adverse reaction to laser hair removal

Can you please provide your insight on my situation? I am having an adverse reaction to my first laser hair removal treatment. Here’s the background…

  • I decided on laser hair removal due to suffering from ingrown hairs in the goatee area of my face.
  • I am asian and have black, coarse and dense hair on my face.
  • The day after my treatment I woke up to many, many whiteheads and some irritation on the face.
  • The spa asked me to come in and told me to pop the whiteheads with a lancet and to continue to clean the treated area.
  • A day later the whiteheads continued to form and reform from existing ones. The treated area was swollen, irritated, red, dry and slightly raised.
  • I went into the spa again and they treated me briefly with a facial mask and asked that I exclusively only cleanse the treated area and provided a salicylic acid acne treatment to use multiple times a day.
  • It is now the third day since the initial treatment and the area is swollen, red, dry and irritated with slightly raised areas around the hair follicles. The whiteheads have slowed in reforming and have dried out a bit.

Other info:

  • Before coming in, I was told no sun a week before and two weeks after and complied with the no sun exposure the week before, but have had a meaningful amount of sun previous to the week before my first treatment. I informed the technician that I was probably a little darker/tanner than my normal skin tone.
  • The day of my first treatment, I did go swimming at night, but the sun was completely down (not sure if that would be an issue).
  • Not sure what laser was used but did not use any gels or anesthetics. There was a cooling devise blowing cold air on the face as treatment was applied.
  • They gave me a few moisturizers and suntan block after the treatment.
  • The spa has said they see this in 10% to 20% of their male patients who are treated for the same issues. They say the laser and treatment has forced all the bacteria up and out which has caused this problem which they characterize as fairly common.

I am a bit worried that all the redness, irritation, dryness and whiteheads will scab and scar. Any thoughts or experience with this type of situation? Will I have the same reaction after future laser treatments?

Many thanks in advance for your thoughts.

  • This reaction is not uncommon on male faces. You’re treating multiple of follicles close together. However, the aftercare plan they’re advising you off is not very good.

  • You should ice the area several times a day. Also, do not pop anything. That’s a way for the skin to heal. The only thing you can apply is witch hazel and/or pure clear aloe vera gel (the type for sunburns). Aloe feels even nicer after being cooled in the fridge.

  • Also, keep the area dry and clean. Do not use moisturizers, lotions, facewashes, or anything else with chemicals until the skin heals.

  • It would help you to know the settings and the name of the machine for future reference.

  • Once the hair becomes less dense, you won’t have this severe of a reaction. But starting out with somewhat lower settings at first could help avoid this as well.

  • You should keep your skin as light as possible throughout your course of treatments.

It’s perfectly normal for whiteheads to form on the face after treatment, I get it all the time when treating my full face/neck. I think it’s mostly caused from the numbing cream put on with saran wrap since it’s greasy, and I find that when I get home, washing off all the creams and SPF etc they put on with cold water helps. It goes away after a couple days, but I think you’ve made it worse by popping the whiteheads and treating the area so much. Just leave it alone and let it heal, it’s normal to get a breakout or whiteheads all the time.

Thank you for the suggestions and thoughts. i’ll get the pure aloa vera to apply. to be clear, i should just use a facewash or soap that does not contain any chemicals to clean?

I was told i received treatment from a YAG laser at it’s lowest setting.

I’ve had Alex and Yag laser both seem to do it to me just depends. I really think most of it comes from the numbing cream since it’s very greasy and they usually put it on me with saran wrap then treat other areas, so it has lots of time to irritate the skin. Then with my laser, they put ultrasound gel on my face, do the treatment, then put a damp cloth on me, then apply a sort of moisturizing cream, then sunscreen. I find all that stuff on my face is what does it. Use a dermatologist recommended soap, I like Cetaphil a lot, I used to use that when I had acne when younger, it’s really good no chemicals and easy on your skin, just wash it off gently with cold water and ice the area after as well which really helps too. Did it hurt on your face? You should be able to do higher settings. My friend is asian and does 15mm spot size 25 joules 20ms pulse width on apogee yag.

I wouldn’t use ANY soaps or facewashes. Just wash with water, apply witch hazel or clear aloe vera gel and ICE the area. Icing is most important.

There is no such thing as “lowest setting”. Settings are a combination of several factors. You should ask for spot size, joules and pulse width used.

I would probably use water too (I only use water on areas I’ve had electrolysis done for a few days after the treatment). But if you’re gonna use a face wash, then I second edokid’s recommendation about Cetaphil. It is really lovely, it doesn’t dry out my skin at all or make it pink/irritated. It’s recommended by dermatologists for a ton of conditions like sensitive skin, but it’s also great for normal skin too.

I agree somewhat about the soap, using none is better but I find the creams/numbing cream is a bit greasy and using just water doesn’t seem to completely remove it. I use only the smallest amount possible to help and then that’s it.

