Sun Exposure After Laser Hair Removal: What You Need to Know

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Tired of getting late to work because you took extra time to shave? Or are waxing appointments eating into your well-deserved leisure time? If that’s the case, you’re probably considering getting permanent hair removal. With a method like Laser hair removal, you can enjoy smooth, hair-free skin all year round. In fact, it’s why so many people around the world are saying yes to laser hair removal.

One study shows that 71 percent of participants were satisfied with laser hair removal and that the method compared favorably to waxing and electrolysis

While it’s generally considered safe for most people, it’s important to follow instructions provided by your dermatologist. Specifically, they may require you to limit sun exposure after laser hair removal and before sessions.

So, why is this required? And what does ‘sun exposure’ mean in this case? Let’s take a deep dive into the reasons why you shouldn’t get sun exposure before or after your laser therapy sessions. 

Understanding How Laser Hair Removal Works 

In order to understand why you shouldn’t get sun exposure before and after laser hair removal sessions, you need to know how the process works. It involves using a light beam on the treatment area to destroy hair follicles and eliminate unwanted hair. 

The light is absorbed by the pigment, also known as melanin. This light converts to heat and disrupts the hair follicles, delaying future hair growth. The procedure is quite effective, but you may require numerous sessions to get the results you’re looking for, along with yearly maintenance sessions to retain results. Therefore, you’ll need to keep track of your sun exposure for numerous sessions. 

Understanding the Impact of Sun Exposure on Laser Hair Removal Results

Now that you understand how laser hair removal works let’s take a look at how sun exposure can disrupt this process and potentially cause side effects. When your skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun, the number of melanocytes in the skin can increase.

These cells are responsible for creating the pigment melanin, which gives the skin its color; when there are more active melanocytes, the amount of melanin in your skin increases. 

According to one study, even casual sun exposure, without sunbathing, can increase the number of melanocytes in your skin. That means you shouldn’t just avoid sunbathing or going to a tanning salon. Rather, you should keep your skin protected whenever you’re outdoors in the sun.  

What Happens If You Get Sun Exposure After Laser Hair Removal 

Typically, you’ll be asked to cover up areas that are exposed to UVA/UVB rays for at least two weeks after treatment. That’s because your skin will be sensitive and needs time to heal. However, to get the best results from your treatment and keep your skin safe, it’s best to avoid activities like sunbathing and tanning beds. 

Even if you’re heading out during the afternoon, apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. It’s recommended to choose a broad-spectrum product that can protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. If you’ve had laser hair removal on your face, arms, and/or legs, you’ll also be advised to wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and long-legged pants for a week or so. 

This could take as long as six months or more. Sure, it’s a sacrifice, but you’ll love the results, and you won’t have to worry about waxing before your next vacation.  

What If I Have To Travel Right Away?

If you’re scheduled to travel to a place with a hotter climate in the middle of your sessions or soon after your treatment, it’s best to consult your dermatologist. They can recommend the best course of action depending on where you are in the treatment stage and where you’re going.

By following their advice, whether it involves wearing plenty of sun protection or staying indoors when it’s mostly sunny, you can preserve results and minimize disruptions.  

How Long To Wait After Laser Hair Removal For Sun Exposure

If you regularly get a tan, whether it’s through a tanning bed or at the beach, you should avoid doing so at least four weeks before an appointment. That being said, even casual sun exposure can affect the process. 

According to one study, even casual sun exposure, without sunbathing, can increase the number of melanocytes in your skin. It reports that after 12 days of sun exposure, the number of melanocytes in the skin increased. Meanwhile, another study shows that UV rays can lead to increased skin pigmentation within one day of exposure.  

What Happens If You Get Laser Hair Removal After Sun Exposure 

Keep in mind that the laser used to remove hair detects follicles by looking for melanin. Let’s suppose that you go for a laser hair removal session after direct sun exposure. 

