However, if it helps get rid of the hair, I'm willing to put up with the pain. In all fairness, I just found out that I could have bought and used numbing cream prior to these treatments - so maybe that would have helped. My technician thought she had told me about the numbing cream, but she hadn't.

I have only had four treatments so far. However, since I began these treatments, I have been blessed with what I thought was extremely bad acne. The "acne" is deep (nodular), red, and "robust" (word used by my primary care doctor) and seeps clear liquid when they erupt. It is only located in the areas of my face that are lasered. It looks like I have a case of the measles or chicken pox (in that there are so many of them). My primary care physician (for the record - not a dermatologist) thinks that I got folliculitis from the laser and has put me on antibiotics (minocylin) for a month.

Anyhow, all the research that I have done indicates that lasers don't cause folliculitis. The EMAX laser involves putting a clear gel (radio frequency conductive medium) on my face prior to the lasering process. I have been told (by laser technician, not doctor) that the gel should not be causing these issues due to it's properties. However, my doctor thinks that it could also be part of the problem.

I spaced out the last laser treatment a little bit longer to see if the "acne" would clear up and go away. It did go away for about two weeks and then came back, even though I hadn't had another laser treatment so it appears to be here to stay at this point (regardless of whether I have laser treatments or not).

I have stopped the facial laser treatments for the time being until I can figure out what is happening and causing this issue (plus I'm on antibiotics right now that increases my sensitivity to sun).

I have been getting major breakouts on my lower face and neck following laser hair removal on these areas with Syneron Elos powered EMAX laser. The breakouts cover larger areas and are itchy and much deeper than my normal breakouts and take longer to heal. My neck looks like I have the measles. My primary care physician (non-dermatologist) thinks that I have folliculitis from either the laser or from the clear gel that is used as part of this particular type of laser hair removal. However, all my research online suggests that lasers should help foliculitis and not cause folliculitis. In addition, I have heard that the clear gel should not be causing issues due to the properties. Any thoughts on what else could be causing the breakouts?
Name not provided

I would recommend the person who performs my laser hair removal. However, until I know what is causing my skin infection, I would not recommend the Syneron EMAX laser itself.

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Comments (9)

Yes Britt it was on my cheeks and jawline :(
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Hi Carobl - My dermatologist said that she thought it was still acne (not folliculitus) and put me on antibiotics and Retin-A, which seemed to help some, but it would still flare up pretty often. The thing is that I've always had acne. I'm one of the oh so lucky ones (sarcastic) who had it as a teenager and then never got rid of it. ROAR! I am 35 now. That being said - I know what my normal acne looks like and what happens when these particular post-laser flare ups occur are very different from my normal acne. They are borderline and/or cystic, they hurt, they itch, and they cause my lymph nodes on the side of my neck to swell. They don't tend to be associated with hormones either as there does not appear to be a particular pattern to when they flare up. I never had this type of "acne" before the laser treatment and they only occur on areas where I had the laser treatment (neck, jaw line, and lower). They are particularly concentrated on my neck (including my lower neck - where I also had laser treatment) and I never had acne on my lower neck before. I ended up being too sensitive to the Retina-A and I stopped using it because it didn't really seem to make that much of a difference. My dermatologist recommended Accutane, which I wasn't ready to commit to. What finally ended up working for me was the Acne dot org products. If I follow the instructions exactly - they stay away. If I get lazy about doing all three steps, then they come back. It is essentially a benzo treatment system and it is not too pricey. It is annoying to get used to at first, but in the long run - it has been worth the effort. It took a couple of months for my skin to get used to it and for the results to become fairly consistent. I don't know if it'll work for you, but after trying several options (including my dermatologists more expensive benzo products), it was the only thing that worked for me... However, all of the above being said, it still bothers me because it is more of a bandaid then a solution. I know that they are still there because I get flare ups as soon as I get lazy about following all 3 steps. So, essentially, the benzo is just keeping them at bay. As such, I have not yet found the real answer to the problem or the solution, just a temporary fix. Please let me know if you find out anything more... I hope I've helped. Believe it or not, the above is really the short version of treatments that I've tried to date to fix the problem in the last 2.5 years since this happened. I've also tried other doctors, different antibiotics, ointments, regular facials to no avail.
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Hi tomato, I had laser hair done to my legs 10 days ago, and I have the same problem now. My whole legs are full of swollen red pimples and they itch horribly , especially at night. I saw a dermatologist and she prescribed antihistamine pills and Clobetasol Propionate ointment. The swelling is better but the pimples are still pure red and itchy. Today I had a biopsy done to see why this happened. Hopefully I can have an answer in one week. The doctor is so puzzled and said that my case is the first to hear about, knowing that I have never had problem with my skin before even with shaving.. Do you have any updates to your case?
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Hi Tomato, I`m with the same problem now, after six lhr session my face is cover with deep and red pimples, I used to have good skin before the laser, I would like to know what treatment clear your skin, thank you so much!!!

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Hi carobl, 

Did you have the laser done on your face? 

Thanks,

-Britt

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I would advise trying Electrolysis, like I did years ago. No more problems with folliculitis, no burns from the equipment, no grey or blond hairs left over. Also, my electrologist was very thorough, and explained that tweezing hair in hormonally controlled areas like on my upper lip and chin only promote more vigorous hair growth, and cause the hair to grow in darker and coarser each time the follicle grows a new hair. Also, I have found Electrolysis to be so comfortable that I don't need an anesthetic prior to treatment.
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Hi, I had electrolysis done about 17 years also and it took care of my severe facial hair problem. Now that I'm older some new hairs have shown up and I liked to go back to what I know works. However, since laser has become common, I can't seem to locate a technicial. How do you find someone who still does electrolysis? Is it a lost trade? I'm in the Washington DC area.
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It is possible for some irritation and mild pimples to for after treatment. The firt and formost thing to deal with is that if you are trying to get rid of unwanted body hair then you shouldn't be using a pulse light laser. These are only temporary and the hair WILL come back in about 1-2 years time. If you are using a conducting gel then you can be certain that this is what you are being treated on. An alexandrite laser is the best or if your skin is sark a yag. Make sure the the operators are well trained or even better a medical professional. They know the proper techniques to keep an area and the equipment sterile. I hope your problem calms down but I truly recommend that you find a new provider.
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Hi Tomato. Actually peri-follicular erythema (red dots around the hair shaft on the skin surface) is extremely common, as is folliculitis. Some people always get it and need to be careful to apply the right moisturizer OFTEN post-treatment. But some are victims of under-trained operators (most common issue, especially with the tricky head on the Syneron products - they have 2 metal bars that will leave minor burn if not squished in full contact with skin during the firing of each pulse). Or it happens because the handpiece tip and/or the gel bottle are breeding grounds for bacteria. Make sure operator wears gloves, and gel bottle looks nice and new, and watch them sanitize the tip of the laser head before zapping you. The gel may have an ingredient your skin does not like, especially if they are using clear aloe vera gel instead of ultrasound gel. In Denver, Derm Joel Cohen is very well-educated and talented, so he can help you erase your problem.
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