Does laser hair removal last forever? Spoiler: No, it doesn’t. But it can keep your skin sans hair for a lot longer than shaving or waxing. In fact, it can last for months or even years at a time. Here’s how it works and what you can expect.

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Irina Efremova/Stocksy United

Laser hair removal is often promoted as a permanent solution to body hair removal, which is a bit of a fib. Once the treated skin is hair-free, it’ll likely stay that way for several months to years. But while it can offer long-term results, it’s rarely a lifelong fix. Laser hair removal tends to just damage hair follicles, it doesn’t destroy them. That means the hair can def grow back over time.

Also, keep in mind that the treatment only works on follicles that are in the growth (aka anagen) stage, and not all hair grows at the same rate. So, if you’re a laser hair removal newbie, you’ll prob need at least 2 to 6 treatments before you see a major difference. Most folks note 10 to 25 percent less hair after the first session, but everyone is different.

The good news is that the amount and thickness of the affected hair tends to decrease with more treatments. So in theory, you may find that consistent laser treatments can result in permanent hair removal. But that’s not a given and there are no guarantees.

As for touch-ups, it really depends on your skin, hair color, hair thickness, and the area of your body. Some can go more than a year without needing a treatment while others can only go a few months. You’ll know it’s time when you can see soft, downy hairs start to make an appearance.

Laser hair removal is a lot more expensive than shaving or waxing. We’re talking an eye-watering $389 per session, according to 2020 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. And since you’ll prob need multiple sessions on an ongoing basis, it’s a pretty big investment. That’s why it’s 10/10 important you only go to an experienced, licensed provider.

Reminder: Everyone has their own unique skin sitch going on. So laser hair removal results can totes vary from person to person. Here are some factors that can determine how long it can last.

Location, location, location

Lots of peeps like to zap the hair off their pits, legs, face, bikini area, butt, or balls. But where you get laser hair removal can affect how long it lasts.

  • Face. Facial hair (e.g. the upper lip, cheeks, or chin) tends to grow back quicker than other areas. So generally, the initial laser treatments have to be repeated 4 to 6 weeks for it to work.
  • Pits and pubes. Armpit hair and pubes tend to be thicker than the rest of your body hair. So you might need more treatments to see a difference. Again, you’ll need to wait 4 to 6 weeks between treatments.
  • Body. The legs and back tend to grow more slowly than hormonal areas. Woot! So you might be able to wait up to 8 weeks between treatments.

Hair and skin color

Your skin tone and hair color can impact the effectiveness of laser treatments. In the past, good candidates were peeps with light skin and dark hair. The idea is that the color contrast can make it easier for the practitioner to target the hair follicles.

If you have blonde, white, or gray hairs, you may find laser treatments don’t work as well. Likewise, some people with darker pigmentation may not respond as well and may require more treatments. There’s also a chance your consultant may tell you that you can’t be treated.

The good news is, thanks to advances in laser hair removal techniques and technology, treatments can work well for folks who have light hair or darker skin. You just have to find the right provider who has the right equipment. For example, lasers with longer wavelengths work well with darker skin types, while shorter lengths are more suitable for those with lighter hair and skin.

To get the best bang for your buck, you want to get the best results and make your laser hair removal last for as long as possible. Here are our top tips:

  • Choose a qualified dermatologist. People of varying qualifications can operate lasers, so it’s essential to choose a board-certified physician who knows all there is to know about laser hair removal. In addition, it’ll minimize the risks of pigment changes, burning, and scarring.
  • Don’t wax before your appointment. Although you need to shave for your first session, don’t pluck or wax for 6 weeks as the laser needs pigment in the hair follicles to focus upon.
  • Avoid the sun. Yes, you should always protect your skin against the sun, but it’s crucial to avoid sunbathing or tanning beds for 4 to 6 weeks before your laser treatments. You’ll need to slather on sunscreen as part of aftercare too, or opt for fall and winter sessions.
  • Check your meds. Certain medications can make your skin more sensitive to the laser, leading to pigment changes and even burns. So before your session, run through your meds with your dermatologist to check their safety.
  • Ditch the makeup. Your skin will need to be clean and oil-free before the treatments, so avoid makeup or oily skin products.
  • Avoid perfume and deodorant. Your skin may well be irritated after your treatment, so don’t use cosmetic products with added perfume or fragrance that could make it worse.

Hormones can also affect how much and how quickly the hair regrows. Your dermatologist may want to evaluate your hormonal status before your laser sessions, as any imbalances can stimulate hair regrowth. For example, you could find that the lasers remove existing hair, but then excessive testosterone stimulates regrowth more rapidly than expected.

This could happen if you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or use hormone replacement therapy. It may also happen to females in perimenopause and menopause because of falling estrogen levels.

Overall, laser hair removal is safe and effective, but it might not be the comfiest of experiences. Some peeps report a burning or stinging sensation during the procedure, which is why your laser technician may offer numbing cream.

Even if you experience side effects, they’re usually minor discomfort, swelling, or redness that ease up within 3 days.

Providing you see a qualified dermatologist for your laser hair treatments, other potential side effects are rare but could include:

Usually, skin color returns to its regular shade, but sometimes these changes can be permanent. That’s another reason why it’s essential you go to a board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon for your treatments.

Psst. Don’t forget to follow your aftercare instructions to reduce your risk of unpleasant side effects.

Laser hair removal is a way to reduce hair growth, but it likely won’t be forever. That said, if the laser destroys your hair follicles, it can mean the ultimate goodbye. Just keep in mind, you will need multiple sessions to notice a real difference.

Laser hair removal is generally considered safe, but it’s uber important you go to a licensed professional who has the correct equipment.