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Can Laser Hair Removal worsen hair growth rather than reduce it?

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Can Laser Hair Removal worsen hair growth rather than reduce it?
  • Published

    October 13, 2014

  • Written by

    Dr Garth Dicker

Laser hair removal has been shown to be a very effective and safe way of removing and reducing unwanted hair growth since it was first approved for use in the USA in 1996.

Unfortunately a possible side effect of laser hair removal is that the laser treatment actually makes the hair growth worse. This is called paradoxical hypertrichosis. The chance of this occurring is fortunately quite rare and has mainly been reported as occurring on the lower face of young women, especially in darker skin types and in women from a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean background. It is also associated with conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or patients taking medications such as corticosteroids.

The risk of this unwanted side effect seems to be increased if lower powered lasers or IPL type machines are used for hair removal or some of the newer low power treatment protocols are used for laser hair removal. It seems in some patients low level heating can induce hair growth without being strong enough to destroy the hair roots of unwanted hairs.

The potential for a worsening of hair growth with Laser hair removal underlines how important it is that a full assessment is undertaken before Laser hair removal treatment is commenced. If an increased risk of complications such as Paradoxical Hypertrichosis is identified, then a discussion of whether Laser hair removal is still the best hair removal option may be necessary. If laser Hair removal is still undertaken then specific treatment protocols to reduce the risk of complications such as paradoxical hypertrichosis, such as the use of higher power settings, cold packs and steroid creams can be preventative.

Thorough assessment before treatment in a medical clinic environment best identifies the potential risk of complications, then treatment with medical grade equipment by experienced University trained laser practitioners reduces the actual occurrence of complications.

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