I will always remember the first time I heard about laser hair removal. One of my mum’s friends was undergoing a laser treatment for her full legs. It was the midst of summer. She stayed in the shade and did not join us in the pool. Despite the heat. “No sun for me this year”, she said. “That is the cost of permanently hair-free legs”, she added. Obviously, after that, I always believed that one could not undergo laser hair removal in summer.
I have learnt a lot about laser hair removal since however. It is true that a lot of websites do mention that patients should always avoid the sun during their treatment. Therefore, does it make sense to start a laser treatment in summer? No, I believed it did not. And that fall was the best time to start! As a matter of fact, since you must wait six weeks between each session, logically, you’d be done by the beginning of the following summer. And then able to be in the sun.
However, even though patients should indeed avoid direct sunlight during their laser hair removal treatment, it is said nowhere that undergoing laser in summer is impossible (or forbidden). There will always be a time in your treatment where you will be exposed. For example, if you start your treatment in winter and finish it in summer. Or undergo laser hair removal for your upper lips and then go skiing.
Thus there are a few steps you can take to ensure safe laser hair removal in summer. Because it is possible, you can do it. You just need to take all necessary precautions to protect your skin against UV rays.
How does laser hair removal work?
Laser hair removal uses selective photothermolysis. The laser targets hair pigments. It sends light energy through the hair to the hair follicle where it will turn into thermal energy. There, the energy will damage the hair follicle, preventing further hair growth.
The thermal energy actually cauterizes the blood vessels feeding the follicle. Here, blood is the fuel that makes the follicle function. Without it, no hair is being produced. Therefore, the goal of laser hair removal is to damage the hair follicle beyond repair. Only then will it not be able to regenerate or produce new hair.
For laser hair removal to work, the hair must be in the anagen phase of the growth cycle. It is the only time when the hair and follicle connect, thus allowing the energy to go from the former to the later. Unfortunately, only 20% of all body hair is in this phase of growth at any point in time. That is why each session will remove 18 to 20% of body hair and why you need at least six sessions.
It is also possible that some hair follicles may need more sessions to be thoroughly damaged. Laser hair removal reduces hair growth by up to 90%. As per the FDA’s standards, laser hair removal is not yet considered a permanent hair removal method. However, a lot of patients experience permanent hair removal.
Why must you avoid the sun during a laser treatment?
Being in the sun incurs tanning. Unfortunately, a sudden change in melanin may interfere with your laser treatment. Indeed, tanning places the skin in an excited state and will absorb more energy, increasing risks of burns and other sun damage.
Even though laser hair removal is completely safe, it still leaves the skin more sensitive and therefore vulnerable to UV rays. Indeed, the laser sends a strong beam of light against the skin. No damage is done to surrounding skin tissues. The heat stays in the dermis for up to 24 hours and the skin still comes out more sensitive.
Your skin needs time to heal after the procedure. It must build its defenses again. The best way to do that is avoid aggressive environments and harsh conditions. Direct sunlight and UV rays fit that category. That is why you need to wait at least two weeks before being in the sun again.
Exposing lasered areas to direct sunlight immediately after the treatment can cause hyperpigmentation, brown spots, sun burns and other skin damage. Some of which can be very serious and also irreversible. Not only will sun damage interfere with the healing process but it will also put your skin and health at risk.
Can you undergo laser hair removal in summer then?
Yes, you can undergo laser hair removal in summer. As mentioned above, there will probably be a time in your treatment where it is summer. Even though the minimum number of sessions is six, most people need a couple more to achieve results they are satisfied with. Therefore, even if you start your laser treatment in fall, you may still have a few sessions in summer.
Laser hair removal is not any less safe in summer than in winter. It does however require more care and attention from the patients. There may be some lifestyle adjustments to ensure your skin is protected at all times.
This goes beyond applying a strong SPF. Which is crucial regardless of whether you are undergoing laser hair removal or holidaying as usual. UV rays do not only damage freshly lasered skin. It does not discriminate and your skin is at risk if you do not give it the right protection.
We would advise that you apply a strong SPF and physical sunblocks. Chemical sunscreens are not as effective and do not act as a barrier against UV rays. Make sure to apply a new layer of sunscreen every two hours if you stay in the sun or go for a swim. If you are not active, stay in the shade as much as possible, especially during sun peak hours (10am to 3pm).
For example, if you undergo laser hair removal for your lower legs, you may want to wear maxi dresses and skirts to ensure the skin is not exposed too often to the sun. Areas such as the underarms or bikini are much less likely to be exposed to sunlight. After a day outside or in the sun, remember to apply a moisturizing lotion to hydrate the skin and help it heal faster.
You can undergo laser hair removal in summer. It is likely that you will have a few sessions during spring or summer anyways. The main reason why you need to be careful with laser hair removal is summer is because the damage UV rays can cause on your skin. While some sunburns will heal, other sun damage can be irreversible.
Regardless of whether you undergo laser hair removal in summer, you must always apply a physical sunblock with a strong SPF to protect your skin against UV rays. Should you get a sunburn, apply an after-sun moisturizing lotion and avoid the sun for some time so that the skin can heal.
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