Many patients expect to see their hair falling out almost immediately after a laser hair removal session. However, this is a misconception: unwanted hair doesn’t magically fall out by the next morning after your laser hair treatment.
So why doesn’t hair fall out after a laser removal procedure? In one session, a laser device might only be able to address around 15% of the hair which falls off on its own later on -- around 5 days or more after the procedure. This mechanism varies on the person and their age, skin type, hormones, and natural hair growth processes.
Before figuring out why hair doesn’t fall out after laser hair removal, it’s important to take a look first at the three major hair growth cycles your follicles undergo:
|Anagen||Anagen is known as the growth cycle; it is the most ideal stage for laser treatments to work. The anagen phase is when hair is visible on the surface of the skin, which allows the laser to hold onto it and move heat down the strand and into the hair follicle.|
|Catagen||The catagen stage of the hair cycle is right before the hair falls out naturally and not because of the laser. During this time, laser hair removal will not be as successful because the hair itself is already dead and is being pushed out of the follicle.|
|Telogen||Telogen is the final stage where the hair is neither growing nor developing under the skin. Also known as the resting stage, telogen is the least ideal time to have laser hair removal done as no hair is showing above the surface of the skin.|
Laser hair removal is a medical procedure that allows patients to temporarily pause on the daily need to wax, shave, tweeze, or pluck their unwanted hairs. The process utilizes powerful light from a laser device to target the pigment in dark hair, which allows the heat to penetrate the skin and destroy the hair follicle. However, it is not permanent and a new follicle will grow back eventually.
After one session of laser, the hair bulb will come out over a 7 - 30 day period. During this time, redness and bumps may appear as your body is pushing dead hair out of the follicle, although ingrown hairs may get trapped under the skin as well. Patients may think it is hair growing but in reality, it’s the body pushing the hair up to the surface and working the hair out of your skin to get rid of it.
Some patients may worry because not all of the hairs in the treatment area were shed after the laser session. It is important to note that each hair follicle might not necessarily share the same growth cycle as the ones around it. The laser can only kill hair during the anagen phase but only around 15% of hair would be in this stage during one laser session. This means only 15% of the follicles will be destroyed and only these hairs will fall out 5 - 14 days after treatment.
The growth cycle is also the reason why it may take 6 - 8 sessions before all hair follicles are destroyed. Each treatment area also has its own growth cycles; hair growth in the upper lip may take a 4-week cycle while the growth cycle of the legs may take 8-10 weeks. Usually, a cosmetic surgeon will spread out the sessions in your treatment plan by six weeks to synchronize with hair growth.
If you’re worried about the hair not falling out, don’t panic. The rate of hair fall and regrowth depends largely on the individual; skin types, hormones, hair and skin color, and treatment area are some of the different conditions that affect the process. In the meantime, here are some do’s and don’ts you should follow:
The most important rule to follow is to be patient. Don’t tweeze, wax, pick, pluck, thread, or squeeze the hair out of your skin as this will remove the hair follicles targeted by the laser and cause skin irritation. It’s best to leave them alone until they fall out; as you undergo laser hair removal procedure, the thick and dark hairs will grow finer and become easier to remove.
While you shouldn’t forcefully pluck hair away, you are free to scrub or shave the hair shorter to speed up the shedding process. Gently buff the treatment area in a circular motion using a loofah or a soft cotton washcloth to remove dead hair.
Although unwanted hair might seem to have disappeared, they could merely be in their telogen phase -- hidden away under the skin. Follow your treatment plan and come back to the clinic on time. Waiting too long in between hair cycles may cause you to miss a period of hair growth.
Keep your skin supple, healthy, and comfortable after a laser hair treatment. Expect that your skin will feel sensitive and sunburnt after so use a cooling aloe vera gel to prevent skin irritation. Having some ice or an ice pack handy can also help you manage redness, swelling, and other adverse side effects.
As NJ’s leading center for laser hair removal, Ethos Spa is dedicated to helping our patients remove unwanted body hair safely and comfortably. For more information about our hair removal process, schedule a consultation with us.
Learn more: What Is Laser Beard Shaping?