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Laser-hair removal side effects explained: Can it really cause these issues?

Collage of a woman receiving a laser hair removal facial treatment
Laser hair removal is one of the most requested cosmetic procedures worldwide -- but could it have unwanted side effects?

Laser hair removal is one of the most requested cosmetic procedures worldwide — but could it have unwanted side effects?

The popular procedure is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is generally considered a safe, effective procedure when performed properly.

However, some people have complained of unwanted side effects such as sagging skin or — ironically — increased hair growth, causing people to become cautious of the treatment.

But how real are the concerns?

Laser hair removal is one of the most requested cosmetic procedures worldwide and is generally considered a safe, effective procedure when performed properly. Getty Images
Laser hair removal is one of the most requested cosmetic procedures worldwide and is generally considered a safe, effective procedure when performed properly. Getty Images

Increased hair growth following laser hair removal — formally known as paradoxical hypertrichosis — is a rare inverse effect of laser hair removal, according to experts.

The risk of paradoxical hypertrichosis is more likely to occur among patients with darker skin types and those with conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Increased hair growth following laser hair removal — formally known as paradoxical hypertrichosis — is a possible but rare inverse effect of laser hair removal. Stefano Giovannini
Increased hair growth following laser hair removal — formally known as paradoxical hypertrichosis — is a possible but rare inverse effect of laser hair removal. Stefano Giovannini

“There’s nothing you can do to avoid it — it either happens to you or it doesn’t, but it’s very rare,” Chris Bustamante, aesthetic nurse practitioner and founder of Lushful Aesthetics in Manhattan, told The Post.

Researchers have not yet confirmed why this side effect may occur, but some have some theories.

Elizabeth Botte the medical certified aesthetician at BYou Laser Clinic in New York City told The Post that paradoxical hypertrichosis “can occur rarely and is thought to be due to factors such as hormonal changes or incorrect laser settings.”

Rumors have also swirled that laser hair removal caused their skin to sag, but experts insist those claims are entirely false.

“Sagging skin after laser hair removal isn’t possible,” Bustamante told The Post. “There’s no literature to support this, and it makes no sense that the wavelengths utilized for laser hair removal would affect skin laxity.”

Instead, Botte explained that sagging skin “may be a result of aging or other factors unrelated to the treatment.”

However, laser hair removal could cause minor side effects, such as follicular edema — swelling of the hair follicle that presents as little “bumps” that disappear within 24 hours — minor itching, changes to pigmentation or burns when done incorrectly.

Experts also warn that areas around the genitals, nipples and areolas, tattoos and eyes are especially sensitive and should be protected with appropriate treatment and gear — such as goggles.

Rumors have also swirled that laser hair removal caused their skin to sag, but experts insist those claims are unproven. Getty Images
Rumors have also swirled that laser hair removal caused their skin to sag, but experts insist those claims are unproven. Getty Images

People considering laser hair removal should thoroughly research the clinic they’re considering before booking an appointment — confirming credentials, reading reviews and asking questions about the appropriate treatment for your skin.

For example, Bustamante recommends that people of color be treated with a 1064 Yag laser wavelength, while those with lighter skin tones should be treated with a 755 Alexandrite laser wavelength.

He suggests everyone avoid a Diode or IPL device, noting that “these devices are not optimal for laser hair removal.”

“Ultimately, laser hair removal is the gold standard for addressing ingrown hairs and folliculitis and making grooming much easier,” Bustamante said.