A lot of the best tips for laser hair removal and IPL are pretty intuitive, but there are some that may be news to you. If you go in without all the info, you may be setting yourself up for underwhelming results for that unwanted hair.
How can I improve my laser hair removal results? You can improve your laser hair removal results by being gentle with your skin before and after, for starters. Along with that, you’ll need to be consistent with appointments and follow a few guidelines.
Let’s get into the specifics to make sure you’re prepped and ready to go for your first laser or IPL session. (We’re team IPL, but we’ll talk about both because knowledge is power.)
1. Ditch strong skincare products and self-tanners before you start
Avoid products that have the potential to make your skin more sensitive. That includes retinoids and retinols, alpha hydroxy acids, and acne products with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
Tanning lotions and products that change the pigment of your skin are also a no-no. IPL and laser hair removal works by targeting the melanin at the hair follicle. A solid contrast between your hair color and your skin is best, so you don’t want to do anything to change that.
Those with darker skin may still be good candidates for laser treatments that use longer wavelengths to avoid side effects like hyperpigmentation or discoloration. Unfortunately, at-home treatments aren’t recommended for very light or red hair or very dark skin.
What not to do after laser hair removal? Harsh skincare products are at the top of list of what not to do after laser hair removal treatments as well as beforehand. Basically, you’ll want to take a break from anything heavy-duty for a while. If you tend to use the products listed above, talk to your dermatologist or esthetician about when is safe to continue.
2. Shave the day before every treatment
No, it’s not opposite day. You do have to shave before every laser hair removal appointment. The same is true for IPL. Shave 12-24 hours before each session depending on how quickly you see a 5 o’clock shadow.
What happens if you don't shave before laser hair removal? If you don’t shave before laser hair removal, the device has a harder time finding your hair follicles.
Shaving with some dull, rusty razor doesn’t count, either. Your razor should be sharp, dry, and clean before you get it anywhere near your skin. Dermaplaning is a good substitution if you’re targeting unwanted hair on your face.
3. Exfoliate the day before every treatment
Exfoliating with a product like The Revealer preps your skin for the laser hair removal process by sloughing away dead skin cells and reducing your risk of ingrown hairs.
Razor bumps and ingrown hairs aren’t as big a thing with laser or IPL, by the way, but you may be getting them from shaving in the meantime.
Use your gentle exfoliant after treatments, too. You’ll speed up the shedding process. If you’re in the process of breaking up with tanning beds — we’re so proud of you! — exfoliation can help get your skin back to its natural state faster.
4. Shower (but don’t moisturize) the morning of each session
Showering before meeting up with any professional is generally best practice, but you should still do the same if you’re going DIY with at-home IPL. The targeted area should be clean, dry, and free of any moisturizers, deodorant, or makeup.
5. Wear loose-fitting clothing
Friction from tight clothing can irritate sensitive skin post-treatment, so wear breathable fabrics before and after your laser sessions. A big pro of IPL treatments is that your skin won’t be as sensitive, so you don’t need to be quite as cautious if you’re tending to things at home.
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6. Limit your sun exposure during the entire process
You don’t need to move into a cave, but try to time treatments around when you can avoid the most sun exposure. If you already have a tan, wait until it fades. If you’re planning on a beach vacay after your first session, wait to start until you’re back.
The sun can make your skin more sensitive and change the pigment of your skin. That’s a double-whammy for laser hair reduction.
At-home IPL is much gentler than med spa treatments, but you still shouldn’t be planning treatments around accidental sunburns. If you have to be out in the sun, wear a sunscreen like The Glow Up with an SPF of at least 30 every time you go out.
7. Never skip a session
Hair growth happens in cycles. A single session of laser or IPL hair removal will never get every single hair in the treated area because each hair doesn’t grow at the same time. Be patient. Assume you’ll need at least 4-6 initial laser sessions to see ideal results.
