Underarm Laser Hair Removal: Your Ultimate Guide
According to the National Laser Institute, doctors performed over a million laser hair removal procedures in the United States in 2016. More people are opting for the laser hair removal option, and for good reason: for a majority of patients, laser hair removal is a successful hair removal solution that saves them time from waxing, shaving, and plucking their underarms.
But does laser hair removal really work? For many patients, laser hair removal can reduce over 90% of hair growth in the targeted hair follicles, preventing any need for shaving or waxing in the future.
This article will cover everything you need to know about laser hair removal for the underarms, from why you might want laser hair removal, to the procedure, and aftercare and side effects.
Understanding Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal can sound intimidating to most of us, but lasers are much simpler than you might think.
Lasers are pulsating light beams intensified by the laser device. The heat from the intense light beam is enough to cause long-term damage to the hair follicle beneath the skin. This damage stops future hair growth from the hair follicle.
The laser targets the hair follicle directly due to its different pigment from the skin, which is why laser hair removal works best for those with lighter skin and darker hair, due to the contrast in skin and hair colors.
However, while laser hair removal technology was more limited in the past (check out our post about the history of laser hair removal), developments in laser technology have made it possible to work on all types of skin tones and hair colors.
At Ethos Spa, we have the equipment and skilled professionals to help you with your delicate needs:
A person will generally need 6 to 10 treatments for best results, with a treatment done every six weeks. This is because only hair follicles that are in the growth stage can be treated (as opposed to the rest stage or the falling stage), and it takes roughly six weeks for the hair to progress into the growth stage.
Three Laser Types
There are three popular types of lasers that are used for laser hair removal. These include:
- Alexandrite: One of the earliest types of lasers developed (only preceded by the ruby laser), the alexandrite laser type is the fastest for laser hair removal, and is best used on patients with fair complexions.
- Diode: For patients with dark skin, the diode is often the laser type of choice.
- Nd:YAG: The Nd:YAG works on all types of skin, because it creates longer pulses of light beams than the other laser types. However, it is less effective when working on lighter hair colors.
You can see the different skin tones in this chart, all of which can be treated by the Nd:YAG laser type:
The Best Hair for Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal is a very specific procedure, and works best for certain body parts and certain kinds of hair. For those who are considering laser hair removal, this method works best on the following areas:
- Bikini area
- The skin around the lips
- Underarm areas
While laser hair removal can still be effective on other areas of prominent hair growth (the arms, the legs, or the back), results might not last as long, or more treatments may be required to achieve similar results with easier areas.
As for the type of hair that is best for laser hair removal, people with dark, coarse, and thick hair are the ideal patients for laser hair removal procedures. This is because the laser requires a heavy contrast between the skin and hair, and the darker and coarser the hair may be, the easier it is for the hair follicle to absorb the energy of the light beam.
Why You Might Want Laser Hair Removal in the Underarms
Sales in the hair removal device industry reach nearly a billion dollars every year. There’s no doubt about the growing trend for removing body and facial hair. But there are many reasons aside from the permanent or near-permanent hair removal benefit as to why you might want laser hair removal. These include:
It’s important to understand what causes body odor in the underarm area. Sweat in itself is an odorless product of the body. What causes the connection between sweat and body odor is the presence of bacteria. Bacteria on the body multiplies when sweat is present, and it consequently turns the sweat into acids which lead to the pungent smell.
Body odor is one of the main reasons why people choose to opt for laser hair removal for underarms. While laser hair removal doesn’t stop your body from sweating or prevent the presence of bacteria, it does prevent sweat accumulation in the underarm area. Sweat naturally clings onto armpit hair, leading to sweat accumulation and thus bacteria growth and sweat breakdown.
Without hair, sweat will evaporate quicker from the armpit, leading to a drastic reduction in bacteria growth. (For those searching for a permanent solution to sweat production, you may want to consider Botox injections for cases of hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating.)
While going “all natural” and letting the body hair grow out may be a trend amongst some people these days, the majority of both men and women in the US still believe it simply looks better to keep the underarm area clean.
According to one survey from Men’s Health, nearly 70% of men say that they shave their underarms, with most doing it for aesthetic purposes. Another survey found that nearly 80% of women keep their underarms clean of hair as well.
Lightens Dark Underarms
One surprising side effect of laser hair removal is its lightening properties. While laser hair removal won’t change the color of the skin itself, it does drastically lighten underarms that have been darkened by stubble and hair follicles once these hair follicles are burned off.
Tired of Other Options
Laser hair removal can stop you from visiting a waxing salon or shaving your underarms for years. Most women go through 4+ hair removal procedures every year, and this can be cut down to zero visits once laser hair removal has been done on the required areas.
