What effects does it have?
What is it?
Permanently reducing the amount of hair by burning the hair and follicle using a laser.
It's also known as Laser hair removal.
How long does it 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.
In this procedure, the skin is exposed to pulses of laser light. The laser is of a specific wavelength that heats up the hair, causing the hair and hair follicle to be heated and destroyed, stopping that hair from regrowing. 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 1.
Laser hair reduction can be carried out using several different types of laser with different wavelengths: ruby (694nm), alexandrite (755nm), diode (810nm), and Nd:YAG (1,064-nm). 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 2,3. 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.
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 3.
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.
You can read more about laser hair removal on the NHS Choices website.
Costs and funding
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. If you have a formal diagnosis and unwanted facial hair, the NHS may provide funding for some laser hair reduction or electrolysis.
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.
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 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.
- 1 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.
- 2 Sadighha, Afshin and others (2009) “Meta-analysis of hair removal laser trials.” Lasers in medical science, 24(1), pp. 21–25.
- 3 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.
Errors and omissions
Is there something missing from this page? Have you spotted something that isn't correct? Please tweet us or message us on Facebook to let us know, or file an issue on GitHub.
Page last updated: January 2019