Laser Hair Removal & Medication: Can they go together?
Whether it’s antibiotics, mood stabilizers, acne medication, or something else entirely, it’s not uncommon to be taking some kind of medication. Which is probably why questions about getting laser hair removal while on medication are pretty common.
Luckily, the majority of medications have no impact on your ability to have laser hair removal treatments. The small group of medications and antibiotics that you have to be careful with are the ones that may increase your photosensitivity.
If you’re taking medication that you know is not photosensitive—it’s highly recommended that you verify this with your physician—then there’s no cause for concern, and you can move forward with laser hair removal without delay!
What is photosensitivity?
Commonly known as a sun allergy, photosensitivity is an immune system reaction that is caused by sunlight.
Everyone’s immune system is relatively unique, so symptoms of photosensitivity can range from very mild to severe. The most common immune response is a rash or sunburn—patches of red and inflamed skin which may or may not itch—that develops where the skin was exposed to the sun. In more severe cases, blistering may also occur.
People’s natural photosensitivity is genetic, but your photosensitivity can be increased or worsened by photoreactive compounds in certain medications.
…it’s important to disclose any medications that you’re taking before receiving treatments.
What are the potential risks?
Laser hair removal uses UV laser light to remove your unwanted hair, so you need to be careful when taking any medication that may increase your photosensitivity. If you don’t follow the advice of a medical professional, this drug-induced photosensitivity can cause you to have a negative reaction to a laser hair removal treatment.
That’s because as the photoreactive compounds in the topical or oral medication react to the UV light of the laser they can damage your skin. This can lead to a variety of side effects, but some of the more common reactions are:
- Hyperpigmentation (Skin Discoloration)
- Mild Burns
Some common drugs, such as antibiotics, may increase photosensitivity. While most of these side effects are generally pretty mild and temporary, some can be more severe. An example would be a phototoxic reaction which looks and feels like a bad sunburn. This type of reaction occurs when the photoreactive compounds in the medication have been absorbed into the body before they are activated by the laser light.
The pain and irritation associated with these more severe reactions tends to still be fairly mild and temporary as long as you wait to have further treatments until you have stopped taking the medication that caused the reaction. If you continue to take the medication and have more laser hair removal treatments, your reaction can get worse and ultimately damage your skin.
The good thing is that nearly all photosensitivity reactions will heal with time and won’t cause any permanent harm. However, it’s important to note that some more severe reactions may take months or even years to heal after exposure ends.
So, if you’re looking into laser hair removal, it’s important to disclose any medications that you’re taking before receiving treatments. Most companies that offer laser hair removal services will be able to provide you with specific guidelines on how you can safely receive treatments based on your specific medications or antibiotics.
In the rare event that you do have a photosensitive reaction, you’ll want to speak with a physician who is familiar with your laser hair removal treatment plan to determine how you should care for the affected skin. This will help ensure that your reaction heals as quickly as possible.
What medications or antibiotics increase photosensitivity?
As stated earlier, everyone is born with a certain degree of photosensitivity. However, some common drugs that may increase photosensitivity are:
- Malaria medications
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Heart medications
- Statins (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors)
- Diabetic drugs
This is by no means an all-inclusive list of medications that may increase your risk of a photosensitive reaction. It is highly recommended that you disclose all medications that you’re taking when determining if laser hair removal is right for you.
Most companies who perform laser hair removal will be able to provide you with detailed pre and post-treatment guidelines to follow for your specific medications. This doesn’t mean that laser hair removal isn’t an option for you, but it may mean that you need to adjust your treatment schedule. For example, taking antibiotics 4 weeks before or after a laser hair removal treatment is not recommended, so if you are prescribed an antibiotic you’ll simply want to adjust your treatment schedule.
What does this all mean?
It means that the answer to whether or not you can get laser hair removal while on medication is—most likely. However, if you aren’t sure if your medication contains photoreactive compounds, you’ll want to talk with your physician before starting laser hair removal treatments.
As long as you follow the advice of your physician and any pre and post-treatment guidelines provided to you by the people performing your laser hair removal treatments, then you should be able to zap away your unwanted hair without any issues.