Laser Hair Removal: FAQ
Is laser hair removal safe? – Yes. Laser hair removal is absolutely safe for the underarms (and other body parts and areas). The procedure itself is gentle on the skin, and feels no worse than it feels to shave or wax the armpit. Treatments can take anywhere from half a minute to ten minutes, depending on the intensity of the laser and the area of treatment.
In some cases, patients may experience temporary, minor side effects, such as redness, irritation, crusting, or light burns.
Is laser hair removal permanent? – It is rare for a single series of treatments to achieve permanent hair removal results. Most patients who undergo laser hair removal will see hair regrowth 6-8 months later; in some cases, hair doesn’t regrow until a year after treatments. However, this hair is generally thinner and lighter than previous hair in the area, as the hair follicles never fully recover.
The effectiveness of the treatments also depends on the type of hair. Those with darker hair will experience longer-lasting results than those with grey, red, or blonde hair. For truly permanent solutions, patients should revisit laser hair removal treatments once or twice a year.
Does the laser hair removal procedure hurt? – The procedure begins with a cold spray to cool the skin, lessening the pain from the laser’s heat. This is followed by the laser being directed onto the skin.
The laser is a burst of light that feels like a rubber band flicking against the skin, and this is applied to the area about 8-12 times. The entire process for both sides can last anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes.
Debunking Laser Hair Removal Myths
Laser hair removal in the bikini area can cause infertility. – This is not true. The laser only penetrates the skin by around a single millimeter, meaning it is nowhere deep enough to interfere with any vital systems in the body.
The penetration is superficial and only affects the hair follicle, inflicting microscopic damage to it, just enough to reduce 90% of hair production. The excess energy that doesn’t go into the hair follicle is reflected off the skin; internal organs such as the ovaries cannot be affected.
Laser hair removal in the underarm area can stop sweating. – This is not true. Laser hair removal only affects the hair follicles. The parts of the underarm that lead to sweating are the lymph nodes and the sweat glands, which are left completely unaffected by laser hair removal treatments.
People with dark skin can’t benefit from laser hair removal. – While this was true in the earlier years of laser hair removal development, advancements in laser hair removal technology have solved this problem.
People with dark skin can now be treated with laser hair removal treatments, because of lasers with adjustable wavelengths that are better equipped at directly targeting hair pigment, regardless of skin color.
The Laser Hair Removal for Underarms Procedure
Laser Hair Removal Expectations
Before you sign up for laser hair removal, you should have realistic expectations of what the procedure can do for you.
- For some people, it just won’t work: For people who have hair that is too fine or light, with very little contrast in color with their skin tone, laser hair removal might possibly not work at all, or as effectively as you might like. Contrast between the hair and the skin is essential, and fine hair is the most difficult to burn with laser hair removal.
- The area won’t be completely bare: Some patients are surprised to see hair growth directly after a laser hair removal treatment. While best cases can experience 90% hair growth reduction, this can be as low as 70% in some patients. Some patients will also need more than the average number of treatments, up to 10 treatments for best results.
- There may be discomfort: Some patients have a lower pain threshold and are more sensitive to pain. Instead of a “rubber band stinging” effect, you might feel something more like a deep needle injection in the area.
- Follow preparation rules: Your clinic should provide you with a set of rules and suggestions prior to your laser hair removal appointment. Following these rules is essential towards minimizing your pain and discomfort and maximizing your treatment results.
- Be certain that you want it: Remember – laser hair removal isn’t the only hair removal treatment available. Understand exactly what you are signing up for before you undergo the procedure, to make sure that you have the best experience.
- Understand the cost: The average price for laser hair removal per treatment in the US is exactly $329. The price is based off of the treatment area size and the expertise of the clinic itself. Most patients need about 6 treatments, but this can range anywhere from 1 to 10 treatments.
- It’s a commitment: The worst mistake that many people make with laser hair removal treatments is not continuing their recommended treatments after going through the procedure once or twice. It takes an average of 6 to 8 sessions before there can be full hair removal. If you only undergo 1 or 2 sessions, the hair will grow back and your initial investment will be wasted.
- No tanning: Tanning before laser hair removal can make the treatment less successful, as there needs to be as much contrast as possible between your skin and hair colors. Try to avoid any tanning for up to a month prior to your laser hair removal procedure (because of this, many people have their appointments in the winter).
- Sunscreen: To help keep your skin light, apply SPF 50 sunscreen whenever you are outdoors.
- No waxing or plucking: Waxing or plucking can make it more difficult for the laser to damage the hair follicle during the procedure. Also try to avoid bleaching your hair prior to laser hair removal.