At this point, you’ll have more melanin on your skin, so the laser targets your skin instead of the hair follicles, leading to poor results and potential side effects. If the laser targets your skin instead of the hair follicles, it can lead to burns and pigmentation.   

We should also remind you that getting laser therapy on sunburnt skin can be pretty dangerous. The laser used during the process transmits short bursts of energy into the hair follicles, which can worsen your sunburn. 

That’s why dermatologists ask you to report any sun exposure, such as tanning beds and sun tanning, before a treatment session. 

When Can You Get Laser Hair Removal After Sun Exposure

If you have experienced exposure to UVA or UVB rays, you’ll be asked to come back in four to six weeks. This is so they can take a patch test and determine if it’s safe to resume treatment. 

As mentioned above, even a few days of casual sun exposure without adequate protection can increase the number of melanocytes in your skin. This leads to increased pigmentation and inaccuracy during the laser therapy process. 

So, even if you’ve had natural sun exposure, you may be advised to avoid laser treatment sessions until you’re no longer tanned or sunburnt. To avoid this altogether, it’s best to stick to a routine of applying sunscreen and covering yourself when you go out. This will help you stick to your scheduled laser treatment appointments. 

Other Ways To Prepare Your Skin Before Laser Hair Removal 

Keeping yourself out of the sun isn’t the only thing you should be doing to prepare your skin for laser hair removal. Your dermatologist may also recommend the following: 

  • Don’t Pluck Or Wax The Treatment Area: For effective permanent hair removal, there needs to be a hair follicle. Plucking or waxing removes the follicle, rendering treatment ineffective. 
  • Don’t Apply Perfume, Cosmetics, or Skin Products: These can create a barrier between the laser and your skin while contributing to irritation, as well. 
  • Shave At Least One Day Before The Session: This reduces the risk of skin irritation by preventing the laser from interacting with longer hair. It also ensures that the light is absorbed by the hair follicle instead of the hair itself. 

Sun Safety Tips for Post-Laser Hair Removal Care

After your laser hair removal session, your dermatologist will advise that you take safety precautions to limit sun exposure, such as the following:  

Use Sun Protection

One of the first things you’ll be advised to do is to wear sunscreen every day and reapply it every few hours. Of course, you’ll have to consider the kind of sunscreen you’re using between your treatments. Chemical and physical sunscreens are two different types, but they work differently to protect your skin. 

Choosing The Right Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens are formulated using active ingredients such as oxybenzone or avobenzone. These work by absorbing UV rays and converting them into heat. The benefit of chemical sunscreens is that they’re easier to apply and don’t leave a white cast on the skin. The downside is that they can cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin. 

Physical sunscreen formulas are made using active mineral ingredients, like Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide, which leave a physical barrier on the skin’s surface. This helps scatter UV rays that reach the skin. If you have sensitive skin, you may prefer mineral sunscreens since they don’t irritate your skin or contain chemical ingredients. 

It’s the recommended option for people undergoing laser hair removal. That’s because chemical sunscreen converts UV rays into heat. This makes your skin more sensitive and affects the laser’s ability to target the hair follicle.  

Cover Up

You’ll also be advised to stay covered over the course of your laser hair treatment. This includes wearing a wide-brimmed hat and face mask to cover your face, long-sleeved shirts for your arms, and loose, long-legged pants/trousers for your legs. If it’s a particularly hot day, you can also consider carrying an umbrella to keep you covered from the sun. 

Seek Shade

If you have a busy routine that doesn’t allow you to be indoors during the sunny hours of the day, try sticking to areas with plenty of shade. After treatment, avoiding sun exposure can prevent further damage to the skin, which could impact the efficacy of future sessions. If you have to be outside for large parts of the day, you can try finding shade through trees, buildings, signs, and others.  

