Ever considered Laser Hair Removal? Beauty treatments that claim lasting results are some of the most tempting for us women to explore. YES, we want clear, supple skin. YES, we want shiny, healthy hair. YES, we love to spend time and energy beautifying and making ourselves feel like the goddesses we are.
So it’s no surprise that one of the most popular, and evolving forms of beauty technology that more women are getting on board with at the moment is Laser Hair Removal.
Imagine not having to spend time and effort shaving, using questionable hair removal cream or frequent (often extremely painful) visits for waxing… it’s no wonder we are curious about how this might benefit us.
As technology advances, so too does the concern for how these technologies affect our wellbeing and long term health. Have you ever heard that Laser Hair Removal is linked to cancer, and even infertility?
In the realm of hair removal, numerous studies have been conducted to examine whether these claims are true, or whether it is actually a safe procedure to undertake. So here we unpack the results from the scientific studies in this area.
What is Laser Hair Removal?
The process is simple – the laser used is a concentrated light beam, which works on the hair follicles. Pigments in the follicles absorb the light and the hair is removed in this way. The procedure is done with small pulses each lasting only a fraction of a second, usually working on multiple hairs at one time. This can be used for small areas such as the upper lip, or larger areas of the back, legs and – as is the focus of this article – the bikini area.
Does laser hair removal affect my ovaries? Will it make me infertile?
The infertility myth is just that – a myth – perpetuated by the concern of the radiation that is emitted from the laser will absorb through to affect the organs and internal cellular structure. Though any dermatologist will explain, the minimal radiation that is emitted from this technique cannot actually penetrate any internal organs to cause damage.
As with all innovations or technological advancements that interact with our bodies, it is smart to play it safe and first consider whether the science supports the safety. Which is why so many studies have focused on these issues of fertility and cancer as possible side effects.
Elizabeth Hale, a dermatologist and clinical associate professor of New York School of Medicine Dermatology states: “The way Laser Hair Removal works is by targeting pigment in a hair follicle…They work on pigment and have no bearing on fertility.” The lasers penetrate less than one millimeter into the skin, meaning that ovaries cannot be affected.
Mitchell Schwartz MD, a Dermatologic Surgeon, confirms that the way in which Laser Hair Removal is conducted means that deeper penetration into the reproductive and internal system is not possible. He explains how fertility cannot be affected: “The light energy [of the laser] is absorbed by the pigment located in the hair follicles… the laser pulses for a fraction of a second, just long enough to destroy numerous follicles at a time and leave the surrounding skin unaffected.”
In a scientific review of the adverse effects of hair removal procedures, researchers examined the current literature in the area of laser/light assisted hair removal. It was found that side effects from this treatment are usually in-adverse, and only very rarely do acute effects occur. Of those effects, the worst noted have been incidences of pigment skin alterations. The paper stated that ‘the majority of adverse effects are transient and minor.’ Often this means redness, scarring and some discoloration.
What about laser hair removal and cancer?
In terms of cancer, the Skin Care Foundation concludes that cancer caused by laser treatment is also myth. Similar in the way we explained above, the lasers do not penetrate deep enough for radiation to be absorbed. In all the current literature, there have been no links to Laser Hair Removal procedures and cancer.
So why the rumors about laser hair removal and infertility?
As it uses a form of radiation, it is suspected that the rumor for infertility side effects was spread in this way. The Laser Hair Removal Treatments, however, use only non-ionizing radiation, which is harmless to human DNA (unlike other cancer causing radiations). Probably, you heard this myth floating about, maybe even perpetuated through gossip or friends that off-handedly make a comment on the radiation. And as with any rumor, it spreads and scares until we get to the bottom of what’s really true.
What if I’m already pregnant, can I still do laser removal?
All of this said, for women who are already pregnant, as there has been no research yet conducted on the effect of Laser Hair Removal treatment on pregnant women, the side effects in this case are unknown. One line of thought is that the skin may be more sensitive due to hormonal changes in the body, which could lead to skin irritations. It is suggested to avoid laser removal if you are pregnant just to be sure, and to only consider the treatment after delivery.
A final thought on laser removal and PCOS
It is apparent that many studies arrive as this same conclusion – Laser Hair Removal is safe. For those with sensitive or darker skin, they may experience irritation or discoloration. Though even these side effects are mostly not chronic or lasting.
Though rare, the risk of severe side effects are said to be increased if you use at-home laser kits or receive this treatment from a poorly trained or uncertified provider. These effects could be higher instances of changes in skin texture, scarring, skin blisters and irritation. These can be further experienced if this area is exposed to sun radiation shortly after treatment (in the days following a laser session). This calls for taking responsibility for making sure to seek a professional in the area of this procedure by asking about the training and credentials of your provider.
The widespread concern for laser hair removal linked to cancer and infertility, however, has been found to be, so far, unwarranted.
Furthermore, the a sector of the US Department of Human Services even recommends that women who are dealing with ovary conditions such as PCOS (which is often linked to infertility), when seeking treatments for excess and unwanted hair (a symptom of PCOS), then among the recommended treatments is Electrolysis and Laser Hair Removal, suggesting that it is a safe procedure that can assist women dealing with frustration and burden of this symptom.
If you’ve been on the fence about whether Laser Hair Removal is safe option for you, you can ease your mind. Especially for women worried about their fertility, the facts above dispel this myth. From the reviewed literature in this area, Laser Hair Removal does not harm the ovaries or disturb internal organ function, and does not cause infertility. Furthermore, the question of cancer is also addressed. From the current research, this is a safe treatment that has not been found to have any link to cancer. Side effects are rare and generally small, such as skin changes and irritations.
If you are considering Laser Hair Removal Treatment, then we’re glad to have cleared up some of this uncertainty for you to help you in your decision. The takeaway advice here is that this treatment is really quite safe, and if you still have concerns, then consult your medical professional. Especially if you know you have skin sensitivities, or have darker colored skin. For already momma’s-to-be, best be 100% safe and wait until after delivery to receive treatment if you are pregnant.
What is your own preference for hair removal? Have you had laser hair removal treatment? Let us know how the experience was for you in the comments below!
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Cherney, Kristeen. “What Are the Side Effects of Laser Hair Removal?” Healthline. Healthline Media, 17 May 2017. Web. 28 July 2017.
Lanigan, Sean W. “Incidence of side effects after laser hair removal.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 49.5 (2003): 882-886.
“Laser Hair Removal & Infertility.” RealSelf.com. Realself.inc, 22 Mar. 2011. Web. 27 July 2017.
Lim, Jeffrey. “Laser Hair Removal Risks, Dangers, Side Effects.” DocShop. Einstein Medical, 03 July 2015. Web. 27 July 2017.
Lim, S. P. R., and S. W. Lanigan. “A review of the adverse effects of laser hair removal.” Lasers in medical science 21.3 (2006): 121-125.
Siegel, Elizabeth. “Can Lasering Your Bikini Area Cause Infertility?” Allure. CONDÉ NAST, 30 Jan. 2013. Web. 27 July 2017.
“Treatments to Relieve Symptoms of PCOS.” Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 28 July 2017.