Can Laser Hair Removal Cause Changes in Skin Color?

Laser hair removal is a popular method of hair removal that can cause changes in skin color, ranging from darkening to lightening. These changes can be temporary or permanent, and are more likely to occur in people who don't avoid sun exposure before or after treatment and those with darker skin. While many patients have not experienced complications due to laser hair removal, some risks have been observed. Skin discoloration is a side effect that is estimated to occur less than 5% of the time.

Skin discoloration can take the form of hyperpigmentation, which refers to the darkening of the skin. Laser hair removal works by using small, high-temperature lasers, which can cause temporary side effects immediately after the procedure. Skin irritation and changes in pigmentation are the most common side effects. After laser hair removal treatments, the skin may appear slightly discolored.

This is a temporary side effect and usually goes away on its own in about a week. Hyperpigmentation after laser hair removal may be due to the skin's reaction to the energy or heat of the laser. Most of the time, hyperpigmentation after laser hair removal is temporary and resolves on its own. It usually lasts for one to two months after treatment. However, if the hyperpigmentation is persistent or you cannot wait for it to disappear due to time constraints, hydroquinone-based products can be used to quickly lighten pigmented areas.

For more sensitive areas, such as the armpits, bikini and inner thighs, hydroquinone-free skin lightening products, such as tranexamic acid, may be recommended to prevent skin irritation that can worsen hyperpigmentation.

Treating Hyperpigmentation After Laser Hair Removal

The best way to determine how to treat hyperpigmentation caused by laser hair removal treatment is to consult with a board-certified medical professional who has the knowledge and experience necessary to recommend the most appropriate products and treatments for your situation. Fractional lasers or fractional CO2 lasers are considered safe for patients with lighter skin tones, but those with darker skin tones are at greater risk of erythema and pigmented areas, with subsequent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Green in NYC offers a series of non-invasive cosmetic treatments that are designed to effectively and safely eliminate various types of hyperpigmentation. Laser hair treatments work by preventing follicles from growing new hair. For example, Fraxel and AlexTriVantage are revolutionary lasers that permanently remove sunspots, age spots and sun damage.

One of the classic methods for eliminating post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from lasers is chemical peels.

Avoiding Hyperpigmentation After Laser Hair Removal

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is the result of the skin being affected by laser treatment, rather than just the hair follicle. Any exposure to the sun or UV rays after laser rejuvenation treatments can damage the skin and negatively affect treatment results, in addition to increasing the risk of developing unwanted side effects. However, the duration of these side effects may depend on the doctor performing the procedure and the steps you take both to prepare for the sessions and to care for your skin afterward. If you experience rare and prolonged side effects, or if you are not sure if they are related to your laser hair removal sessions, always call your provider. There are many patients who have PIH due to frequent treatments with Fraxel, IPL, Picosure or Halo lasers; continuing to do more treatments with these lasers is not always the best option.

Preventing Hyperpigmentation After Laser Hair Removal

In some cases, pigmentation may occur after laser rejuvenation with Fraxel laser, IPL, Picosure, Halo ablative lasers, laser hair removal or other laser treatments.

Performing your laser treatments with an experienced medical professional can be an effective solution to permanently reduce the appearance of several types of hyperpigmentation. Unfortunately, in many states laser treatments are not regulated; there are many spas and clinics that have untrained and unauthorized assistants who perform laser hair removal. Lasers work by detecting the contrast between thick, unwanted dark hairs and the skin on the bottom. Poor patient selection and laser choice can often result in this unwanted side effect of laser treatment.