Other Precautions To Consider After Laser Hair Removal 

While staying out of the sun and using adequate sun protection is highly recommended, there are a few other measures you should take after laser therapy sessions: 

  • Don’t Wax or Pluck Leftover Hair: It may be tempting to get rid of any remaining hair on the treated area by plucking or waxing it off. However, this could stimulate re-growth and impact the effectiveness of the treatment.
  • Wait A Week Or Two To Exfoliate: Exfoliating right away could cause further irritation and worsen redness. 
  • Avoid Hot Showers or Baths for 2 Days: While there’s nothing wrong with keeping water on the warm side while taking a shower, very hot water can dry out the skin. This worsens sensitivity, irritation, and discomfort. 
  • Wait 3 Days To Wear Deodorant: This only applies if you’ve gotten laser hair removal for your underarms. Deodorants and antiperspirants contain active ingredients that can contribute to redness, skin irritation, and even blistering. 
  • Avoid Wearing Makeup for 48 Hours: This applies if you’ve gotten laser hair removal for your face, such as the forehead, cheeks, chin, or upper lip. It’s best to leave your face bare, but if you must wear cosmetic products, choose mineral makeup. 

Managing Sun Exposure for Optimal Results

Since it’s not possible to avoid sun exposure outright before and after sessions, you can try managing its impact on your skin. This way, even if you do experience some sun exposure, you don’t have to worry about its impact on your results.  

Follow Your Dermatologist’s Advice

Perhaps the most important way to deal with sun exposure is to consult your dermatologist. This includes telling them whenever you’ve been out in the sun too long. In addition to holding off laser hair removal sessions, they can recommend ways to help your skin heal faster.

With their advice, you can speed up the healing process and allow better results. That’s because laser hair removal is much more effective on skin that hasn’t been tanned and hair that hasn’t been bleached from being in the sun. 

Choose The Right Season For Hair Removal

A good way to manage sun exposure is to schedule laser hair removal during the right time of the year. During the summer, it’s best to remove hair from areas that aren’t regularly exposed to sunlight, like your abdomen or bikini area. 

Meanwhile, you can get laser hair removal for your face, arms, and legs during the winter months or when you won’t be out in the sun as much. For example, most people expect to be outside for most of the day during their summer vacation. If you expect a similar routine, you should avoid getting laser hair removal during those months as well.  

Fall is the best time to start since you’ll likely be done by the time it’s summer. It also gives your skin enough time to recover, so it’s not as sensitive when you’re ready to go out and about. 

Hydrate and Moisturize

Although you’ll be advised against applying moisturizing creams or lotions on the day of your appointment, keeping the skin hydrated is essential. On the day of appointments, it’s best if you show up with clean skin.

Moisturizers and other products can act as a barrier between the hair follicle and laser. This reduces the effectiveness of the laser and leads to poor results. That being said, it’s a great idea to moisturize your skin in the days leading up to a laser hair removal session. 

Similarly, you should also moisturize after laser hair removal sessions, though it’s recommended to use perfume-free moisturizers to avoid unnecessary irritation. A common side effect of laser hair removal is skin irritation, redness, and dryness because of the heat that the laser generates.

These side effects, although temporary, can be pretty uncomfortable – especially if it’s your first time undergoing laser hair removal. Moisturizers can soothe the skin, alleviate discomfort, and address symptoms as quickly as possible. 

Exfoliate Gradually 

You’ll want to avoid exfoliating the skin right after laser hair removal sessions. Not only does it worsen side effects like irritation, dryness, and redness, but it makes your skin more photosensitive as well. After you’ve gotten laser treatment, you should gently exfoliate the treated area once hair starts shedding and falling out. This takes up to a week after your appointment.  

Protect Your Investment in Laser Hair Removal: Visit Donna Bella Laser MedSpa

To sum it up, you should avoid sun exposure both before and after a laser hair removal session. Excessive sun exposure before a scheduled laser treatment session can lead to increased pigmentation in the skin, which impacts the effectiveness of the laser.

After a session, sun exposure can worsen temporary side effects like redness and irritation. To ensure that you get the best guidance and advice on ways to manage sun exposure, it’s best to see an expert dermatologist.

Book an appointment with our experts at Donna Bella Laser MedSpa today for a professional and comfortable experience.

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