Laser Hair Removal Side Effects and Risks?

Concerned about side effects from LHR. Can I get permanent damage from the laser? what about hyperpigmentation or scars?

Doctor Answers 30

Laser Hair Removal Side Effects

Possible side effects from laser hair removal can include blistering, burning, scarring, hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin), or paradoxical hair growth which results in increased hair growth in treated areas.These side effects can be significantly minimized if treatment is performed in a medical office that routinely performs laser hair removal.

Washington DC Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Laser Hair Removal Risks

Laser hair removal for the face and body has advanced throughout the years.  Anytime there is a laser on your skin, there are risks involved.  The laser uses heat to paralyze the hair follicle from regrowth.  Each visit the lasers heat may be turned higher to target smaller follicles.  As long as the technician is well trained with years of experience the patient should do just fine.  The main risk is burning the skin.  This may happen if the patient has been exposed to sun exposure, tanning beds, or artificial spray tanning.  Sun exposure may activate melanocytes in the skin and bring them to the surface.  The eye is unable to see the pigment changes and may cause burning from the laser.  If the laser is turned up to high, this also may cause some burning, please communicate with your technician about your comfort.  It is important for your technician to discuss all the dos and don'ts with the patient before performing this procedure.  Never hesitate to ask many questions during your consultation. Please make sure you are seen by an expert with years of experience with a doctor on site.  There are many medical spas popping up all around the country, so make sure you are being treated with an expert.

Gregory A. Wiener, MD, FACS
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 78 reviews

Risks of Laser Hair Removal

There are many risks to any kind of therapy. laser hair removal is no different and the risks although most unlikely include: 1) skin getting darker or lighter than the surrounding skin 2) blistering 3) scarring 4) bringing out a viral infection- like herpes simplex 5) damaging a tattoo in the area 6) even causing more hair to grow - in very rare cases 7) and the list goes on. A doctor proficient in lasers - although may be initially higher- will be able to minimize and avoid most of the pitfalls by taking many precautions.

Joshua L. Fox, MD
Long Island Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Find an experienced LHR professional

All laser treatments have an element of risk. An experienced clinician will determine if you're a good candidate and will use the best laser settings appropriate for your skin. Even with the best preparation, skill and experience, there is always a chance of burning, hyper or hypo-pigmentation, blistering, scarring and in rare cases, growth of hair in the treated area. If overly concerned, you can have your practitioner do a test area for your first treatment. You also have to be careful about sun exposure post LHR as your skin will be more sensitive to UVA/UVB rays.

Kristin J. Tarbet MD, FACS
Bellevue Oculoplastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

Laser Hair Removal Side Effects

Side effects from laser hair removal are rare. When done correctly by a trained professional, IPL or laser treatments for hair removal are very safe. Patients may have some slight redness or local swelling at the treatment site that typically resolves within several hours. On very rare occasions, blistering or burning may occur. You will need to limit sun exposure before and after treatments to minimize the risk of complications.

Mary E. Hurley, MD
Dallas Dermatologist
4.2 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Laser Hair Removal Risks

Rare risks (some of which are permanent):

permanent pigment changes

Side effects:

Jerome Edelstein, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 179 reviews

Risks of Laser Hair Removal

It is always important research the credentials and experience of the laser technician prior to any treatment to reduce the likelihood of complications.  Possible side effects can include burning, scarring, hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin), or paradoxical hair growth which results in darker and thicker hair.  These side effects are unlikely when laser hair removal treatments are performed or supervised by a board certified facial plastic surgeon, board certified plastic surgeon, dermatologist.  (It is a good idea to research the laws in your state to determine who is legally allowed to perform this treatment).  After each session, your skin should be evaluated to determine if the settings should be increased or decreased.  If the settings are too high, it could cause burning, hyperpigmentation, or scarring.  If they are too low, you may not get an adequate result.  I hope this helps!

Paul L. Leong, MD, FACS
Pittsburgh Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

Laser hair removal side effects

In the hands of the right physician using the appropriate device set at the correct settings, side effects from laser hair removal present a very minimal risk.  However, if the settings are incorrect any of the following may occur:  blistering, darkening of the skin, erosions on the lip, development of cold sores, redness and persistent pain.  Most of these are temporary and can be avoided by proper preparation of the treated area prior to the procedure being performed.

Corey L. Hartman, MD, FAAD
Birmingham Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Laser Hair Removal and Side Effects

It is very important to consult an expert in laser hair removal.  The potential side effects are hyperpigmenation and scarring if the wrong setting is chosen or the wrong laser is used with your skin type. Please consult an expert in laser hair for the best cosmetic results and avoid the side effects described.  Best, Dr. Green

Michele S. Green, MD
New York Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 78 reviews

Expect a Few Side Effects


The pigmentation or scarring of the skin is related to the activity of the color producing cells. Since all lasers use a form of localized heating to destroy the hair follicle (the portion that forms the new hairs) heating of the color cells is inevitable. Most patients will see some form of hyperpigmentation after treatment, but the use of the correct laser with the correct settings is important, as well as not treating tanned skin. Bleaching agents can help with any persistent pigmentation. Hope this helped!

Dr. S

Bruce Saal, MD
Los Gatos Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 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.