What not to do before laser hair removal
1. Don’t skimp on finding the best provider
First things first: as with any aesthetic treatment, do your due diligence to find an experienced laser hair removal specialist—especially if your skin is richly pigmented.
“People with dark skin tones require special lasers that won’t damage the skin and that target only the hair,” explains Dr. Bruce Katz, a board-certified dermatologic surgeon in New York City. If your skin is melanin rich, “it’s important to go to an experienced board-certified dermatologist so you don’t get burned by the laser...”
2. Don’t pluck or wax hair in the weeks before your appointment
...On top of halting plucking and waxing hair in the area being treated, he adds that you should also avoid using any kind of depilatory cream within this period—as well as any hair-bleaching products. “Laser hair removal works by targeting hair that is darker than your skin,” Dr. Katz continues, “so you need the hair to be darker for your treatment to be effective...”
3. Don’t expose your skin to the sun
Again, it bears repeating that you should protect your skin from the sun on a daily basis, both by avoiding direct exposure as best you can and applying (and reapplying) adequate sunscreen. “Continue to use sunscreen daily, to keep skin protected from the sun, but ramp it up even more in the four to six weeks before treatment,” Dr. Katz advises. Opt for sunscreen with an SPF range of 30 to 50+, taking extra caution to apply it on the entire area being treated.
4. Don’t apply active skin-care ingredients in the days leading up to your treatment
Before your treatment, forgo any products in your skin-care regimen that contain strong active ingredients, including:
- Benzoyl peroxide
Dr. Katz notes that these potent ingredients—as well as physical exfoliants, like scrubs—have the potential to weaken the skin barrier, which may result in an increased risk of skin damage from the laser...
5. Don’t take certain medications and substances close to your appointment
...Within 24 hours of your treatment, Dr. Katz recommends avoiding alcohol and caffeine. “to help reduce inflammation and help prevent any adverse effects,” he shares.
6. Don’t apply products on the day of your appointment
On the day of your laser hair removal treatment, both doctors recommend going in with clean, dry skin that’s free of lotions, creams, oils, cosmetics, and the like. Ultimately, Dr. Katz says the point is to avoid any topical products “that would be a barrier between the laser treatment and the hair on your skin...”
What not to do after laser hair removal
1. Don’t expose your skin to heat (including the kind generated by exercise)
...On a similar note, Dr. Katz recommends holding off on exercising the day of your treatment, but he says you should be good to resume workouts the day after.
2. Don’t stay out in the sun
...Dr. Katz also suggests wearing UV-protective clothing as well as a wide-brimmed hat (if you get laser hair removal on your face), to minimize the risk of post-laser skin damage.
3. Don’t resume your regular skin-care regimen just yet
...Itching to reintegrate exfoliants and retinoids back into your routine? To do so as safely as possible, Dr. Katz advises waiting up to a week after your treatment, though tolerance varies from one person to another. And in the meantime, if you’re battling bumps, swelling, or sensitivity in the days following your treatment, “the best thing to do is apply a cool compress to the area a few times a day,” he adds.
5. Don’t expect results overnight
...“After each treatment, you’ll leave the office with less hair, and after every treatment you’ll notice that less hair grows back—and the hair that does will be finer and less noticeable,” Dr. Katz explains. However, he says, you’ll still require multiple sessions in the same area in order to permanently stop hair from coming back.