Laser hair removal is a long-lasting form of hair removal that damages or destroys the hair follicle.
However, the hair may regrow, particularly if the follicle is damaged and not destroyed during the laser hair removal process. For this reason, many doctors now refer to laser hair removal as long-term hair removal rather than permanent hair removal.
Laser hair removal uses light to target the pigment in individual hairs. The light travels down the shaft of the hair and into the hair follicle. The heat from the laser light destroys the hair follicle, and hair can no longer grow from it.
Hair follows a unique growth cycle that involves resting, shedding, and growing periods. Recently removed hair that is in a resting phase will not be visible to the technician or laser, so a person may need to wait until it regrows before removing it.
Hair removal from a destroyed hair follicle is permanent. However, people who undergo hair removal can expect that some hair in the targeted area will grow back.
Over time, it is possible to treat the area again to decrease the number of hairs that regrow. In some cases, it may even be possible to eliminate all hair.
Whether or not hair grows back depends on numerous factors, including the type of hair that regrows and the skill of the person removing the hair. Most people find that when hair regrows, it is lighter and less noticeable than it was before. This is because the laser may damage the hair follicle even when it fails to destroy it.
Laser hair removal is permanent when the hair follicle is destroyed. When the hair follicle is only damaged, the hair will eventually regrow.
The amount of time it takes for the hair to regrow depends on the person’s unique hair growth cycle. Some people have hair that grows more rapidly than others. Hair that is in a resting phase will grow back more slowly than hair that is in another phase.
Side effects and risks
During treatment, some people experience burning, stinging, or discomfort. For this reason, many technicians apply a numbing cream to the area they are treating. However, some people may have an allergic reaction or skin irritation in response to the numbing cream.
Minor side effects are common, and may include:
- changes in the color of the skin, particularly in people with dark skin, which are generally temporary
- skin redness
- blistering or crusting of the skin