Sun Exposure and Laser Hair Removal
Many of our patients at Jefferson Plastic Surgery who are thinking about undergoing laser hair removal are particularly interested in having the procedure done so that they will feel more self-confident when wearing body-baring clothing. In some cases, this may mean undergoing hair removal. However, our patients may have heard that they should avoid sun exposure to the body areas that have undergone treatment.
Although it is true that you must be careful to avoid sun exposure following laser treatment to remove unwanted body hair, you can still undergo a procedure session during sunny times of the year, provided you follow certain precautions. How can you best take care of your skin if you are planning to undergo laser treatment to remove unwanted body hair?
Laser Hair Removal Technology
In order to understand why it is important to avoid sun exposure both before and after laser hair removal, we first need to understand exactly how the technology behind this procedure works. The lasers used for this procedure are specifically attracted to melanin, which is the dark pigment in your skin. If you have coarse, dark hair in the area targeted for removal (such as the face), the melanin in the hair will absorb the light coming from the laser. This light will damage the hair follicles enough to severely slow down or stop any future growth. Depending upon how dark your skin and your body hair happen to be, you may need several treatments to remove all hair in the target area.
Tanned Skin and Hair Removal
Because the laser is very sensitive to melanin, it may have difficulty differentiating your body hair from surrounding skin that has a lot of melanin. If you have a tan, or are of an ethnic or racial group with darker skin, you will have more melanin in your skin cells. If the laser is not properly calibrated as a result of excess melanin, it may not remove enough body hair. The laser will need to sense that there is enough contrast between your skin color and that of your body hair. If it cannot do so, you may end up having to go through more treatments to remove all the hair you want.
Summertime Laser Treatment Tips
Our surgeons recommend avoiding sun exposure starting three days before your first hair removal appointment, until one week afterward. If you sunbathe, your skin becomes much more sensitive to heat, even if you don’t feel it. If you have laser hair removal done too soon after sun exposure, your skin will be particularly sensitive to the laser, and you run the risk of blisters and scarring.
Following treatment, you should stay out of the sun for at least one week in order to avoid the potential of hyper-pigmentation (areas that are noticeably darker than others) in locations where you have undergone hair removal. You should use a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher for any treated areas that might be exposed to direct sunlight. If you have had hair removed from your face, wear a wide-brimmed hat, along with large, wrap-around sunglasses whenever you are outside.