Burns & Blisters from Laser Hair Removal

5 days ago I received laser hair removal treatment. Within the last 24 hours water blisters have begun to form and are very uncomfortable. Should I pop to blisters to relieve some of the pressure? Also, do you think that I will have permanent scarring and hyper-pigmentation from the treatment? Do you have any suggestions to help prevent permanent effects? Thanks!

Doctor Answers 6

Blister from laser hair removal require strict wound care.

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These are definitely burns and I would recommend that you absolutely DO NOT pop the blisters.  The blister fluid can aid in the healing of these blisters and in fact act like a biologic dressing.  In the meantime I would perform was warm soaks with a mixture of salt or tbsp of vinegar per pint of water.  I know this sounds wacky, but it works.  It has some antifungal and antibacterial properties.  I would avoid antibacterial creams or ointments because there is no infection and the odds of getting an allergy are significant.  Thus, I would follow the soaks with plain vaseline/petrolatum.  

There may be pigment changes or scarring, but difficult to tell.  I would believe no, but the wounds care is important.

Good luck.

Naples Dermatologic Surgeon

Blistering as a complication of laser hair removal

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These are definitely burns. To treat them, do not pop them, allow the new skin to heal underneath the blister.  If they pop on their own, apply aquaphor healing ointment to any open, raw areas. You should see a physician soon to see if you need antibiotic ointment or pills. Keep your legs out of the sun until totally healed, and once the blisters heal, wear SPF 30 every day to help avoid hyperpigmentation. If you do get pigment problems, you can be treated with Hydroquinone. Hair removal lasers can easily burn patients if used by an inexperienced physician, especially if the patient is dark-skinned or tan. There are hair removal lasers that are safer in dark skin types, so you should discuss this complication with an expert in lasers to prevent it from happening again. 

Deirdre O'Boyle Hooper, MD
New Orleans Dermatologic Surgeon

Hair Reduction

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All blister healing advice previously was correct, the only other thing I would note is to be sure to let the office know what significant burns you had, this is not a "normal" result of laser hair removal if done correctly.  It looks like the settings were not correct for your skin type/tone.  Only go to trained physicians for any laser treatment. 

Hannah Vargas, MD
Kansas City Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

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Go See the Doctor who Performed The Treatment

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It is very important, with any adverse effect, that you go back to the doctor/clinic that did this treatment.  Lasers are hot devices and anyone who has used them has experienced this at one time or another.  Perhaps your legs were a little tanned and so the setting became too high.  Please discuss this with the person who did the treatment and have them help you take care of it.  The blisters may pop on their own, but don't peel off the roof overlying the area, as that is a natural "dressing" for the skin underneath.  Aloe vera, especially from the plant, but if not, then in a gel from the store, is very good for burns. 

This may result in some pigmentation, although most of the time, it will resolve.  You may use some bleaching creams after the wounds have healed.  The legs take a while to resolve, in terms of pigmentation, so you will need to be very patient.  It can be more than a year.  Good luck. 

Lisa Benest, MD
Burbank Dermatologist

Treatment of Blisters From Laser Hair Removal

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Here are my recommendations for treatment of blisters in the skin. Many of the treatments I do in my office will intentionally induce blister formation (such as cryotherapy using liquid nitrogen for wart treatments) so I give this advice to all of my patients:

1. Keep the areas clean by washing with a mild soap twice daily.

2. To relieve the pressure and hasten healing time, gently pop all blisters using a sterile needle or pin at the side of the blister. This should be a painless procedure. Do not remove the roof of the blister but allow it to settle down so it is flush with the skin. The blister roof will then form a protective cover.

3. Apply Aquaphor Healing Ointment (available without a prescription) to all involved areas to keep them "greasy". The greasier the area is, the faster it will heal. The drier and scabbier the area gets, the slower it will heal.

4. Permanent scarring is unlikely but you have to guard against post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation by constant protection from the sun for these areas such as using protective clothing and sunscreens.

5. Make certain you are under a doctor's care and watch for signs of infection so that oral antibiotics can be started as soon as possible when necessary.


Correct laser needed for different skin colors

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Wow, these look nasty. They are 2nd  degree burns (blisters) and could leave scars and/or pigment changes. Often the scars can be minimal if the burn heals totally within 12 days but that is variable too. Keep the skin clean with regular tepid water rinses and apply an antibacterial cream such as Flamazine once or twice a day. Best to be monitored/managed by a doctor who has burn care experience. Best to leave the blisters intact but can trim away any loose skin where the blisters actually broke. Try to rest with your feet elevated to decrease swelling of the ankles and feet. A good sunblock for a year on these when healed may reduce risk of pigment changes.

One has to wonder if you had the wrong laser used and by this I mean was your particular skin pigmentation/color  and/or tan considered when the laser selection was done? Dark skin or tanned skin should not have IPL (not really a laser but sort of mixed in with lasers), here a YAG laser might be more appropriate and even here energy levels, etc have to be skillfully adjusted.

Right now these burns need good hygiene, antibacterial creams, elevation and protection from further trauma. Light dressings may or may not be used depending on your circumstances and activities.

Harlow Hollis, MD
Victoria Plastic Surgeon

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.