Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt? Factors That Affect Pain

The first question people usually ask when considering this high tech hair removal method is, "" Because everyone has different types of hair & skin, the short answer is, "It depends."

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Why Is There Discomfort?

A laser creates a form of light energy with a specific color (wavelength) and intensity (brightness) that can be tailored to heat the pigment contained in the hair follicles.

As the heat 'zaps' the hair-producing cells, the nerve endings interprets this as a slight burning sensation. People have described this discomfort as a mild 'snapping of a rubber band' on the skin. The area may feel sore for a few minutes or up to a few hours.

Pain Varies Among Patients

People perceive pain differently depending on various factors.

  • Skin type - With more nerve endings on some body parts, people will feel different amounts of soreness depending on the area undergoing treatment. The is especially sensitive while the skin on the thighs is less so.

  • Skin thickness - For most people, the thicker the skin, the deeper the hair follicles, and the more light energy needed to fully treat the base of the hair. Skin may hurt for longer as healing time is extended.

  • Hair Color - Dark hair absorbs more energy than light hair and may result in more pain. However, the treatment may be more thorough and permanent. Note that laser hair removal doesn't work for people with , or .

  • Thickness of the hair - on the lower legs and bikini area is usually thicker and requires more heat to 'zap' the root. Exposure to the laser light will need to be longer than other body parts such as the forearms.

  • Density of the hair - The more dense the hair, such as the underarm area, the more hair follicles and pain receptors will be affected.

  • Tattoos - Because the ink is darker than the surrounding pigmentation, a special laser for dark skin may be required. The ink will absorb more energy and may cause more pain receptors to fire. Treatment may be less effective on areas covered with body art and there exists a chance that the tattoo may be permanently discolored too.


Because people are different, everyone will perceive discomfort in different areas of the body and at different thresholds. But compared to , most patients can tolerate the relatively minor pain associated with the .

In fact, doctors and technicians actually use your level of discomfort to set the parameters of the equipment and procedure. The slight pain will tell them when the hair follicle has been 'zapped'.

For most people, being partially nude in front of strangers is very hard. It's difficult to expose very intimate parts of our bodies without feeling self-conscious & judged. Human insecurities exposed by laser hair treatment may be the hardest part of the treatment.

There are laser removal devices for home use, for people who prefer to tackle the task in the privacy of their homes. There are pros and cons to doing laser removal at home; however, for some people it's the 'comfort and privacy' factors that are more important.

For a few people however, their pain threshold is low enough that they will not be able to undergo laser hair removal treatment. In this rare event, it's important to talk to the clinician about the severity of the pain as the laser is applied.

Can the Pain of Laser Hair Removal Be Reduced?

The good news is that the pain becomes less and less as the multiple treatments progress. The first session is the most uncomfortable, when the patient is most hairy. As the hair becomes thinner and less dense, fewer hair follicles are affected.

In certain situations, numbing creams can be prescribed by a doctor. The problem with using these lotions is that the anesthetic can be absorbed through the skin and accumulate within the body. Talk to your doctor about this option before using applying any numbing cream.

Unfortunately when people ask, "Does laser hair removal hurt?", the answer is not simple. It depends on the skin type, hair type and pain threshold of the patient and how they interact with the type of hair removal machine in use. The best way to answer this question is to go for an initial assessment at a qualified clinic or salon.





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