It is difficult to give a precise description of how laser hair removal feels because different people have different pain thresholds. While some people might find the procedure difficult, others might not feel any pain at all.
On the skin, laser hair removal has the comforting sensation of a warm, tolerable pinch. Even though you might not feel the heat, you might feel like a rubber band is snapping against your skin.
As the unwanted hairs become finer and you become accustomed to the pinching sensation, future hair removal treatments become less painful.
How Laser Hair Removal Feels on Every Part of the Body
Your hair follicles are the target of tiny, hot laser pulses used in laser hair removal. Most patients don’t feel the heat, but they do experience a pinching sensation, similar to a rubber band being snapped against their skin. However, the procedure is tolerable enough, particularly when compared to other hair removal techniques like waxing.
You might also experience skin soreness following a laser hair removal session. The redness and irritation that resemble a sunburn go away over night. Your skin’s sensitivity will affect how painful the laser hair removal procedure is for you. There are some body parts that are more sensitive than others for treatment. Here is how laser hair removal feels on each treatment area:
- Legs: Laser hair removal is most frequently used to treat the legs. Thanks to the thick skin here, the legs are pain-free in comparison to other parts of the body. Still, you should be prepared for a few extra sharp pains now and then, especially in the inner thigh area.
- Back: A thick layer of numbing cream is unavoidably required if the treatment is being performed on your back. The density of unwanted hairs on your back will make the process hurt.
- Face: Pain is relative for the face because the thickness of the skin varies. Your cheeks and forehead will only experience a slight sting, while the pain in your chin and sideburns is tolerable. The upper lip is the most painful area because of how thin the skin is there.
- Underarms: Most sensitive treatment areas, by far, are the underarms. This is the part that many patients find to be the most painful; they compare the feeling to having a deep needle inserted beneath their thin skin. Although most patients finish all their sessions, the procedure is so successful for the underarms.
- Arms: Your arms’ skin is thick enough to withstand the pain in comparison to your underarms. Several providers skip the numbing cream for the arms altogether because of how mild the sensation is.
- Stomach: There is significantly less pain because your abdomen is covered in thick skin. In fact, you might experience stomach tickling from the laser pulses as the procedure progresses.
- Bikini line: Particularly sensitive to the pain is the bikini area. The experience of laser hair removal in that area will be similar to how waxing your bikini line felt. Laser removal takes much longer than waxing, which happens in a fraction of a second. The plus side is that overall sessions are drastically reduced while results last significantly longer.
Making Laser Hair Removal Hurt Less
If you are considering getting laser hair removal done, the most important thing to do is to find a board-certified dermatologist who can guarantee you a safe and effective treatment.
If the pain from the laser is too intense, a qualified technician can reduce its intensity. A skilled technician will always prioritize your comfort while electrocuting unwanted hair.
Finding a qualified provider is also advised because they will have access to high-quality numbing cream. Certain treatment areas are very sensitive so medical anesthetic cream would need to be used. The use of numbing cream excessively has unfortunately been associated with potentially fatal side effects. A professional provider would know to apply the right amount of numbing cream onto your skin.
It’s also best to find a licensed technician rather than risking a visit to a cheap “laser center” or buying at-home laser kits. Untrained or unqualified technicians can burn or scar your skin. Although using at-home laser kits may be less painful and less risky, they are not very effective at getting rid of all the unwanted hair.
The Benefits of Laser Hair Removal
The dark pigment in the hair is targeted, broken down, and destroyed by lasers using pulsed light. This is why it works so well on dark hair.2 But, unfortunately, this also means the lasers will also target skin pigments, which can cause discoloration.
On people with darker hair and lighter skin tones, lasers and pulsed lights are most effective. According to Dr. Maiman, “the ideal candidates for laser hair removal are patients with light skin and dark hair. Because there is little pigment in the hair bulb to target with the laser in patients with blonde hair, the laser is comparatively ineffective. This is because the laser’s mechanism of action depends on this target.” But there are gadgets like the Diode and Nd-Yag designed to work on people with light skin or hair.
Dark skin should never be subjected to an intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment because using the wrong kind of machine or lasers can result in discoloration for deeper skin tones. “Those with darker skin are at higher risk of adverse events like potentially permanent hyper or hypopigmentation. This is because they have more pigment surrounding the hair follicle that can be inadvertently hit and destroyed by the laser,” says Dr. Maiman. “Naturally, this does not imply that patients with darker skin tones cannot get laser hair removal. It simply means that consulting a board-certified dermatologist is even more essential because it’s crucial that the medical professional select the ideal laser and employ the ideal settings to reduce risk.”
Laser technology has advanced significantly over time. When you book your appointment, describe your skin tone and hair color and ask the salon what lasers they use (and if they’ll provide results with your hair and skin tone). It is simpler to know what type of treatment you would receive at some businesses because they only remove light hair or use lasers on deeper skin tones.
Hair Removal Alternatives You Can Try
Not everyone is ready to deal with the potential discomfort or high cost of laser hair removal. If you’re still unsure of how you want to remove unwanted hairs, here are a few alternatives you can consider:
- Depilatories: Applying depilatories to your skin will dissolve unwanted hairs that are simple to rinse off. They are chemical-based products. Blisters, burns, and rashes are among the unpleasant side effects of depilatories.
- Shaving: The least painful way to remove unwanted hair is generally thought to be shaving. You can prevent cutting yourself unintentionally or suffering from razor burn if you take care. The only drawback to shaving is that it requires frequent, time-consuming shaving and that the results don’t last very long.
- Plucking: Since you have to remove every hair strand individually when plucking, the process takes time. The results do last longer and have fewer side effects, which is a plus.
- Waxing: Waxing is on par with laser hair removal for intensity of pain. The drawbacks of waxing include short-term results that can cause skin irritation or rashes, as well as the possibility of these side effects.
- Electrolysis: Similar to laser hair removal, electrolysis is a medical procedure. Instead of destroying hair follicles with laser heat, electrolysis does this using radio frequencies. Although it’s not as painful as laser hair removal, you could get rashes and swelling.
I can’t lie; I found the process to be uncomfortable. The beauty-is-pain trope may feel a bit tired these days. Although appointments are brief—for me, no longer than 20 minutes—my best way to describe the procedure is as though a rubber band is repeatedly snapping against your body. When discussing the areas in which you’ll have the procedure done with your technician, keep in mind that different places also hurt differently.
Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt the More You Go?
Yes, the pain associated with laser hair removal decreases as you receive more treatments. The color and density of the hair change after each session. Treatments might be a little more sensitive if you go too long between sessions.
How Does Laser Hair Removal Feel Compared to Waxing?
Laser hair removal does not hurt as much as waxing and is way quicker. It’s true what you read. Depending on the area being waxed, it can either feel like a cat sneezing or like tiny pinpricks.
What is the Most Painful Area for Laser Hair Removal?
Since the skin here is thinner than anywhere else on your face, the upper lip is unquestionably the area that hurts the most.