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Can Laser Hair Removal Cause Permanent Scarring?

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Millions of men and women all over the world have undergone laser hair removal treatments and found it to be a safe medical procedure, if accompanied with some tolerable discomfort. However, there are some patients who experience side effects after their sessions.

So can laser hair removal cause permanent scarring? Generally, scarring is considered to be a rarer side effect of laser hair removal. It is possible but it doesn’t happen often; in some cases, another side effect like burns result in scarring. Skin damage due to laser hair removal usually occurs at the hands of unqualified practitioners. 

Scarring and Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal is one of the most popular procedures for reducing unwanted hair. Common treatment locations include the legs, armpits, upper lip, chin, and bikini line, although you can treat unwanted hair in almost any area except around the eyelids.

The laser machine used for this treatment works by targeting the pigment in the hair. Once the hair absorbs the laser’s light, it heats up and the follicle is destroyed without damaging surrounding tissues. Most modern machines also have a built-in cooling system so problems are avoided. 

Patients who have had laser hair removal done for years don’t experience any long-term problems or health risks. In the hands of qualified practitioners, side effects are usually mild and temporary. More severe side effects like scarring are typically not supposed to happen but may occur due to one of two things: 

Case 1: The practitioner made an error. 

Scarring or wounds may occur if your practitioner is not qualified to perform laser hair removal. One study found that adverse events such as burns or discoloration occurred more often among non-physicians conducting the procedure, as they weren’t given enough training or were not supervised by qualified medical staff. 

Ideally, your practitioner should be a medical physician who is board-certified for cosmetic surgery. However, training and certification can also be given to non-physicians as well. Training and practice are crucial for handling a laser machine because there is a steep learning curve. Contrary to a false belief, laser devices are not so simple to use that even advanced users can still run into problems or commit mistakes. 

Case 2: No proper care was given before or after the medical procedure. 

Scarring could happen if the treatment area was not correctly cared for before or after the procedure. A patch test can help physicians determine if you’re fit for the procedure or not while a treatment plan can guide them on how they will schedule and perform laser hair removal on your skin. 

Aside from pre-treatment instructions, aftercare is also crucial for lessening risks. Your skin will need to be treated as though it was sunburnt to avoid damages caused by the laser. The treatment area should be protected from light, kept cool and moisturized, and checked for signs of infection as postoperative infections can lead to scarring as well. 

If evidence of scarring is found, patients should return to their physician or practitioner for early treatment. 

5 Risks and Side Effects of Laser Hair Treatment 

Even if you have found a highly-qualified physician who is well-trained in cosmetic surgery, scarring and other side effects can still emerge depending on your skin type, hair color, treatment plan, and adherence to pre- and post-treatment care. Here are some risks and side effects that may happen as a result of laser hair removal:

Skin irritation The powerful light emitted by a laser machine can cause skin irritation, swelling, or redness as your body reacts to the damages done to the follicles of targeted hairs. However, this discomfort is usually temporary and disappears within several hours. Topical anesthetic cream, cool ice packs, or cold water can minimize reactions. 
Depigmentation or hyperpigmentationDepigmentation refers to the lightening of the affected skin while hyperpigmentation refers to the darkening of the treatment areas. Both pigment-related side effects could either be temporary or permanent; these conditions often affect patients who didn’t avoid sun exposure before or after treatment. Laser hair removal risks are always greater when there is little contrast between hair and skin color because the laser machine might not be able to properly target the pigment in unwanted hairs. 
Eye injury As lasers emit a powerful light, eye injuries can occur if the laser is targeted at the face. Direct exposure of the laser beam into the eye or a reflection of the beam can damage structures in the eyes significantly, causing permanent blindness. Fortunately, eye injuries are a rare side effect as long as patients wear protective, opaque eye equipment. 
InfectionAll cosmetic hair removal procedures run the risk of infection as the follicles in the skin are damaged. The treatment area should be treated like a wound in these cases. Skin crusting is a similar but rare issue, which can also lead to scarring or scabs. 
Burns or blistersBurns and blisters are uncommon side effects but could still happen if the hair removal was performed incorrectly. High-heat lasers can cause painful first-degree and second-degree burns, although most laser machines have cooling functions that prevent burning the skin. 

How to Prepare for a Safe Laser Hair Removal

If you’re interested in getting this cosmetic procedure done, you will have to prepare ahead for it by: 

  • Choosing a board-certified physician: Ideally, your practitioner is a board-certified physician who specializes in dermatology or cosmetic surgery and has plenty of experience with laser hair removal on your skin type
  • Schedule a consultation: A consultation with your physician can help them create an appropriate treatment plan for you. This is also a good time to review your medical history and discuss risks, expectations, or costs. You can raise your own questions as well. 
  • Practice proper skin-care: Prior to your treatment, you have to stay out of tanning beds and minimize sun exposure. You will also need to avoid other hair removal methods such as waxing and plucking. Shaving is allowed and encouraged, however. You will also need to avoid blood thinner, like alcohol and anti-inflammatory medications. 

Visit Ethos Spa for Laser Hair Treatment 

People who are interested in having laser hair removal treatment done should always find a fully-qualified practitioner to perform the procedure. 

The medical staff at Ethos Spa are certified laser experts and technicians who have plenty of experience in dealing with various skin and types. We are committed to providing safe and effective laser hair removal with the latest technologies and techniques. Call us to book your consultation today. 

Read more: Why Do I Get Pimples After Laser Hair Removal?