Laser hair removal: guidelines for management

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2002;3(2):107-15. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200203020-00004.


Laser-assisted hair removal is the most efficient method of long-term hair removal currently available. Several hair removal systems have been shown to be effective in this setting: ruby laser (694nm), alexandrite laser (755nm), diode laser (800nm), intense pulsed light source (590 to 1200nm) and the neodymium:yttrium-aluminium-garnet (Nd:YAG) laser (1064nm), with or without the application of carbon suspension. The parameters used with each laser system vary considerably. All these lasers work on the principle of selective photothermolysis, with the melanin in the hair follicles as the chromophobe. Regardless of the type of laser used multiple treatments are necessary to achieve satisfactory results. Hair clearance, after repeated treatments, of 30 to 50% is generally reported 6 months after the last treatment. Patients with dark colored skin (Fitzpatrick IV and V) can be treated effectively with comparable morbidity to those with lighter colored skin. Although there is no obvious advantage of one laser system over another in terms of treatment outcome (except the Nd:YAG laser, which is found to be less efficacious, but more suited to patients with darker colored skin), laser parameters may be important when choosing the ideal laser for a patient. Adverse effects reported after laser-assisted hair removal include erythema and perifollicular edema, which are common, and crusting and vesiculation of treatment site, hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation (depending on skin color and other factors). Most complications are generally temporary. The occurrence of hypopigmentation after laser irradiation is thought to be related to the suppression of melanogenesis in the epidermis (which is reversible), rather than the destruction of melanocytes. Methods to reduce the incidence of adverse effects include lightening of the skin and sun avoidance prior to laser treatment, cooling of the skin during treatment, and sun avoidance and protection after treatment. Proper patient selection and tailoring of the fluence used to the patient's skin type remain the most important factors in efficacious and well tolerated laser treatment. While it is generally believed that hair follicles are more responsive to treatment while they are in the growing (anagen) phase, conflicting results have also been reported. There is also no consensus on the most favorable treatment sites.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Protocols
  • Hair Removal / methods*
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy*
  • Lasers / adverse effects*
  • Lasers / classification
  • Patient Selection
  • Skin / injuries*
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Skin / ultrastructure
  • Treatment Outcome