Well, I can understand wanting to wash numbing cream off. I imagine that would make me break out like hell. Also, it isn’t exactly good for your liver to absorb any more than you have to, so getting it off quickly makes a lot of sense.

I actually prefer Aveeno Ultra-Calming Foaming Facewash if you have to use something. I think I’ve tried them all and that one is the mildest one yet.

thanks for your suggestions. given where i was already in my post treatment care, my face was/is extremely dry (due to the salicylic wash i think)and many of the white heads were dried out with skin still covering the follicle.

the spa had an aesthetician remove the impeding skin to open/free the follicle. As they removed the skin, they picked out some of the dead hair trapped inside. They applied a warm compress and then used the warm towel to exfoliate some of the dry and dead skin from the area I had treated.

Now, the whiteheads have not really come back. There are many follicles that are red and look a bit irritated and my face is still extremely dry. There are a few follicles that feel more infected and for these I have squeezed the area around the follicle and puss and a hair come popping out (sorry, I know, gross but relieving all at the same time).

I am now trying to follow your suggestions and working to refrain from using a face wash. I am applying witch hazel. However the area is still horribly dry and literally cracks/breaks skin if I open my mouth to wide… that being said I have to use something to moisturize and am using a cetaphil moisturizer.

So the spa says that given my history/problems with ingrown hairs, the laser treatment shocked the hairs and they have reacted this way in irritating and perhaps infecting (?) the follicles. They say my case is more severe than they typically see. Once everything clears up as I continue my treatment, they will do a test area to see whether I react in a similar way. If I do, they may suggest I not go forward with LHR.

Personally, I think I will start feeling better once I see some real shedding. I am on day 5 after my first treatment and have only had whiteheads and serious irritation to show for it. I have not been able to shave and it’s driving me crazy. I am hoping for the best in recovery and results.

Please feel free to share any additional thoughts or suggestions, and I’ll keep you posted.

Complex 15 is a realllllly good moisturizer. When I was on accutane my derm told me to use Cetaphil for soap and Complex 15 for face cream. I’ve used both ever since, it’s non scented and is really good at moisturizing without reaction. It’s not super expensive, I think $10 or $15 for a normal bottle, more than other creams but it’s worth it it’s very good. Here’s the bottle if you have trouble finding it

Edokid, I’m looking for a new moisturizer that isn’t greasy. Does this one make your face shiny? Does it have a high spf?

Hey, not greasy at all doesn’t make your face shiny no. SPF I’m not sure if it has in it I think it’s just moisturizer. Search it on it came up when I found that pic, had something like 30 reviews, 29 gave it 5/5 and the one person gave it a low one everyone is saying they’ve used it for 20+ years and love it. It’s really good!

Don’t use Cetaphil. It has that drying acid. Once again, the white heads are NOT pimples in this situation. It’s not “puss”. You don’t need to dry them out. That’s how your skin is healing. Please do not pop anything again after treatments. It makes things worse. Just use ice next time and aloe vera.

To moisturize, I would suggest the pure clear aloe vera gel. I wouldn’t use anything with chemicals or alcohol.

There are 2 types of Cetaphil one for normal to oily skin and the other is for sensitive skin. There is nothing more ph balanced, chemically neutral, and non scented than Cetaphil–especially the sensitive skin formula.

I love Cetaphil, to each their own. I hate aloe vera it always stings on dry skin I find and it’s gross feeling and makes you feel sticky. Complex 15 is really really really good, it’s the only thing I could use when on accutane and if you’ve ever been on accutane you know what it’s like. Wake up in the morning and not be able to move your face or open your mouth without tons of chapstick and moisturizer…

I personally like Cetaphil too. Just in his condition right now, I would avoid things with alcohol, which is drying.

Cetaphil cleanser (liquid, not the bar) or the original, white Dove bar soap, are recommended post-treatment. There are different forms of alcohol. The alcohols in Cetaphil are fatty alcohols, non-drying. The alcohol in witch hazel is also a fatty alcohol.

No popping and no salicylic acid so soon after a treatment.

i am now a week and a half or so after my first treatment. i know i was treated with an Apogee Elite 1064 nm YAG laser. from what i have read this is used for skin types V & VI while i think i might more appropriately fall in IV. i dont know if the technician exercised the best judgement in using that laser on me and i dont think she had much of a process during the actual treatment. it felt like she was jumping to all different areas on my face and overlapping. from what i understand, that is not good.

my face continues to heal… very slowly. i still have not been able to shave. my biggest issue now is that i am very swollen underneath my chin. there are areas on my face that are becoming irritated and raised because dead hair is trapped underneath them. it is to the point where it is painful to the touch. i have tried to relieve this by working to remove the hair with tweezers or lancet which provides relief.

shedding has started at least. i read that ~80% of facial hair is in the anagen stage. does that mean all of these hairs will be affected by the laser in the first treatment? or should i expect much less shedding than that.

i am going to consult with the technician on their plan for me going forward. i dont know that i can go through this recovery after each treatment.