If you’re worried about the cost of treatments, an at-home device like The Flasher 2.0 costs a one-time fee vs. paying per session. You may need a few more sessions with your at-home device, but you won’t have to worry about skipping treatments for lack of funds.
How much should you tip for laser hair removal? You should tip a standard 15-20% for each laser hair removal session.
If you’re doing at-home IPL, feel free to tip yourself in whatever manner pleases you.
8. Don’t tweeze, wax, or bleach before or between treatments
Avoid tweezing, plucking, waxing, or any other hair removal methods that pull hair at the root. IPL and laser targets hair follicles. Leave them be.
Skip bleaching, too. Bleaching can make your skin more sensitive and change the pigment of hairs in the treatment area. Those devices want to work smarter, not harder.
9. Avoid caffeine and alcohol for 24 hours pre-treatment
Caffeine can lower your pain threshold, especially in women. Alcohol can dehydrate your skin and increase your risk of skin irritation. Avoid both at least 24 hours before sessions for more comfortable treatments and a reduced risk of side effects.
10. Don’t use laser/IPL when you’re on certain medications
Many laser centers won’t touch your body hair if you’re on medications that may increase photosensitivity. While research doesn’t show that these meds are a big risk to users, there’s just not enough definitive evidence that it’s totally safe.
These medications may include antidepressants, anti-cancer drugs, even antihistamines. Most salons also recommend you avoid blood thinners with any cosmetic treatment, even though the risk of bleeding during a laser treatment session is very low.
If you’re on antibiotics or unsure about possible side effects of meds you’re taking, talk to your primary care doc about your plans to make sure you’re still a good candidate.
Side note: Laser hair removal or IPL may be safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, but most professionals recommend holding off during these times.
11. Use aloe vera gel to soothe treated skin after every session
Bad side effects are extremely uncommon with laser hair removal, and even more rare with IPL. If you see any redness post-treatment, resist the urge to pick or scratch at your skin. A cooling aloe gel like The Reviver can calm things down. Use it after every session to give your skin a layer of protection.
12. Cool irritated skin with ice packs and cold compresses
What can I do to help the healing process? To help the healing process post-treatment, use a cold compress or ice packs in 10-15 minutes intervals on the treated area. This can bring down any swelling and cool irritated skin.
If you notice any blistering, possible skin infection, or scarring, call your dermatologist or healthcare provider immediately.
Super sensitive skin types can ask for a topical numbing cream before each treatment. If you’re a fan of at-home IPL, you likely won’t feel much discomfort at all with your treatments, but in-salon laser hair removal can be uncomfortable for some.
While it’s not as intense as electrolysis or even waxing, some compare it to a rubber band snapping against their skin. That’s not exactly pleasant, but it does depend on your pain threshold. Sensitive parts like your bikini line and underarms will feel it more.
13. Stay away from heat for 24 hours after each treatment
Skip saunas, intense exercise, very hot showers, and anything else that causes max sweating in the 24 hours after each treatment. You could irritate sensitive skin and put yourself at risk for bacterial infection at treatment sites.
What not to do after laser hair removal? Harsh skincare products are at the top of list of what not to do after laser hair removal treatments, but the same wisdom applies before you start.
14. Wait 2 weeks after Botox or dermal fillers to start treatment
We know you’re trying to prep for hot girl (or boy) summer, but try to focus on one thing at a time here. You should not be scheduling cosmetic treatments like Botox, fillers, chemical peels, or whatever else we’re leaving off here at the same time as hair removal procedures.
What not to do after laser hair removal? Harsh skincare products are at the top of list of what not to do after laser hair removal treatments, but the same wisdom applies before you start. You should also avoid excess heat, sun exposure, and other cosmetic treatments.
BONUS TIP: Take Before Pics!
We know you’re cute either way, but one of the best parts about permanent hair removal is seeing the progress from start to finish. Take before/after photos of that mustache as a point of personal pride or to brag on yourself later.
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