Is laser hair removal safe?

SafeWise experts have years of firsthand experience testing the products we recommend. Learn how we test and review

Laser hair removal procedures use a concentrated beam of light to target the cells responsible for hair growth. This light is converted into heat and passed through the skin to the hair follicles. Once the heat gets to about 70 degrees, the hair follicles can be destroyed. 

Due to its long-term effects, it's a preferable method of hair removal over waxing, shaving, or plucking. Even though it's usually not a permanent solution, it’s precise, fast, and effective – which is part of the reason it's so popular. 

However, no medical treatment comes without risks and potential complications.

The risks of laser hair removal

Like any medical procedure, laser hair removal has risks. Fortunately, they’re minor. 

  • You might find the treated area to be itchy or bumpy after your session. Any inflammation or redness is normal and should subside after a few days. 
  • Getting a tan or sunburn before your appointment can increase the risk of skin damage, giving you some nasty scars, blisters, crusting, or changes in your skin’s colour and texture. 
  • Rare side effects include greying hair and excessive hair growth surrounding the treated area.

Is laser hair removal safe?

Are home laser hair removal devices safe?

Home laser removal is arguably no safer than professional laser removal. While they probably won’t yield long-lasting results, they are safe to use at home as long as you follow the proper instructions. They’re not as powerful as the practice's laser machines you pay through the nose for, meaning the risk of singeing your skin is much less likely.

If you have a darker complexion, proceed with caution. These devices target the skin and hair’s pigment (melanin), and if you have hair that does not contrast with the colour of your skin, you might have trouble targeting the hair without damaging the skin. Unless you have light skin and dark hair, you’re at an increased risk of blistering and burning. 

Can you get cancer from radiation in laser hair removal?

Laser therapy uses non-ionising radiation in the form of a concentrated light source. Unlike the ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths found in sunlight (UVA/UVB) or ionising radiation (nuclear radiation), non-ionising radiation does not damage skin cells or cause cancer. 

Laser therapy is used safely for:

  • Tattoo removal 
  • Dental procedures 
  • Treating cancer
  • Prostate, skin and eye surgery 

Even though the radiation does not directly contribute to cancer, it can pose the risk of skin damage for certain skin types and hair colours, especially if the machine is used incorrectly. Darker complexions have an especially increased risk of blistering and burning, as the laser targets the melanin in the skin. 

How to prevent complications

Risks of side effects can vary based on your hair colour, skin type, and how well you adhere to any pre or post-treatment recommendations. 

To minimise the risk of side effects, choose a board-certified dermatologist with the education, training and experience using laser hair removal on your skin type. If your treatment is done by an inexperienced or uncertified provider, you could be left with severe complications and potentially permanent side effects. We’d recommend avoiding spas or salons that allow nonmedical personnel to conduct laser hair removal treatments. 


  • Avoid prolonged sun exposure at least six weeks before your appointment 
  • Avoid any form of tanning (including spray-on tans and tanning beds)
  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen (at least SPF30) every day in between treatments
  • Don’t try to remove any hair at least a month before your appointment 
  • Avoid swimming in pools or spas
  • Use only a gentle face and body cleanser, and avoid exfoliators three days before your treatment


  • Apply a topical soothing gel
  • Apply ice to the treated area to reduce discomfort 
  • If you have a skin reaction, your doctor might prescribe a steroid cream 
  • Avoid any form of tanning (including spray-on tans and tanning beds)
  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen (at least SPF30) every day in between treatments
  • Avoid swimming in pools or spas
  • Use only a gentle face and body cleanser, and avoid exfoliators three days after your treatment

Until any side effects or complications have subsided, be sure to avoid: 

  • Very hot or very cold water 
  • Exfoliating products 
  • Swimming in pools or spas 
  • Activities that cause the body to sweat excessively, like rigorous exercise

Before starting laser hair removal, it's important to review your history when it comes to skin disorders, scarring, and skin cancer. If you’re currently using retinoids or Accutane to treat skin issues like acne, you might want to steer clear of laser hair removal. A personal or family history of these issues could increase your risk of side effects. If you’re unsure, discuss the risks, benefits, and expectations with your doctor and go from there. 

For most people, laser hair removal is safe.

What about electrolysis?

Electrolysis is another form of hair removal that's progressively becoming more popular, and it's just about as safe as any other laser hair removal procedure. During your electrolysis sessions, an electrologist will remove your hair with an electric current. A thin wire is inserted into the hair follicle under the service of your skin. As the electric current moves down to the bottom of the hair follicle, it destroys the root, causing the existing hair to fall out. 

There are very slight risks of infection from an unsterile needle or scarring if the procedure is done incorrectly. However, the risk of these side effects is slim if you choose a certified, professional electrolysis practice. 

Should I undergo laser hair removal?

If you’re pregnant, using certain medications to treat a skin issue or have a personal or family history of skin disorders, laser hair removal might not be for you. Consult your doctor and search for a reputable dermatologist to minimise the risk of any side effects or complications.

Final word

Laser hair removal is generally safe, and the potential for something to go wrong if you’re at a practice with qualified dermatologists is minimal. With that being said, you should always follow your doctor or dermatologist’s instructions on how best to protect your skin before and after your treatment. This means preventing any sunburns or tans from developing, using sunscreen daily, and treating any side effects as advised. 

Hannah Geremia
Written by
Hannah Geremia
Hannah has had over six years of experience in researching, writing, and editing quality content. She loves gaming, dancing, and animals, and can usually be found under a weighted blanket with a cup of coffee and a book.

Recent Articles