It is no secret that one should avoid direct sun as much as possible after laser hair removal. Of course, it is not always possible to do so. Especially if the area you treated is your face. You indeed need to be outside still. Maybe just to commute to work, go shopping, etc. It is not always possible to avoid direct sun both before and after a laser hair removal session. Thus, you have to protect your skin and the best way to do so is to use sunscreen after laser hair removal.
As a matter of fact, the skin becomes more sensitive to the sun after a laser treatment. Thus, it is crucial that patients apply sunscreen or any sun protection after the procedure. It is even better if they can avoid exposure to direct sun altogether.
Why Is Using Sunscreen Crucial After Laser Hair Removal
1. How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?
Before we dive into why you need to use sunscreen after laser hair removal, here is a little reminder on how laser hair removal actually work. During the procedure, the laser produces a beam of light that will target the pigment in the hair. By targeting the pigment, the laser will detect the hair and send the heat all the way through the hair down to the hair follicle. The heat will then damage the follicle, preventing it from producing any more hair.
Each laser hair removal session will allow to target up to 20% off hair as only 20% off all the hairs will be in the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle. This phase is the only time laser hair removal works as it is the stage of growth where the hair connects to the follicle. If the hair does not connect to the follicle, the heat cannot make it to the follicle to damage it. Thus, patients will always need several laser hair removal sessions to remove most of the hair.
Another useful reminder is that laser hair removal is not a permanent hair removal method. Indeed, it is a long-term hair growth reduction method which can reduce said hair growth by up to 90%. The heat that the laser produces will stay in the skin for at least twenty-four hours, which is why it is recommended to avoid any activities that could heat up the skin, i.e. working out or hot showers. Laser hair removal as a treatment makes the skin more sensitive no matter what.
2. The Skin Is Sensitive To Photodamage
As mentioned above, laser hair removal happens because a beam of light is sent to the skin, targeting the pigment in hair and heating the hair follicle below the dermis. There is production of heat that stays under the skin for at least a day. The laser is a very intense light that will increase the skin's susceptibility to photodamage. The skin is indeed more vulnerable to UV rays and exposing yourself to sunlight make incur permanent skin damage.
The sun makes the skin more sensitive to heat. This, combined with the vulnerability the skin has after a laser hair removal treatment can cause hyper-pigmentation, burns and even scarring. Unfortunately, with the risk of increased sun damage, also comes the complication of skin healing. Exposing the skin to strong UV rays after a laser hair removal treatment may prevent it from healing properly. In turn, this could make it impossible for a patient to carry on with their treatment.
The best course of action is then to avoid direct sun light for at least fourteen days. It is also crucial that patients apply sunscreen after their laser procedure. Ideally, a SPF 30 and above will do the trick. Because patients need several sessions, the skin will be sensitive multiples times. This is why it is recommended to stay out of direct sunlight, even when using sunscreen, as much as possible during the whole treatment.
3. Tanning Can Interfere With The Results Of Your Session
As a rule of thumb, at Infinity Laser Spa, we do not treat patients who have been tanning as a result of sun exposure or in a tanning bed recently. They need to wait at least two weeks to be able to undergo laser hair removal. Laser hair removal reduces hair growth by targeting the hair follicle with light energy. This energy damages the hair, but the lasers are carefully calibrated to deliver heat to the hair and not the surrounding skin.
However, skin that has been exposed to the sun before the treatment will produce more melanin pigment, which attracts energy from the laser. Even though laser hair removal machines nowadays work on darker skins and are safe on tanned skin, better be safer and avoid any adverse reaction from the skin. Furthermore, better ensure the best results by not changing your skin tone.
Similarly, sun exposure following the laser hair removal treatment can cause an adverse reaction now that the skin has been sensitized by the laser treatment. If you really want to tan, consider getting a spray tan after your treatment. You’ll just want to plan to have your skin back to your natural color in time for your next laser hair removal treatment to ensure best results and a safe treatment.
4. Sun Damage Is Irreversible
The skin is more vulnerable after laser hair removal, which is why you need to avoid direct sun as much as possible. You also need to wear sunscreen as an extra protection. First of all, the strong exposure to the sun will make your skin age faster, especially skin on your face. Second of all, exposing your sensitive skin to the sun might permanently damage it. Sun damage includes hyper-pigmentation, burns, and even scarring.
Furthermore, sun damage increases the chances that the skin may not heal properly. Exposing the skin to UV rays may worsen skin damage. At worst, it may also turn into skin cancer. No product can reverse damaged skin or skin cancer. You’ve just spent valuable time and money on your laser hair removal treatments so you can show off your newly treated skin, but it’s best to think long-term by keeping your skin healthy.
This is why it is essential that you use sunscreen after laser hair removal and that you avoid as much as possible the sun. This does not mean you cannot start laser hair removal in summer nor do sessions during summer time. You may still do it, but it will require extra precaution and skin protection. The best time to start laser hair removal remains autumn.
5. How To Choose The Right Sunscreen?
There is not rule to choosing sunscreen nor any specific brands to go for. What works for an individual may not work for someone else. Make sure that the sunscreen only contains FDA-approved ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. The SPF must be at least 30 but it is also better to be more careful and go for SPF 50. It is your skin's health that we are taking about after all.
Creams and gels are both fine. Apply thoroughly and evenly so that it penetrates the skin well. Usually, sunscreen for kids are stronger so you may go that way after your laser hair removal session. Physical sunscreens are also better than chemical ones. They work as a shield against sun rays while chemical sunblocks will absorb the rays.
Whether you are in the middle of your sessions during summer time or just started, if you know that you are likely to swim or sweat, go for a formula that is water resistant. You need a sunscreen that will stay on your skin no matter the elements. Do not underestimate the sun's strength. A cloudy sky does not mean you are not exposed to UV rays. Wear sunscreen even when the weather is not clear.
Laser hair removal makes the skin more sensitive and susceptible to sun damage. This is why you absolutely need to wear sunscreen after your laser hair removal session. Whether you have undergone laser hair removal or not, it is essential that you always take the necessary precautions to protect your skin. Dark skins are just as susceptible to get sunburnt than fair skins. You wear the same skin your whole life so better protect it.