Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt?

Laser hair removal works through light emission that is attracted to melanin (hair color) which terminates as heat. This heat is what kills the hair follicle and stops hair growth. Most people experience the sensation as a stinging burning feeling. Some say it feels like a rubber band is being slapped against your skin.

The darker coarser the hair the more sensation you have. The plus side to this is these individuals also have better effects from the laser treatment. Another factor in the level of discomfort is when the area being treated has thick hair growth or multiple hairs in each follicle. These factors will increase the sensation. People with dark hair and light skin will experience more pain than people with lighter hair and darker skin. Also dark skinned individuals with dark hair may have more of a reaction due to the type of laser that is used for them.


Typically as the laser treatments continue the discomfort deceases because the hair is getting thinner, finer and there is less hair per follicle. This is true for all skin types.The first two treatments tend to cause the most discomfort. I encouraged everyone to use ibuprophen (Nuprin, Advil, or Aleve) before each treatment as this will decrease the discomfort before and after the treatment.Other ways to decrease the discomfort are to:

  • Use of a cold wash cloth along with the laser- have the laser professional rub the area lightly after 3-4 pulses
  • Use aloe gel with lidocaine (a mild numbing agent) after the treatment
  • Make sure the laser being used has either cold air blowing during the treatment or uses a cooling agent like Cryogen. (personally I prefer the cold air due to less exposure to unnecessary chemicals)
  • Choose a Alexandrite or Nd:yag laser as opposed to an IPL or diode treatment- more effective and less painful.

Of course everyone experiences pain or discomfort differently. How much discomfort you'll feel will depend not only on such factors as your skin type, the thickness and density of your hair, and the area of your body being treated, but also on your ability to tolerate pain.

Some individuals will need to take medication every time while others will not feel the need. Rarely do I find that someone can not tolerate the treatments, usually it is because something else is causing them pain or discomfort and the combination is not tolerable. Most women will want to avoid hair removal treatments for several days before and during their monthly menstrual cycles.

The amount of inflammation already occurring during that time causes the laser treatment to be more uncomfortable.Numbing agents, although widely used, are not very effective. They do no penetrate deep enough in the skin to cause numbing at the follicular site. These agents can also be dangerous if used on too large of an area. In my experience the benefits far out weight the discomfort involved. After just one treatment the effects of hair removal is apparent. Issues like razor burn, bumps and ingrown hair are lessened so that the pain is worth the gain!