Should Laser Hair Removal Be Painful?

I've heard that if there is NO pain, or very little pain that it's not working effectively. Please advise.

Doctor Answers 5

Laser Hair Removal and pain

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The efficacy of laser hair removal is not in direct proportion to the amount of pain one experiences. Some people tolerate the discomfort more easily than others and some areas of the face or body are more sensitive. Men and women who have experienced waxing generally report that laser hair removal is far more comfortable than hair removal by waxing.
With each laser hair removal treatment the discomfort will decrease because there is less hair present each time. A large spot size (18 mm) will mean a faster laser treatment and therefore a treatment that is more comfortable.
Each laser uses a unique cooling system, whether it is a cooled tip, a cooling gel. or cryogen cooling. Cryogen cooling is the choice for our medical spa as it seems to provide comfortable treatments with very predicatble results.
A relatively new device , PSF, provides a laser hair removal treatment that for some is far more comfortable than laser hair removal without the PSF attachment. A small, box-shaped chamber is applied to the surface of the skin, and suction pulls the skin area taut underneath, compressing it. The highly thermal conductive sapphire window on top of the chamber allows the laser to treat the skin while it is compressed. The skin compression blocks the function of pain nerves, greatly reducing discomfort from exposure to the laser.

Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 123 reviews

Pain is not the measure of laser hair removal working

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Laser hair removal feels kind of like an elastic band snapping against your skin. You may have had a higher intensity. Numbing cream can be applied to improve comfort.

Laser Hair Removal discomfort

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Hi Suzy,

While laser hair removal discomfort is subjective and depends to a large degree on the patient, we do agree with you that if there is no discomfort then it's probably not working.

The reason for this fact is that for laser hair removal to work, the base or "bulb" of the hair follicle needs to achieve a high enough temperature to permanently damage the small vein that feeds it. Generating the heat necessary for this to happen causes some discomfort.

In the past couple years, there has been one (unnamed) company advertising "pain-free" laser hair removal using an alternate method. Same laser, but different settings and method. We have heard from patients and practitioners that this method is not working. Dr. Law does correctly point out that Lumenis has come out with a relatively new laser hair removal device that uses suction to lessen the pain. Since we do not own this device we cannot validate his comments yet.

Harold J. Kaplan, MD
Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Laser hair removal hurts a little

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With the pre-procedure application of strong topical numbing creams, the performance of laser hair removal should be quite tolerable for most people.  Occasionally, the patients with the least tolerance have some problems with the treatment and might need to stop doing it.  This is rare though.

Numbing cream can be used during laser hair removal

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We like to use numbing cream for most hair laser removal treatments. The procedure should be effective to remove the hair when done by a well-trained professional.

Hisham Seify, MD, PhD, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 19 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.