Body hair — we all have it, but not all of us want it. If you’re looking to remove hair on your legs, underarms, face, or nether regions, laser hair removal is a long-lasting option for silky smooth results.
But, if you’re pregnant, the thought of a laser anywhere near your baby bump may have you singing oh baby, no baby.
Is laser hair removal safe during pregnancy?
Most doctors will advise against laser hair removal treatment during pregnancy, because there’s no data to prove that cosmetic laser treatments are safe for you and your baby.
A doctor or laser technician simply aims a beam of light at the area you want treated which sends heat down the hair shaft and straight into the follicle, either destroying the follicle or damaging it.
A completely destroyed follicle won’t produce hair again, but hair may grow back in a follicle that’s merely damaged. Thankfully, this regrowth will likely be lighter and finer than it was before.
That hair sprouting in weird places like your belly, boobs, face, or neck got you freaked out? Fret not, friend: It’s totally normal (and will usually go away after the baby is born!)
Thanks to the extra boost of hormones (specifically estrogen and androgen) that come with pregnancy, you’ll notice an extra boost of hair, both in places you’re used to… and places you’re not. This becomes especially noticeable during the third trimester.
On the flip side of awkward new fuzzy friends on your body, pregnancy can make the hair on your head reach new levels of #HairGoals.
It’ll grow on you
In the hair growth cycle, the hairs on your head and body experience different phases: first, a phase of active growth called anagen; this is followed by a resting state called telogen. Finally, the hair falls out and the cycle begins anew.
Your friendly pregnancy hormones delay the “hair falling out” part of this process, leaving you with thicker, fuller, more luscious locks.
Because all good things must come to an end, though, this won’t last forever. About 3 to 6 months after you give birth, your hormones will normalize and you’ll go through telogen effluvium, where the extra hair will suddenly fall out.
Now, with all this extra hair everywhere that’s getting harder and harder to reach as your bump gets bigger, laser hair removal may be looking like a pretty darn good option compared to shaving or waxing. But is it safe?
There isn’t any information on whether laser hair removal, specifically, is safe to undergo during pregnancy.
A 2017 review on the safety of cosmetic procedures for pregnant women showed that lasers have been safely used to treat conditions like genital warts and kidney stones in pregnant women. However, there’s no safety data to support the use of lasers in cosmetic procedures, like hair removal.
Just say no
With no studies to prove that laser hair removal is safe for expectant mothers and their babies, doctors generally exercise caution and advise against the procedure.
Unfortunately, we’re unlikely to see research on this procedure any time soon. With the unknowns on how laser hair removal may affect pregnancy, researchers don’t want to put mothers and babies in harm’s way by exposing them to products and procedures that may cause negative effects.
What about just a small area, like my face?
Because laser hair removal is typically considered safe under general circumstances (aka when you’re not preggo), you may be wondering: What if I only treat a small area of my body while pregnant, like my face?
But it’s better not to take the risk. Wait until you’re postpartum to resume treatments and tackle that pesky peach fuzz.
Pregnancy hormones cause your body to experience a lot of changes during pregnancy, including a disruption of your normal hair growth cycle. Laser hair removal treatments should ideally take place during the active growth phase of this cycle.
However, your cycle can become irregular during pregnancy, so it may be challenging to align the multiple treatments you’ll need with the right growth phase. You could end up getting your treatment during the wrong phase.
Your skin also becomes more sensitive during pregnancy, thanks to an increase in your body’s blood supply and the stretching of the skin on your abdomen and breasts. This heightened skin sensitivity can make laser hair removal treatments uncomfortable and unpleasant.
Another bodily change to consider is hyperpigmentation — a condition that causes a darkening of your skin, and it’s fairly common during pregnancy.
Laser hair removal is most effective when there’s contrast between your hair and skin colors. If hyperpigmentation occurs and makes your hair and skin closer in color, the treatment can be less effective.
While there’s no evidence suggesting that laser hair removal will impact your chances of getting pregnant, successful hair removal results can take several treatments and many months to achieve. If you’re considering treatment while trying for a baby, talk to your doctor before you start.
What if you don’t yet know you’re pregnant and undergo treatment? Just like any procedure, there are risks to laser hair removal that you’ll be exposed to, including:
- skin irritation
- changes to skin color
- excessive hair regrowth (in rare cases)
For safe ways to remove unwanted hair during pregnancy, try shaving, waxing, tweezing, and threading. While the results are only fleeting, these methods will tide you over until you can start up treatment again.
Bump getting in the way of your reach (you know, because shaving your legs is already so pleasant)? Don’t be afraid to ask your partner or a trusted friend for help. You can also see an esthetician or dermatologist — just make sure they’re working in a clean facility and that they’re licensed!
A note on depilatory creams
Depilatory creams are quick and convenient, but they’re also filled with chemicals like barium sulfide powder and thioglycolic acid. There’s no proof that these chemicals won’t be harmful to you or your baby.
While these creams have generally been considered safe to use, painful skin reactions to these products have also been reported to the Food and Drug Association (FDA) and little is known about their possible effects.
If you’re pregnant, err on the side of caution and speak with your healthcare provider before using these products.
Doctors recommend that you don’t shave your pubic area right before heading into the delivery room. This is especially important if you’re planning to have a cesarean birth. Shaving creates tiny nicks and scrapes, and these small open wounds can put you at risk of infection.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, postpartum care is more than just a one and done event; it’s a long-term process.
Your body will continue to change after you give birth, and keeping an open dialogue with your obstetrician during those first few months after delivery will help you navigate these changes.
Your doctor is also your go-to for the go-ahead for laser hair removal. They’ll be able to help you figure out when your hormones are back to normal, as well as when your skin is ready for treatment.
It’s especially important to speak with your doctor if you have incisions or wounds from a cesarean delivery or an episiotomy.
As long as a laser technician is properly trained and wearing the appropriate safety gear, there isn’t any evidence suggesting that they’re in any danger when operating a laser machine while pregnant.
Reach out to your healthcare provider if you’re unsure or have concerns.
A growing bump isn’t the only physical change you’ll experience during pregnancy. The increase in pregnancy hormones will cause hair to grow in places that are good, bad, and, well, awkward.
While this excess hair will fall out on its own in the months after delivery, you may want to make things a little more trim and tidy in the interim.
If you’re looking to remove unwanted hair, it’s best to avoid laser hair removal while you’re still pregnant. Instead, opt for safer choices, like shaving, plucking, waxing, or threading.
Once you’re postpartum, you and your doctor can work together to determine when it’s safe to start laser hair removal treatments back up.