Laser Hair Removal / Discoloration on Bikini Area from Sun Exposure

I have already gone in for a couple sessions of laser hair removal on my bikini area. I decided to use a tanning bed to tan but forgot to wear a bathing suit bottom to cover the area. The next day, I noticed some discoloration down there, with some areas appearing lighter than others. I was wondering if this discoloration, which was likely caused by a combination of laser hair removal and sun exposure, is permanent. If not, how can I reverse the discoloration?

Doctor Answers 4

Pigment problems from laser hair removal and sun or ultravioloet exposure

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If there is an increase in skin pigment, such as from sunexposure or a suntan parlor, the next laser hair removal session may cause an increase absorbtion of energy higher in the epidermis than we would want, rather than the energy being absorbed by the hair follicle in the deeper dermis.  Energy then in the higher epidermis could cause blistering and skin pigment change. If you have laser hair removal and then expose that inflamed skin to ultraviolet exposure, you are increasing the risk of hyperpigmentation. The areas of hair removal treatment might absorb the energy differently from the adjacent non-treated skin and therefore you may see lighter and darker spots after the tanning bed. Often this will return to normal but you may need prescription creams.  Please remember that tanning beds increase the risk of potentially-fatal melanoma, and other skin cancer that may require surgery leaving scars, on your face.  If you're interested in tanning beds, then you are interested in your cosmetic appearance, so please realize that this tanning bed ultraviolet is the deeper ray that damages the deep collagen and makes you look much, much older than your friends will appear when you are older.

Manhattan Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Discoloration after laser hair removal and tanning bed

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Skin darkening is a more common side effect of sun or tanning bed use after laser or IPL treatment. As you know, it is advised to avoid ultraviolet light exposure after treatment. if the darkening is severe it can be faded with a cream --speak with your doctor. Aside from the discoloration, be aware that it is very dangerous to use tanning booths. They Expose you to 15 times the cancer causing ultraviolet light than regular sun exposure. Using tanning booths is associated with life threatening skin cancers. Aside from the cosmetic complications with laser hair removal health is another reason not to use tanning beds.

Dina D. Strachan, MD
New York Dermatologist

Discoloration after laser hair removal and tanning bed

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When the area treated by laser is exposed to ultraviolet light, either from the sun or tanning beds, the risk of pigmentation change is fairly high. 

When there is lightening of the skin, there aren't any truly effective methods to reverse it.  With time the lightening usually resolves, but that is not always the case.

I recommend avoiding tanning beds altogether.  They are very high on the list of causative agents for skin cancer, particularly melanoma.  That is especially the case with areas not normally exposed to the sun, like the breasts and groin.

Keep the areas covered.  Hopefully the hypopigmentation will return to normal.

Emily Altman, MD
Short Hills Dermatologic Surgeon

Discoloration from sun exposure following laser hair removal is usually temporary.

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The most common type of skin discoloration after sun exposure and laser hair removal is darkening. The good news is that the dark spots will eventually fade, but you must keep the treated area out of the sun. If your skin is olive colored or darker, the brown spots may take months to completely fade.

If you have concerns about the appearance of the treated area, you should visit your physician.

I hope this is helpful for you.


Eric M. Joseph, MD
West Orange Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 432 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.