- Shave the area to be treated: Make sure to shave the area to be treated with laser hair removal a day before the treatment. This will make it easier for the laser to penetrate the skin and directly engage with the hair follicles.
- No products: On the day of the procedure, do not apply any creams, lotions, or cosmetics on the underarm area. Deodorant will be washed off before the treatment.
During the Session
The laser hair removal treatment varies depending on the clinic’s practices and the type of laser they use. However, treatments typically begin with the patient seated, and a cool spray or cool air applied to the treatment site, the underarm area.
The machine is then directed to the underarm, and the patient will be asked to sit still while the lasers are beamed into the hair follicles. Depending on the intensity of the laser and the patient’s pain sensitivity, the individual laser zaps can feel either like a rubber band snapping against the skin, or a quick needle injection.
After a series of 8-12 zaps – which should take a few seconds or a minute – the patient will then be zapped on the opposite underarm.
The patient will then be asked to return six weeks later for the next treatment in a series of 6 to 10 treatments. This will give the unaffected hair follicles enough time to progress into the growth stage, which is when the laser can most affect them.
If patients have responded well to the treatments, doctors may consider raising the laser intensity of each treatment, to lessen the number of overall treatments.
Patients should generally wait until their sixth or eighth session before expecting to see real results on their underarms. While there will be an immediate change after the first session, it will take several sessions before you may notice full hair removal.
For best results, try to follow these rules after your laser hair removal sessions and in the weeks between your sessions:
|24-48 Hours Post-Session Aftercare||Aftercare Maintenance Between Sessions|
|Stick to loose clothing (cotton is preferable). Rougher clothing can lead to more irritation for the skin, extending the duration of any side effects or discomfort||Do not wax or pluck hair if it regrows before your next session; just stick to shaving exclusively|
|Maintain as little physical interaction with the treated area as possible||Arrive on time for your next session; postponing it for too long can make the treatments less effective|
|Avoid the following areas: pools, saunas, steam rooms, and gyms||Minimize your tanning at least two weeks before the next procedure|
|Do not bathe with extreme hot or cold temperatures; lukewarm water is ideal||A week after a treatment, remove all the dry or dead skin on the underarm through exfoliation|
|Keep the skin covered when walking in the sunlight, and wear sunscreen with SPF 50+ on the underarm||Keep your laser hair removal doctors notified of any medications you might begin to take between sessions|
|Wear little to no deodorant on the underarm; after 48 hours, you should be able to wear deodorant again||Wear sunscreen at all times, SPF 50+. Minimize deodorant usage except when absolutely necessary|
Underarm Laser Hair Removal Side Effects
Minor and Temporary Side Effects
Most patients experience just minor and temporary side effects after undergoing laser hair removal. This can include slight irritation, redness, and slight swelling. However, these side effects should go away an hour or two after the procedure; in some cases, they will be gone after a day.
Longer-Lasting Skin Color Changes
There are few cases where patients have experienced skin color changes aside from the natural redness after treatment. The skin may become darker or lighter if the laser isn’t placed on the ideal settings, and this change in skin pigmentation can last up to 2-3 months. To make sure the problem doesn’t become long-term, try to keep the affected skin out of the sun.
While rare, some patients do experience scarring in the armpits due to laser hair removal. This is only caused when the laser is at a higher intensity than the recommended levels, or if the laser is too intense for the patient’s skin tone. If the patient has dark skin and the laser is too intense, then the light can possibly burn both the hair follicle and the skin. Make sure you check the background and credentials of your laser hair removal practitioner.
Laser Hair Bumps
Laser hair bumps are a common side effect of laser hair removal. These are the irritated skin bumps caused by the laser, which can last several days after the procedure. If you are looking to get rid of armpit laser hair removal bumps, simply apply a cold compress to the affected skin 3-4 times a day. Each application should last 15 minutes.
For further laser hair bump care, clean the skin with a cleanser twice a day. Clean it gently with a soft towel; do not scrub, as this will only exacerbate the condition. Also try to avoid deodorants and harsh soaps while the bumps are present, as this can further increase the irritation in the area.
Ethos Spa: Your Laser Hair Removal Center of Choice
The success and effectiveness of laser hair removal depends largely on the expertise and professionalism of the laser hair removal practitioner, which is why it is critical to choose a team that you can trust for your laser hair removal. At Ethos Spa Skin and Laser Center in Summit New Jersey, we offer patients a team laser hair removal specialist they can trust.
To learn more about laser hair removal or to schedule your laser hair removal consultation and treatment, contact us at Ethos Spa today. We specialize in skin and laser treatments, and have helped countless patients with laser hair removal for their underarms and other important areas.