What is laser hair reduction?
Permanently reducing the amount of hair by burning the hair and follicle using a laser.
It's also known as Laser hair removal.
What does laser hair reduction do?
How long does laser hair reduction last?
The effects of laser hair removal are permanent and cannot be reversed. Laser hair reduction permanently reduces the amount of hair significantly, but does not guarantee all hairs will be permanently removed, so later ‘top-up’ sessions may be needed.
How do I stay safe?
Remember to check the official inspection reports for your laser clinic before you attend to check that that their staff are properly trained and work safely:
- in Wales, you can read the reports on the Healthcare in Wales website
- in Northern Ireland, you can read the reports on the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority website
- in England, unfortunately reports are not available for all clinics, but some can be found by typing in the search box on the Care Quality Commission website
- in Scotland, unfortunately reports are not available for all clinics, but some can be found by typing in the search box on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website
You can find more information about choosing who will do your procedure on the NHS website. You may also may want to ask a local group for people changing things related to gender to find out if people have had any problems with the clinic.
What should I be aware of?
Laser hair reduction may be painful or uncomfortable. You can reduce the discomfort by asking your GP to prescribe you lidocaine and prilocaine cream, also known as EMLA cream. This is a local anaesthetic, applied directly onto the skin, which numbs the skin so you feel less pain from the treatment. You will normally need to apply the cream around an hour before your treatment.
Common side effects of laser hair reduction are erythema (skin redness) and edema (swelling) for up to 48 hours. Patients who undergo laser hair reduction may also experience temporary hypopigmentation (paleness in the treated area) (14–25%) or hyperpigmentation (darkened skin in the treated area) (10–17%). If the laser is not properly configured for the patient, another possible side effect is increased hair growth 1.
Who might want laser hair reduction?
Laser hair reduction is an effective treatment for people with hair that is dark coloured. It is unable to remove hairs that are not dark, such as ginger, grey, or blonde hairs. These hairs are usually removed by electrolysis instead. Electrolysis may be up to 60 times slower and more painful 2.
Are there other options?
Another similar treatment is IPL.
Where can I learn more?
You can read more about facial hair removal methods in this booklet produced by the NHS GDNRSS.
There is also general information about laser hair removal on the NHS website.
What kinds are there?
The main types of laser used are ruby, alexandrite, diode, and Nd:YAG. Diode and alexandrite lasers are most effective for hair reduction, but only work effectively on pale skin. For people with darker coloured skin, Nd:YAG is more effective 3;1. Your laser technician should be able to discuss with you the type of laser they have available and whether it will be suitable for you.
How much will it cost?
The price of laser hair reduction varies depending on the size of the area to be treated. A common area is the face and neck, which would normally cost around £100-200 per session. NHS Scotland have produced guidance that suggests that around 15 sessions of 30 minutes each would normally be needed to clear facial hair growth 4, p.6.
If you have a formal diagnosis and unwanted facial hair, the NHS may provide funding for some laser hair reduction or electrolysis:
- NHS England: up to 8 sessions of laser hair removal 5, p.17
- NHS Scotland: a minimum of 15 sessions of laser hair removal 4, p.10
- NHS Wales: facial hair removal is not currently funded by NHS Wales 6, p.40
The NHS will normally fund genital hair removal before vaginoplasty surgery or hair removal for donor skin sites for phalloplasty or metoidioplasty surgery if urethroplasty is to be performed.
- 1.Lapidoth, M, Dierickx, C, Lanigan, S, Paasch, U, et al. (2010) “Best practice options for hair removal in patients with unwanted facial hair using combination therapy with laser: guidelines drawn up by an expert working group.” Dermatology, 221(1), pp. 34–42. Link
- 2.Görgü, Metin, Aslan, Gürcan, Aköz, Tayfun and Erdoğan, Bülent (2000) “Comparison of alexandrite laser and electrolysis for hair removal.” Dermatologic surgery, 26(1), pp. 37–41. Link
- 3.Sadighha, Afshin and others (2009) “Meta-analysis of hair removal laser trials.” Lasers in medical science, 24(1), pp. 21–25. Link
- 4.National Gender Identity Clinical Network Scotland (2020) “Facial Hair Removal for Transgender Patients.” Link
- 5.NHS England (2019) Service specification: Gender Identity Services for Adults (Non-Surgical Interventions), NHS England. Link
- 6.NHS Wales (2019) Service Specification CP182b Gender Identity Service for Adults (non-surgical), NHS Wales. Link
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