Laser Hair Removal and the Best Time of Year to Get it

Mikaela Kropp Mikaela Kropp
4 minute read

explore laser hair removal for silky smooth legs

Dreaming of a summer without shaving, plucking and waxing? Laser hair removal could be your ticket to effortlessly smooth skin.

But if 2021 is going to be your year for hair removal, you should be getting started now. A full course of treatment typically takes six months, and between-session restrictions are easiest to follow when the sun’s not out and the weather is wintery.

Wait, what are the restrictions? And it takes six months?? Then when to get laser hair removal? If these facts are news to you, keep on reading to learn the why and how of laser hair removal.

How does laser hair removal work?

The lasers used for laser hair removal target and destroy hair follicles by heating up the follicle’s melanin (the pigment that gives it color). 

The principal limitation of laser hair removal is that there is also melanin in your skin. These lasers are designed to penetrate to the exact depth of the follicles, minimizing the risk of damage to non-target cells, but laser hair removal is still most effective for individuals with a high contrast between the skin and hair color.

Recent advances in laser technology, however, have led to new lasers with frequencies designed to work on light, fine hair or deeper skin tones. 

Why does it take so long?

common areas for hair removal include the face, upper lip, legs, underarms, and bikini

Typically, a full course of treatment includes 4-8 sessions spaced 4-6 weeks apart; that’s where the “about six months” number comes from. That’s also why, if you want the best time for laser hair removal and to complete your treatment by June, you should think about having your first appointment in the dead of winter.

The spacing between sessions correlates roughly with your hair’s natural growth cycle. At your first treatment you’ll zap a good share of your hairs, but not all follicles are active at the same time. About 4-6 weeks after your first session, a new batch of follicles will have matured, and your second session will zap those. You will continue with these periodic treatments until you and your dermatologist are satisfied with the hair removal you’ve achieved.

You may be wondering: How long does laser hair removal last? These growth cycles are also the reason why, months or years after treatment, some individuals will experience hair “regrowth.” These new hairs aren’t the same old ones growing back--the lasers permanently erase any hair they affect--but rather a new crop of hairs whose time has finally come to grow.

Hair growth cycles are unique to each person, so it’s important to choose an experienced laser hair removal professional who will work with your uniqueness instead of handing out cookie-cutter plans.

It’s already the late winter/spring/summer--do I have to wait until next year?

Absolutely not! You’ll see finer, thinner hair within 2-3 weeks after your first treatment. The full six-month regimen is necessary to see your total possible hair removal (a 70-90% reduction in most people) but you can get started at any time of year, and stop treatments at any point as well.

Just be wary of the restrictions you’ll need to follow before, between and after your treatments.

What are the skin-care rules surrounding laser hair removal?

Although the lasers are designed to target hair follicles, not skin cells, it’s important to foster as high of a shade contrast (skin lighter than hair) as possible before your treatment.

It’s also important that the full follicle is present to target! That why, for 3 weeks before each individual treatment, you follow these rules:

  • Protect your target area from sunlight with clothing, shade, and SPF30+ sunscreen.
  • Do not artificially tan or use any self-tanning lotions or sprays.
  • Shave only--do not wax, pluck, or thread.

After your treatment, the area may be bumpy and red for several hours to several days as the hair follicles respond to treatment. Your skin will also be sensitive to sunlight, so you should continue avoiding sunlight and tanning options for 2-3 weeks post-treatment.

Because of the many months required for a full treatment and the importance of avoiding sunlight between sessions, the winter months are the best time of year to pursue laser hair removal. However, just one session can create meaningful results, so you should never feel like it’s the wrong time to get started!

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